Where is Barney?

My wife is in the hospital, after falling and breaking her knee, and this is leading me to a stark realization: I’m friendless. That’s not saying I don’t have friends — I do. But I don’t have a Barney, and its troubling. Let me explain.

My wife (who is my best friend) is going to be stuck in the hospital for at least the next week. We have tickets to the Pasadena Playhouse for Saturday night (Head over Heels, The Go-Gos Musical). She will not be able to make it. So I’m trying to figure out who to go with. My daughter is going the next day, so she’s out. That leaves… I don’t know. In discussing this with my daughter, she “arranged” a possible person: the father of her best friend. That just seemed off to me, I don’t know the guy and have no idea if we have anything in common. However, one thing he said got to me: “Saturdays are for the guys”.

If I were Fred Flintstone, I’d have a Barney. A best bud. A pal. A guy who has been a friend most of my life, who has a number of shared interests. If I were Fred Flintstone, I’d call Barney. But I don’t have a Barney. Racking my brain, I can’t think of a single close male friendship. I had some as a kid, but post-college … not really. I tended to form strong friendships with women; but even at that, the truly close female friends I’ve had are either dead or have moved away from the area. This is familiar, I think: I tried to think who filled this role for my dad, and I can’t think of anyone after my Uncle Ray passed: they were usually friends of my mom whom my dad grafted on to. I’d say that my dad’s best friend, beyond his spouses, was his brother.

As I lay in bed this morning, I was raking my brain thinking who I might ask. The basic parameters would be:

  • Shared experiences: Someone I’ve known a reasonable amount of time
  • Shared interests: Someone with some congruity with my interests (roadgeeking, theatre, boardgaming)

There are perhaps one or two, but most of the potential candidates no longer live in the area. I’ve drifted away — either in distance or social circles — from many of my childhood, high school, or college friends. It’s making me realize I have no “best buddy”. Friendship is a partial ordering, and I’m realizing I don’t have a least upper bound. My best friend is my wife, and beyond that … I’m not sure anyone achieves that closeness. That’s worrisome. My wife has some friends who do. Do women form relationships like that better? I don’t think so — at least not if I read the literature.  I think it is just introverts like me.

But this still leave me wondering: What do I do Saturday night? I can think of a few possibilities, but no one nearby. That’s troubling.


Looking Back

New Years Eve is a time of looking back and of reflection, both for the past year as well as (when the ten’s digit changes) for the past 10 years.

Ten years ago. It seems like such a long time. 1999 was a bad year, starting with the loss of our dear friend and business parter, Karen Pratt Holmes. I remember the end of 1999, spending New Years Eve with our friend Mike Laga from Y Princesses, waiting to see what would go wrong with Y2K. It’s interesting that Mike is back in our sphere, as our daughters go to the same high school.

The last decade has had its plusses and minuses. On the big plus side is our friend Nicole (ellipticcurve), who came to work at my office in 2003, and rapidly became a close friend (and who introduced me to LiveJournal — and thus to many new friends — in 2004). Other plusses over the last decade were our continued friendships (including the growth of the friendship with Lauren and Scott), watching our daughter grow through her school years, and the people we have met and the places we have seen. In the last year, the growth of Facebook has permitted us to rekindle a number of friendships that had been lost over the year, and to reconnect with far-flung and far-too-busy friends and family.

We’ve attended more theatre over the last ten years than we did in the 1990s. Theatre is such a positive experience, and again has introduced us to some really neat people and places. We’ve gotten to know the wonderful team at Repertory East Playhouse, we’ve gotten to know some of the folks behind the stages at Cabrillo, and we’re recognized by the house managers at the Pasadena Playhouse. Again, it is the experiences we remember here.

We’ve had significant losses over these ten years, in particular my father in 2004 and my wife’s father in 2008. Health also hasn’t been such a friend, what with this being the decade of my migraines and my wife’s arthritis… and our friend’s health issues. As we have health issues and our friends have health issues, we treasure our friendships more dearly. We’ve lost folks far too suddenly (my father is an example of these), and we must take advantage of the time we have. I never understood the adage that youth was wasted on the young; as I age, I understand it these days more and more.

There have been changes in things over the decade: cars have been replaced; we’ve moved to a larger house; we have new ways of carrying our music. We’ve seen the economy go into the toilet; we’ve seen the world come under the grip of terrorist acts. But as a recent Science Friday segment pointed out, things only bring short-term happiness — it is the experiences that you remember and treasure.

So, as we enter the second decade of the two-thousands, I wish all my friends reading this — both on Livejournal and on Facebook — a happy new year and a marvelous new decade. May it be better than the old one (it wouldn’t be hard), and may it bring you happy times, happy experiences, and long-lasting friendships and love.


