Thursday, August 31, 2006


I'm watching Annie Hall while blogging this entry. I've never watched Annie Hall before and I'm kicking myself that it took me 31 years to finally catch it.

Tonight was the night I would usually go on a 10-mile ride (20 round trip) with a friend of mine and his wife along with his friends. He is the manifestation of my shortcomings. His name is Jeff and he is what I would call an almostfriend.

In 2004, I hired him to be a co-writer for the software company I worked at. While other folks submitted instructional manual (I'm in the tech writing field, but I'm trying to get back into journalism) samples, he submitted a poem. The audacity of the act merited a face-to-face interview. And, surprisingly, he did the best in a writer's test. We hired him and I walked the fine line between supervisor and friend. Until Black Tuesday...the day that 30 percent of the staff got cut. He was one of those people.

I managed to remain in contact with him. I wrote him a letter of recommendation and I hope/think that my letter helped him get the job where he's at today - a company that's infinitely hipper than the company I work for. They have routine field trips to video game places, have routine picnics and their coworkers drink freely. My latest job - you can literally hear the pounding of keyboards every day - no chit chat. No camaraderie.

We routinely talk. He got married. He takes his dog to the dog park with me and my sister's dogs. And we email at least three times daily. But there's a distance. He invites me over to his house, but only if there's an Ultimate Fight Night pay-per-view event that requires $5 a head. He won't miss any of his softball games, but when it comes to going to a concert for one of his favorite bands at Sokol (Frank Black), it's like twisting an arm. He committed to help me move one weekend, but backed out when one of his uncle's had a baseball game that he had to attend. And tonight... when his brother-in-law and another friend of his, backed out of our usual Thursday night 20-mile ride, he backed out as well. If one of those guys committed to the bike ride, he would have went with his wife, but since it was just me...

It was in plain view - if it was anyone else but me, he would have went on this 20-mile ride. But if it was me - he backed out.

I hate to sink into self-pity mode, but this is pretty much a great snapshot of a group of friends I call 'almostfriends.' In a red state, it's hard to find folks who share the same music taste (he got me into the Hold Steady, but to my credit, I got him into The New Pornographers, The Arcade Fire, Bloc Party and Luna), political beliefs and have a dry-twisted sense of humor. You want to hold onto these people. But sometimes, these people keep you at a distance. You may break commitments and jump at any request to help build a deck or go out to lunch, but when it comes to you - these people are nowhere to be found. You ask them to help you move, they have obligations. You ask them to go for a beer, they have to sand their floors.

As a journalist at heart, I'm awesome at making first impressions. I can get most people to open up and I have a reasonably good personality when it comes to introducing myself and breaking the ice. But the gulf between that and friendship is amazing. I can probably count on my right hand how many people I can consider 'true' comrades. I'm lucky that I have that many. But it seems that I have the nasty tendency to have many 'almostfriends' in my life. They have their own lives, I don't expect them to drop everything for me, but like everything else in life, it's nice to be wanted, to be a person that you would intentionally break your post-work monotony to grab a beer with.

I guess that's why I've been listening to a lot of Fiona Apple recently. Her music cites the failures of many-a-suitors. But she isn't above turning that mirror on herself and asking herself why she attracts such undesirables. As for me, I'm still trying to figure out that barrier that separates almostfriends and those who you can count on for the long haul in your life.


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