How fitting, on this, my last day on social media, to be writing about exits. A departure far more significant is happening today than mine from Facebook.
30 years ago I hit the road for Spring Break as many college students do. I wasn’t going to Ft. Lauderdale, or Panama City Beach, but to Plymouth, WI, hometown of a new friend I’d met at Food Glorious Food, where I worked. The trip itself is quite a story. We left town in a Mazda and arrived in Wisconsin in a Saab, but that’s not germane to my point here. During our week in the Middle Western region I met another friend, who quickly joined us in Tallahassee. Since he arrived at 247 Lipona Dr. in a red Nissan Pulsar, we’ve been inseparable with a few exceptions. We’ve lived together in four houses, been neighbors five times, across three states: Florida, Montana, and Oregon. We both spent time with the first friend I mentioned, and other brothers, in Bosnia, although never together. I was passing through, he stayed quite a while.
I detoured to the Gulf coast, and upstate New York without him. He set up camp in Gainesville, and rural Marion county for a time. Other than these brief solo sorties Joey has been right there, so close I can reach out and put my hand on him, which I’ve needed to do more times than I can count.
Last night we broke protocol and hugged in his driveway, where he’s lived a mile away for close to 10 years. He, and his good and able companion, Paige, are off to North Carolina, to live in the mountains.
I’ve been thinking about friendship, and writing about it, for even longer than I’ve known Joey. Saying goodbye to friends is so hard. I’ve been lucky enough to experience that sense of loss more times than I can count. Learning Spanish, I was delighted to realize one day that the expression, “I miss you”, is so much better said in español. It more literally translates, “I am less you” or “I am minus you.” Let me tell y’all, I am very minus Joey.
What I hang onto, what holds me together, is an idea I’ve honed all my life; that we live many lives simultaneously through the lives of those we love. I am here in Tallahassee, doing non-profit work from home. Sometimes I ride my bike. I am also a plumber in Montana, a rock star in Portland, a data specialist in Orlando, a cartographer in North Carolina (soon), a paramedic in the Adirondacks, a bon vivant on the shores of Lake Ontario, a senior strategist at the Gates Foundation, and a horse trainer in Reddick. I’m a school teacher in Lee County, and I own some Melting Pots in DC. I lived in Singapore for a while, and I am an award winner photographer in NYC two times over. I save lives every day in heart surgery. I never came back from Bosnia, and I have many cherished children. I am a farmer and a librarian. I teach tolerance and humility in Colorado. I’ve saved countless children in countless places. I am an artist in the low country of Georgia, a scratch golfer and a stone cold pro of a drummer twice over. I have a little dog named Winter. I sell restaurant equipment and shred a Fender Strat or a Gibson SG. I am a nurse, brave and capable in a pandemic. I make ceramic totems for peace and kindness. I am the greatest wedding cake artist from the mountains to the deep blue sea. I’ve climbed the peak of the Grand Tetons, and wisely bailed on Aconcagua. I’ve made beautiful works of glass and read 10,000 books. I know Charles Mingus’ oeuvre by heart.
Those are just a few of the lives I live.
So yes, things are changing, which is all things ever do. Wherever you are today, and whatever you’re doing? I am there, and I do that too.