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  • I hope the day will be a lighter highway,
    For friends are found on every road;
    Can you ever think of any better way
    For the lost and weary travellers to go?

    Making friends for the world to see,
    Let the people know you got what you need;
    With a friend at hand you will see the light,
    If your friends are there then everything's all right

    - Bernie Taupin, from “Friends”, Elton John
    Morning, a time for breaking ground and sowing seeds,
    And yet we give up our sunshine so we can buy what we need.
    That leaves the evening, to share a fire with a friend or two,
    To lose sight of the hours, to go lightly with you

    I let time go lightly when I'm here with you,
    I let time go lightly when the day is through.
    I keep a watch on time when I've got work to do,
    I let time go lightly with you.

    Old friends, they mean much more to me than the new friends,
    Cause they can see where you are,
    And they know where you've been.
    - Harry Chapin, from “Let Time Go Lightly”

    When the world gets a bit too crazy, when swirling controversies are driving you to distraction; when you just need to relax and laugh and kick up your heels and be yourself without thinking too much about all the noise and drama – the best thing to do is spend some quality time with friends. Real friends. Friends who know you. That’s what the good doctor prescribed.

    We had a good dose of time with old friends this weekend. I returned home feeling just a little more whole, a little more “me”, and a little bit less the role(s) I find myself playing to get through the drama and the noise that is living, sometimes.
  • When we met up in Chestertown, Md, in June, George and I didn’t get to spend as much time together as we would have liked – but, it was enough to know that we wanted to spend more time. We hadn’t seen each other in 29 years at that point, and neither could figure out why that was. The time we spent this weekend was probably the first time we ever spent really getting to know each other.

    Back when we lived together, and worked on all of our service commitments for N.A. together, we were more a highly efficient“team”, than friends. We had taken on a huge burden of work, a great challenge between us, and divided and conquered the tasks and helped write a book, helped a fellowship grow and flourish throughout the Northeast part of this country, and when we each burned out on the effort, which was surely inevitable, we went our separate ways and never looked back. Only in recent years have we each, individually, been compelled to take a look back. When each of us did, we rediscovered this lost gem, this friendship that had gotten lost in the shuffle. We’ve dusted it off, and brought it back into the present.

    We met his family, his wife and three teenaged kids, his dogs and his koi fish in the big ponds they’d built out back. We broke bread with them, had a nice barbecued dinner, then Kathy went out to meet another old friend of hers while George and I took a walk down memory lane. He still had a bunch of the old documents from when we did our thing back in 1980 and 1981. Pages and pages of material in my handwriting, from the early days of compiling the material that went into the 12 steps, and chapters 8 and 10 of the book, which our local committees had taken on putting together. It was fun looking back, from this vantage point, on the crazy stuff we did, in between all the work. Getting arrested recreating the Civil War in an old confederate cemetery in Georgia – piling folks in cars and just all the fun and crazy stuff we did. I’d never heard Goerge’s version of what actually happened the time I set him and a girl up to be interviewed on Channel 48 in Philadelphia – the way the host never showed up, and the replacement asked completely off-the-wall questions. It was hilarious hearing it now.

    He’d asked if I wanted to go to his home group with him, and I said sure. I hadn’t been to an N.A. meeting since 1984, but with George, I would go to one. There were well over 100 people there. Back in the day, I don’t think there were that many in the whole program in all of Bucks County – there were probably barely that many in Philadelphia, then! Here, George is the venerable old-timer, all these young kids in the room kidding him about being an old man, but they love him, because they know he’d do anything for them. I laugh at this – I remember when he was a 19 year old kid himself, with words for this then-25 year-old that would change my life. Some of the kids looked at him like “HE was 19 years old once?”, and just couldn’t believe it. There were actually some kids of the kids we knew in these rooms back in the early 80’s, now here themselves.

    Spending the evening together, I was reminded what it was that made us such good friends, and made me want to continue the friendship. There’s no pretense between us. There’s nothing that we can’t talk to each other about. There’s a level of honesty that I know with very few people. There’s an integrity about George that I admired and valued then, and still do. That hasn’t changed.
  • On the way up, we had stopped for lunch and a few hours of hanging out with another old friend in the city, Deb. We’d decided to do lunch. I screwed up the address and put us on a wild goose chase around South Philly until we finally wound up on the right block. When it comes to places to eat, I’ve learned to leave that up to Deb – she always picks the best spots. This time it was a place called “Industry”. It was so-called because it was designed to be a place that folks in the restaurant industry could go and enjoy a meal. They get a discount there, and there were pictures on the walls of the owners of a variety of local establishments, including the owners of the place Deb works at. There weren’t blackboards in the Rest Rooms for you to leave a message (like the last place she took us for lunch had), but there was an old style cigarette machine in the hallway right before the Rest Rooms. When’s the last time you saw one of them? The whole place just had a great, unique atmosphere. The kind of place you can always count on Deb to take you to!

    Deb and I tried not to bore Kathy too much with our inevitable discussions about Cowbird, but it was hard not to talk about it. It’s been such a joy seeing her become a part of the fabric of this community, and to see her storytelling really flourish here. I knew a master storyteller like her belonged in a place like this, and I’m glad she took the chance and checked it out. I think she plans to stick around for awhile! I’ve come to realize that she is much better at “reading between the lines” than I, and I really benefited from some of her observations and perspectives. I am a much more “literal” person – I tend to take things at face value, and miss some of the finer nuances, sometimes. We had some good laughs and just a damned good time hanging out, enjoyng a great lunch and great company. We talked about when she’s going to make her way down our way, maybe next month.

    What a blessing it is to have friends! They take the edges off of life, and make it seem just a little bit more real.

    Today, it was back to the grindstone. But, the grindstone doesn’t seem quite as tough today.
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