The Friend Tiers

Terry and I were talking about friendship.  How do you categorize friends? Aren’t friends just friends?   I say no. I think that friends are divided up into tiers.  There’s tier one friends and then everything else drips down from there.  Allow me to explain:

Tier One Friends: These are your closest friends. In fact, they are your most hated of friends. These are the friends that you have to deal with.  If they screw up, you are there to hold back their hair while they puke or lie to the cops.  You carry their baggage. You live their lies.  You are there when they need you and there when they do not want you there.  You forgive them.  You forgive them again. You help them into rehab.  You help them back into rehab.  You loan them money and never expect to get it back.  They make mistakes and you yell at them for messing up again. You diss all your other tiered friends because they need you.  You love them and you hate them. But best of all, they are there for you when you are throwing up or getting arrested or coming down off a black tar heroin binge. You cannot get rid of them and they cannot get rid of you.

Tier Two Friends: These are the best friends.  You can hang with them.  You can listen to their woes without getting involved.  You help them when they need a hand and if you’ve got some other pressing issue, they understand. They are there for you when you have a flat, but you would never expect them to do more than call AAA.  They loan you money and expect you will pay them back.  They know when to walk away. They know when to leave you alone. Tier Two friends sometimes make it to be Tier One friends, but you hope they don’t. These are the people that help you move when you buy a new house.

Tier Three Friends:  These are your Tier Two friends’ friends. You see them at the grocery and you only talk about the common friend.  They are the work friends that will someday be Tier Two friends, but not today. They wave and say hello, but don’t ask you about anything more than the local baseball team or work related issues.  They will bring you back lunch if it isn’t an inconvenience.  Sometimes they think of themselves at Tier Two friends and you listen to them patiently and then promptly shove them into the Tier Four Friend category.

Tier Four Friend: These are the people you have to be friends with.  Your neighbor who keeps harping on your mowing technique. The parent of your kid’s friend who does not share the same basic set of interpersonal communication skills. All religious leaders. Most real estate agents. At night you secretly dream of killing them.

Tier Five Friend: Anyone on Facebook who does not fall into any of the above category.  They are idiots and you have no clue why you even still interact with them except that they were born in the same year as you and you graduated at the same time.

Don't ever...

Don't ever write about writing. No one wants to hear about that.  Even once you have become a successful writer, people don't want to hear about how you put words on paper.  They just want the words.

Aunt Betty is turning 80. She would have been 38 when I was born. She'll live to be 105 because she doesn't have time to be bothered with dying.  Aunt Betty sends birthday cards to me and my kids without fault.  They might be late, but she admits it.  I think I was 17 when she stopped slipping a $5 bill into those cards.  That was probably the first inkling I had that I might becoming an adult.

Aunt Betty is great at Scrabble. She's very Catholic. She is probably disappointed in me, but would never let it show.

We moved away from New York when I was very young.  Every summer we would travel back home.  I remember Aunt Betty's back yard was full of mosquitoes if you ventured too close to the trees in the back of the yard.  Her son had the most amazing Lord of the Rings poster in the basement.  I think it was Lord of the Rings.  It might have been a Led Zeppelin poster.

Her next door neighbor girl was at least four years older than me.  She once pretended that I was her boyfriend to make another neighbor kid jealous.  That five minutes is burned into my memory.  Her slanted driveway. She was wearing yellow shorts. She put her arm around me and claimed we were boyfriend and girlfriend. There was a broken lawn chair on the curb waiting for the trash men.  I played it cool. Or maybe I was scared shitless.  Either way, she was off after the boy in five minutes.  I might have waited an hour for her to come back. Years later I saw her again. She remembered me but only so.  I don't think she remembered the "boyfriend" thing.  I can't seem to forget.

