Alex and I went for a hike this past weekend to Sadsbury Woods in Pennsylvania. We had a great time. Heavy snowmelt left entire sections of the trail muddy, so we so we had to navigate through twigs and fields of prickers yelling ouch!and laughing. We crossed an overflowing stream using sticks for balance, clinging to branches, and engineering an unnecessarily complex system to keep the camera dry. We jabbered about which countries we’d like to visit most, strategies to drum up babysitting business, and dancing to Beyoncé.
At the end of the hike, we had a debate on who could run faster, which led us to race the last 100 feet to the parking lot (Alex won). That left us laughing hysterically and gasping for breath at the same time. The whole thing was just idyllic.
On the way home, we hit Wawa for meatball parm subs, and then took turns picking out songs to play. About halfway through the drive, I turned down the music.
“You wanna know something?” I asked, and I was a little choked up.
“What?” Alex responded.
“I genuinely cannot imagine a better life.”
Speaking of music and crying…
This February, the local classic rock station, WMGK, counted down the Top 20 Frontmen and Frontwomen of Classic Rock. Each day they released a new name, counting down from #20 to #1 (Mick Jagger, bitches!).
I got ridiculously invested in the countdown, and I wasn’t alone. I put the list up on Facebook and updated it daily. It turned into a non-stop debate. Friends from periods across my life dove in and debated Jim Morrison vs Steven Tyler, Stevie Nicks vs Ann Wilson – and we delved heavily into the very definition of classic rock and frontman. The conversations strings got so unwieldy that I had to start new posts 4 separate times. One friend told me he missed his train stop because he was thick into the debate. When they announced Roger Daltry at #6, I swerved to the side of the Turnpike and immediately updated the group. It was wonderful and all-encompassing and had me re-connecting with dozens of friends.
Somewhere in the midst of this craziness, I was driving home, listening to WMGK when they announced that a new song by Tom Petty had been released. After Petty’s death last year, they had been sorting through his recordings and found an unreleased song.
Now, I love me some classic rock (obviously), but Petty is my favorite. He’s my guy. He’s the one closest to my soul.
The song was called “For Real” and the chorus was this:
I did it for real.
Would a done it for free.
I did it for me.
Cause it was all that rang true.
I did it for real.
And it I did it for you.
It was Tuesday at 5:40 PM and I was driving on Route 295. And I was absolutely bawling.
Speaking of Tom Petty and friends and crying…
Last year, the day after Tom Petty died, I was in San Francisco for work. I met up with my friend, Reef, who lives there – and as luck would have it, our close friend, Wade, was also there for work.
The three of us were friends in our early 20s when we lived in LA together. There’s an intensity to that time of life, a glorious arrogance and self-centeredness where you feel like there couldn’t possibly be better, more powerful people in the universe and together you are the force that will drive tectonic shifts in the culture.
Reef, Wade, and I shared that time together, and 20+ years later we still love each other deeply because of it. We also listened to a crapload of Tom Petty on a crapload of crazy roadtrips.
So back to that night in San Francisco. We met up at a bar that night with plans to drink a shot in honor of Tom Petty. But it got complicated. The bar only served beer, so Wade went to the bodega next door and returned with a bottle of rank vodka (It was all they had!) – and a big bottle at that (It was all they had!). So we plunked that bottle down on the bar in front of us and did a shot with glasses the bartender gave us.
From there, things got more complicated:
- We spent the next few hours scrawling our favorite Tom Petty lyrics onto cocktail napkins with plans to mail them to my brother
- We finished the entire bottle (you saw that coming, right?)
- I have no idea what happened to the napkins
- Wade crashed on the couch at my Air Bnb
- I puked my guts out the next morning
A few months later, right before Christmas, I got a package from Wade. Reef did too. Each package was labelled “do not open until X-mas”.
Christmas morning, I cut open the package and the smell of new T-shirt lifted out of the plastic envelope.
“What is it?” Shani asked.
I couldn’t even answer her, because I was crying. There were two shirts, one for me and one for Shani:
For those of you who don’t know, those are lyrics from “You Wreck Me” by Tom Petty. Reef got a lyric T-shirt too.
The gift of 20+ years of friendship.
And speaking of Christmas and friendship and crying…
Every year I write a letter to Shani and Jack and Alex. I put it in their stocking.
This past year I wrote to Jack about how much our trip to Spring Training in Florida had meant to me. I talked about sitting on the grass berm wrapped in a wool blanket and watching the Yankees. I talked about the emergency stop in Baltimore where I nearly crapped my pants. The grubby hotel in Georgia. Sitting in the sun watching the Pirates play while Jack collected autographs. Blasting John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” over and over.
Then as I reached the end of the letter, I wrote something to him that I didn’t expect to say at all. But as it came out, I realized it was really the point of the entire letter.
In a lot of ways, you’re my best friend. I know parents aren’t supposed to be that, but it’s happened anyway.
Our family routine on Christmas is to make coffee, open our gifts, and then I make a big breakfast pizza for everyone. I was in the middle of chopping onions when Jack slid into the kitchen. He came right for me. He draped a lopey arm around my neck and mushed our two heads together. His voice was murky and hoarse.
“You’re my best friend too.”
Then he slid out as fast as he’d slid in. And he left me there, stunned, glowing, and wondering if it was really even happened.
And finally, speaking of gratitude…
I want to end by saying thank you to literally everyone who reads this silly blog (or at least tells me they do). From Facebook friends to lifelong friends to old friends to best friends…thank you for being my friends.
Because in all sincerity, I will come back to thought I started with:
I genuinely couldn’t imagine a better life.
And I have you to thank for that.
3 thoughts on “Speaking Of…”
Now I’m crying. Love this post. Xo
That was beautiful and poignant. I have tears in my eyes. I enjoyed learning more about one of my favorite childhood friends, the family he loves, and the life he lives.
My bestest bestie and I swapped tee shirts and shared music. I haven’t really had anyone to share that with since he passed.
I may not have contributed much but I appreciate having been a part of it!
Great stuff Mike! Yes enjoyed the top Front Men posts on FB and reading this brought back many good memories of listening to the many bands growing up and since. Always enjoy your stories. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us! Go Bears!