Lunchtime Musings: Friends and Aging

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle has an article that dovetails quite well with something I’ve recently been thinking about. The article talks about Facebook, and how its user demographic is aging. The issue is not that Facebook is losing younger users — they are still flocking to the site. But people 35 to 54 are now the biggest group on the site, and more importantly, are joining the site at a faster rate. For those that want the numbers, people 35 to 54 account for 28.2% of all U.S. users as of July; 24- to 34-year-olds represent 25.2%; 18-to-24 age group are 25.1% of users, down from 40.8% in January; and those 17 and under made up 9.8% of the Web site’s users, down from 13.5%. Why are these (ahem) older folks joining Facebook? It’s not to play MyFarm or Lil’ Green Thing. It appears they are joining to network, to find long-lost friends, to build or rebuild relationships from high school or earlier.

This goes to what I’ve been thinking about. As my father aged, I noted he was more curious about, and spent more time and effort researching, what happened to his Navy buddies. Letters were written, visits were made. I’ve noticed I’m doing the same thing as I approach 50: I wanted to go to high school reunions, I wanted to find long lost friends. (However, I’ll note this isn’t common: my wife has expressed no desire to find out what happened to those she knew in high school). This desire has intensified as I have gone through my dad’s albums (70+ condensed to 10; I need to order more binders). I’ve seen people from elementary school and early JHS days, when I lived in Westchester — and reconnected with a couple. I actually joined Classmates, and have been attempting to reconnect with other folks from JHS and high school (some I have found on Facebook, some I can’t seem to find, and some I’m not sure I was close enough with to friend). I’ve also done some reconnecting at the college level, although surprisingly it appears a lot of the UCLA Computer Club folk aren’t on Facebook (odd, for folks that have been on the Internet since it started). I’ve made a few college connections, and sent some mail out to others I haven’t heard from in ages.

In doing so, something strange is happening. I’m remembering things. For the longest time, I had very few memories of college, high school, jr. high school, and elementary days. One or two incidents. As I reconnect, it’s coming back… and these are the good memories, for folks seem to want to forget any bad times (I certainly do). Thus, I’m happy this is happening. Reestablishing friendships is a good thing, especially for someone like me that didn’t establish a lot of close friendships. I plan to continue reconnecting, as I can find folks… or they find me.

But I’m curious about whether this is a “just me” phenomenon (do do do do do), or whether others do the same. For those of you who are 25 years or more out of high school: are you starting to feel the urge to reconnect? How are you doing it?


Fathers and Photographs

My father died in 2004 (story at grandpa_a). One of the various collections I inherited* was his collection of photo albums… at least 200 of them. Although my dad had lots of cameras, he wasn’t the best of photographers. There were a fair amount of blurry pictures, which he would dutifully put in albums. He would also go on lots of accounting seminar trips with my mom, and take loads of pictures of scenery and random people (I have a picture from 1977 in front of me labeled “George. George’s Wife” — I have no idea who George is). There are also a fair number of pictures of clients and people who may have been dear to my parents, but whom have no meaning to me. So I’ve been going through these pictures and condensing the albums. I’ve been tossing pictures that have faded beyond visibility (old color film does this when stored in a garage). I’ve been tossing scenery without meaning. I’ve been tossing pictures of people I don’t know. So far, I’ve condensed 48 albums into 7½ albums, and I’m up to the beginning of 1978. I’m sure things will go even faster after I move out of the house in 1979.

In doing this process, I’ve learned quite a bit about photos and building photo albums. I’ve realized that the albums I’ve assessmbled of my family probably suffer the same problem as my dad’s did. Here’s what I’ve learned; perhaps you will find this advice useful:

  • Photo albums serve two audiences: those who were present at the event, and those far in the future. These are distinctly different. My father used the albums to remind him of where he had been and the good times. After he died, those memories went with him. The albums now serve to remind me of the people, and less the places. So I’m focusing on keeping the pictures with people I know. This leads to Lesson #1: Put people in your pictures. Pictures of just scenery age fast, and are meaningful only to those who were there with you. Having people in your pictures, especially family or extended family, make the pictures meaningful and root them.
  • Memories fade. There are loads of pictures in people I don’t recognize, and good number that I do. It really helps me when the pictures are labeled with date and time. Lesson #2: Label the people in your pictures. Now, these are old film prints, so we can label with a pen. For digital pictures, use the metadata.
  • I’m dealing with physical albums. There are loads of blurry pictures, pictures of random strangers, bad angles, bad composition. My dad just put them in the album. I’m sure it would have been even worse if he had gotten into the digital era. Lesson #3: Weed Before, and Weed Again. When you assemble your album, weed the pictures down to the meaningful. Yes, there will be more weeding to do as the years go on, but why keep the drek now?

After my dad died in 2004, I just stopped taking pictures. I don’t know whether it was my film camera dying. I don’t know if it was my workplace getting rid of the convenient developing service. I don’t know if it was never having a decent digital camera, or a printer for what few photos I took (or finding it much harder to keep digital photos organized than my printed film images). Just recently I’ve begun to think about taking pictures again, but I want to go out and get a decent digital camera setup. I’m sure the 15 or so film cameras I inherited from my dad** are less than useful these days, and my old Canon is dying.

