The other day, I was flipping through my library of CDs and came across Dizzy Up the Girl, by the Goo Goo Dolls. I hadn’t listened to the entire CD in years and decided to give it a spin. After skipping through most of the tracks, I realized two interesting tidbits about the album as it relates to me. Number one, I am not all that goo-goo about the Dolls. As I just said, I had to skip through most of the album. I couldn’t even get through ten of the fourteen songs due to irreconcilable differences. Basically, I thought they sucked. The only redeeming factor was that of the four songs I liked, two could be placed in my list of top one hundred tunes. Nevertheless, as a whole, the band just isn’t my flavor.
The second bit of trivia (Am I really so vain as to call this trivia?) is that three of the four palatable songs on the album remind me of the importance of friendship and more significantly of how fleeting it sometimes is. As I listened to Black Balloon, Iris, and Name, I found myself drifting back to four distant friends whom for one reason or another have become mere shadows of my past.
Black Balloon fills my mouth with the sweet taste of Jack Daniels and my mind with the memories of an old engineering friend. This was the song that he would request as we shared a drink from the bottle he kept stowed behind the bar at Nepal. Although his face was constantly adorned with a warm and inviting smile and his mood was always light and upbeat, his shoulders seemed weighted by a sadness that he just couldn’t shake. We lost contact soon after his contract on the island ended. A few emails were passed back and forth, and he received an invite to Rachel’s and my wedding; however, truth be told our friendship had ended when his last bottle of JD ran dry. Sadly, as he walked out of the bar that night he also walked out of our lives.
Iris brings me back to two women my brother and I befriended during our first month on the island. Like one of the sparklers that my daughter waves through the air every Chinese New Year, this friendship started with a spark, blazed for a short time and then with no warning simply stopped. Work, play and everything that drew us to this foreign country seemed to tear us apart as easily as it had brought us together. The intimacy that we shared went cold by summer’s end and none of us tried to rekindle what we once had. Despite the memories we shared, our friendship was simply tossed aside like the remnants of one of my daughter’s used sparklers.
Although these two songs remind me of friends lost, Name actually fills my heart with a touch of loneliness and a spot of regret. The face that has become attached to this ballad belongs to one of the first friends I made in law school. We met in a bowling alley a few days before classes began at a class mixer set up by some second year students. As everyone stood nervously around making awkward small talk, a voice behind me asked, “Who wants to get a beer?” It took me less than a heartbeat to jump on that offer and from there our bro-mance was born. We were like brothers for the rest of the year; two kindred spirits, studying, drinking, road tripping and partying together. The best formal I have ever been to was with him and another buddy. A bottle of whiskey, Scottish kilts and three unabashed idiots. What could make for a better party?
Unfortunately, during the summer between our first and second year, we began to drift apart. In four words, ‘I met a girl.’ I began to make selfish choices and put my love life far ahead of our friendship. Before second year classes had even started, I had done enough to plant a seed of resentment that over the course of the next few months grew into a bitter weed of anger. I regret not have done anything to try and mend the rift that my actions had created, but at the time I was blinded by love. No excuses. Just the truth.
During my first year of law school, I was taught a great deal by this friend. Among other things, he showed me how to be vocal in class (although I rarely was), how to take better notes (although I preferred to borrow his) and most importantly how to make small talk with acquaintances. He schooled me on the importance of remembering details about these individuals such as how many siblings they had or the names of their parents. This way if I met them again, I could give off a false sense of intimacy and avoid any awkward moments of silence. Halfway through our second year, I met this same friend at a bar for drinks. We hadn’t talked much in the weeks previous, but the very first thing he asked me, before anything else was said, was, “How’s David doing?” I looked at him, smiled sadly and realized that we had reached the end. “My dad’s doing well.” I replied, “How about your fiancé?”
I bought Dizzy Up the Girl during my first year of law school because I fell in love with Name. (I somehow feel a little less manly by writing that.) I remember having a conversation with my buddy over a few drinks about the line “And re-runs all become our history.” His take on the words, like many things he believed, were a little ‘off’; that is one of the things I miss most about him. In losing this friend I have learned to always give of myself a little more than I hope to receive. This simple lesson has somehow allowed me to surround myself with friends who accept me, love me, and do for me everything that I would do for them.
Unfortunately, it cost me a great friend to truly understand what a blessing friendship is. However, at forty, I think I have reached the point in my life where the friends I have are here to stay. I know that no matter how far or for how long we stray from each others’ lives, I won’t have any trouble remembering their names.
Name youtube link