In her most recent birthday card to me, Aunt Betty mentioned that she didn't really have a computer, but if she did, she'd look up my blog and give it a read.  While I stand behind ever letter and word and phrase and paragraph and Jesus comic I've written, I think I would be embarrassed for her to read all of this nonsense.  She would probably laugh.  She does have a good sense of humor and, by Catholic Law, has to forgive me for my sins.

Aunt Betty is having a surprise birthday party thrown for her next weekend in New York.  Sally suggested we go.  12 hours there.  12 hours back. It would be hellish. And totally worth it.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Betty!

And if between now and next Saturday you do get the internet and read this horrible web site, I'm sorry I ruined the surprise.  Forgive me.

Neighborhood Sign Feud

This photo is from my buddy Chris who lives in the Tampa area. About six weeks ago, three blocks from his house, the sign on the right popped up in a yard that said "John Lebron at 3006 is a felon on probation". 3006 is the address of the house next door. About three days later, a crudely drawn sign appeared in the yard of 3006 that said "This is true. I was a drug addict, but have been saved by Jesus Christ, my Savior". That sign lasted only a few days and was eventually replaced by the sign you see here on the left which reads "Our neighbor is impotent and can't have children".

{Editor's Note: Chris called me to say the signs have been taken down. Too bad no one took photos and posted them on the internet so that they would live on forever!}

Different angle

The Bird Cage

The Bird Cage burnt down.  It was a bar in Prescott, AZ in a place called Whiskey Row. A total loss.

But this story begins at an ATM machine.

The Huntington Bank next to COSI had a high tech video remote station.  You could contact Huntington Bank and open an account, dispute some drunken charges or secure a loan.  Using my 1988 Honda Civic as collateral, I bought Miss Sally an engagement ring.

I took the ring home, wrapped it in tissues, snuggled it into a beer cap and then kept it in my 5th pocket of my jeans, waiting for the right moment to propose.  The right moment took about three months.

Over Christmas, I bought Sally a camera.  To her mom’s dismay, I didn’t propose over Christmas.  While I was out of her house at the grocery, her mother set the camera on her left hand and claimed it was an engagement camera.  They told me about it when I got back.  I laughed, the ring safe in its tissue lined bottle cap nest.

Then towards the end of  January, we went out west to visit Sally’s best friend Tanya.  She lived in Phoenix at the time.  We spent one night in South Mountain Park, the largest city park in the United States.  We hiked up to an old helicopter pad.  It was the perfect night. The sun was setting. It was beautiful. But we were drunk as all get out and I didn’t want the moment to be spoiled, even though I knew that Sally might have to be drunk to say “yes.”

Later on that week, we drove north to Prescott.  We stayed in this hotel where all the rooms are themed out.  Ours was the Christmas Room.  Tanya's boyfriend and I decided to put on suit jackets and we all hit an area of town called Whisky Row.  There were several “historic” bars in a row.  Inside one of the bars called "The Bird Cage" were bikers. Bikers in leather. Bikers in chaps.  Bikers with cigarettes. Bikers with hats.

We drank and laughed and watched the bikers.

Around midnight, I could take it no longer.

In this smokey bar, filled with drunks and bikers and drunken bikers, I asked Miss Sally to sit down on a stool (which almost made her taller.)  I’m sure I said some really dumb things and then I pulled out the ring and I proposed.

She was stunned. And she said yes.

 People ask me when I got engaged and I have to tell them that I’m not sure.  It was around midnight on January 31st so it might have been February 1st.   It was in a rundown, old famous bar called The Bird Cage surround by guys in chaps.

And last night the Bird Cage burnt to the ground.  It was a total loss.

I'm not sure if they'll rebuild. I'm not sure if Miss Sally and I were the only ones the ever get engaged in the bar.  But it's been almost 16 years since that fateful night and I am sure that if the biker bar you got engaged in burns to the ground, your wedding is not automatically nullified.  But it was Arizona and you never know what the laws there are like.

I love you, Miss Sally.  I think the traditional 14th year anniversary gift is leather. 

Did I mention that I had a goatee at the time?