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Friends and Foes

Friends and Foes Cover Image

John R York

June 17, 2024

Who's Your Friend

I got to thinking about the word ‘friend’ the other day. I frequently think about my friends; you know, — like, “I wonder how Chris is doing these days.” That’s how it probably started, thinking about friendship that is. I personally think the word ‘friend’ is an important word, not to be taken lightly, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to suspect the word is used too lightly these days. It might also be a word that is often taken for granted.

One can be friends with people on Facebook, but not necessarily be actual friends in the strictest sense. On Instagram and TikTok, you get followers, but some of these really are friends as well. I have friends and followers on these social media platforms, although there are many of them I don’t know personally. I think that’s alright, though. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some of these people are more like casual acquaintances, while still others, people I don’t know at all, simply share a particular common interest.

I think having friends and being a friend to others is a fundamental aspect of being human. At the most basic level, our need to form friendships is built into our DNA. Friends enrich our lives. Friends help us celebrate our achievements and support us during the rough episodes in our lives. Friends share common interests, beliefs and values with each other, strong enough to form an interpersonal bond. In other words, it’s a big deal.

Unfortunately, friends and friendships can be misunderstood, abused, taken for granted, or exploited. Friendships require a lot of trust, and that is often the weak link in the relationship. I would submit that many marriages go down in flames because love/lust was mistaken for friendship, for example. Business friendships are another victim of broken trust fueled by self-interest and lack of integrity.

But, I don’t want to dwell on broken friendships.

When Paula and I left our home and community in Ramona, California, we left behind so many friends, people who were an essential part of our lives. When people here in Florida ask us if we miss the ranch and California, we tell them the thing we miss the most is our friends. The good news is that we’ve made many new friends here in our new community. Both of us also have friends scattered across the United States and many other countries.

One of the things that I think about a lot is how difficult it seems to be to keep up with a lifetime of friends. This must be a universal issue, because the majority of my friends don’t write or call me either. When one of these old friends and I do connect, we always promise to stay in touch more often and to make plans for a visit — soon. Regrettably, this usually doesn’t happen. I’ve promised myself to take the lead on this effort to reconnect, and I have managed to complete a few reunions over the past year. One of the barriers is the distance between me and many of my old friends.

I think one must make decisions regarding reconnections based on prioritization and pragmatism. For me, best friends take highest priority, which includes my family. Fortunately, my brothers and sisters are also among my best friends. My very best friend is my wife, Paula, for which I am very grateful — but I don’t have to travel far to visit with her, although her studio is at the opposite end of the house from my office. Unfortunately, many of the friends I love dearly, including family, live a million miles away. For these friends, an annual telephone call and a Christmas card, promising that we WILL visit this year, must suffice.

I made a trip to the other side of Florida earlier this year to visit some old friends. Seeing Bob and Mary was a blast from the past. Bob was my workout buddy back in the day. I also visited Al, the guy who came up with the idea to throw an annual Flag Day Toad Suck extravaganza. There are several others who live over on that side of the state, but perhaps I can catch up with them the next time.

I called up old friends up in Virginia/Maryland, Chris and Terra. We met at my first high-tech company, Gould Computer Systems in Fort Lauderdale. Chris and I crack each other up. I contacted another friend from those days, Andy, who is out in Silicon Valley. Everybody is older now, with grown kids.

My friend, Paul, up in Alaska corresponds with me on rare occasions. We were in Viet Nam together. Alaska is probably too far for a visit. My friend, Roni, however, wins for being the farthest from my house. He asked me to come join him for his 70th birthday — in Malaysia. I really wanted to go, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

My friends and family in Maryland, Ohio, Nebraska, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Japan, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Italy will have to wait their turn for a visit. Since I plan to attend my granddaughter’s and grandson’s graduation ceremonies next year, in Arizona, we will no doubt shoot on over to Southern California to visit as many friends as possible down there. We better arrange to get the rodeo grounds reserved!

Lets Be Friendly

I think the word ‘friendly’ warrants a separate consideration so that we can identify the difference between ‘friend’ and ‘friendly’. I suppose it might go without saying that friends are generally friendly toward each other, but I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions to that assumption. But being friendly or acting friendly doesn’t need to have anything to do with being friends.

Have you ever been confronted with a dog that “looks friendly” but bites you? I have a cat, Rocky, who loves to sucker visitors into thinking he’s a playful, loving feline who really wants you to rub his belly. He looks so genuinely friendly. Don’t do it. You’ll come up bloody.

Looking or acting friendly is an inaccurate indication of intent. On the other hand, a friendly look or gesture or pleasant behavior is typically a reasonable sign another person (or dog) is friendly. But then, a used car salesman can come across as very friendly and yet not have your best interests at heart. An attractive woman might give you a friendly, even suggestive look, but in reality — no, I’d better not go there.

We can play a friendly game of cards, which should at the very least imply there will be no gunplay if someone loses. We can decide to do something that is friendly to the environment. We might be friendly to a stranger by holding a door open for them. The thing is, you don’t have to be friends to be friendly, and I think being deliberately friendly can make you feel good.

When I go to the grocery store, there are some checkout clerks who are decidedly friendly and others who are not. They all say exactly the same things: “Hello, how are you today?” “Did you find everything you were looking for?” “Have a good day.” But, some of them obviously don’t have their heart in the discourse. They just are very friendly. I try to help out by being cheerful and friendly despite their lack of enthusiasm, but it seldom has the desired impact.

So, if some people are friendly, there are plenty of others who are unfriendly. People with road rage are unfriendly. People who work in the support department are required to deal with a lot of unfriendly customers. Some people are inherently unfriendly, and these people are generally called assholes. My best advice is to avoid people (or dogs and cats) who are unfriendly.

Foes are typically unfriendly, although that’s not necessarily etched in stone. Sneaky foes might pretend to be friendly so that they can do more damage to the relationship. You’ve heard the saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Probably good advice. I don’t think I have any foes, at least not right now, at this stage of my life. My advice is that it’s best to avoid having them if possible.

When I was in high school, there was a classmate who was considered one of the school’s tough guys. I saw his car at the drive-in theater one night and tapped on the window to say hello. Bad timing, as it turned out. He was in the back seat with girl. A week later he saw me in the local lot of the local grocery store and started yelling at me, saying something about spying on him and detailing graphic details about kicking my ass. I ran like hell and he never caught me. I guess he would have to go in the foe column.

Friendly Humor

There is nothing better than a friend, unless it’s a friend with chocolate. – Linda Grayson

A good friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows you are slightly cracked.  - Bernard Meltzer

One good reason to only maintain a small circle of friends is that three out of four murders are committed by people who know the victim.  – George Carlin

When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying ‘Damn, that was fun.’  - Groucho Marx

Why can’t you be friends with a squirrel?  They drive everyone nuts.

One day two carrots, who were best friends, were walking together down the street. They stepped off the curb and a speeding car came around the corner and ran one of them over. The uninjured carrot called 911 and helped his injured friend as best he was able. The injured carrot was taken to emergency at the hospital and rushed into surgery. After a long and agonizing wait, the doctor finally appeared. He told the uninjured carrot, "I have good news, and I have bad news. The good news is that your friend is going to pull through. The bad news is that he's going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life".

Pa-dum-pump!

Thank you, and don’t forget to read a book.