A side note: This process of going through the pictures, especially the pictures of my youth and Jr. and Sr. high school days, has really been bringing back memories. I’ve been exploiting Facebook to reconnect with folks I haven’t spoken to in years (welcome to those reading this), and it is wonderful to reestablish long-lost friendships from that part of my life. I’ve gone to the paid level at Classmates for a year, and I’ll see if that permits me to find more folks to reconnect with. Finding old friends: That’s been an unanticipated side benefit of this process, and perhaps the real gift of this inheritance.

* I also have collections of First Day Covers and Autographs. I’d welcome help on figuring out what to do with those.
** Yes, I need help figuring out what to do with these as well.


Being The Anomaly

Today’s lunchtime news reading has been light, so I’ve been thinking…. always a dangerous thing…. My recent review of history (triggered by going through my dad’s photo albums), combined with friend rediscovery, has reminded me how I am in many ways quite an anomaly in my surroundings:

In my teen years, I went to Jewish summer camp. In this situation, I always felt like the odd person out: I was interested in science, math, and computers, and I was surrounded by future doctors and lawyers. Of course, this has continued in our synagogue memberships. I distinctly remember the new member orientation at our previous congregation: “People would stand up and state their professions. Lawyer, Lawyer, Lawyer, Lawyer, Appelate Lawyer, Social Security Lawyer, Assistant District Attourney, Banker, Doctor, Teacher, Producer, Director, Casting, Production Manager for a Studio, etc. I stand up: ummm, I do computer security for an Aerospace firm. There was one other IT person there, and one other retired engineer.” It’s a little bit better at our current congregation.

Having gotten burned out a few congregations ago when I held a large number of congregational positions, at our new congregation I’m just getting involved with Men’s Club. Of course, I’m an anomaly there, not having one whit of interest in sports (I never really have). Perhaps this is why I’ve never had close friends of the same gender: men bond over shared sporting events, and I can count the number of sporting events I’ve been to… in my entire life… on my physical fingers.

In high school, you would expect a math and computer geek to have close relationships with similar folks. However, my best friend (Karen Pratt) was not a computer person: she was a creative person: an artist, a book lover, a complete imaginative spirit. I still miss her creativity: she was taken from us in a car accident around 2000. I’ve just gotten back in touch with someone (uisna) who was a very close friend in my pre-teen days (a friendship I hope to reestablish). Again, she’s an extremely creative person. Must be a long-delayed application of the law of conservation of creative good friends.

But, you say, you married an engineer (gf_guruilla). True, but if you know her, she is always creating. She had a doll business with the other Karen; she’s into almost any fiber or sewing art. She’s the creative, artistic person. Although I was creative when I was younger (at camp I always did arts and crafts), I’m not that artistic now. Perhaps it is buried.

Most computer folks aren’t into theatre. They are into various fandoms, usually related to science fiction. If they are into art, it is often manga. Their entertainment is typically movies. Although I do enjoy science fiction, I’ve never been the fannish type, and as you know from this blog, my ideal entertainment is live theatre: plays and musicals. A year with more than three movies is an oddity. I will note that some creativity must be rubbing off from my daughter and her theatrical design skills: I’ve begun to see choreography and staging when I listen to music.

I love music: as you know, my iPod has over 18,400 songs on it, spread over a wide variety of genres and artists from cast albums to folk, from rock to Sinatra, from big band to calliope music, from Roger Whittaker to the Austin Lounge Lizards. Yet I can’t play an instrument — others in my family have the music playing ability.

So I’m an anomaly, and I guess I should just embrace it. Love the creativity around me, and hope it sinks in more, and treasure not being the cookie-cutter doctor or lawyer. Who knows what might happen if I ever have that mid-life crisis (which I’ve had to put off because I’m too busy :-)).

What about you? Are you one of the pack, or anomalous like me? In what ways?


News Chum O’the Day

Some selected chunks of chum, for you to chew on over dinner:

  • From the “Just Put It On The Tray” Department: The Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece on Clifton’s Cafeteria. Clifton’s was one of the earliest cafeterias in Los Angeles (I have vague memories of going to it as a child). There was a small chain of them, each one with its own theme. They have their recipes… and their regulars who know if a single spice is varied. They have their traditions. All in all, it sounds fascinating, and I’ll have to go visit there.
  • From the “Twenty-Five Is A Good Number” Department: I know you’ve seen it. That 25 Random Things meme that has been going around everywhere. Well, it’s now made the New York Times! An article in their Fashion section today discusses the meme, and notes that a Google search for “25 Random Things About Me” yields 35,700 pages of results, almost all of which seem to have been created in the last two weeks. I do have to say I’m seeing it everywhere, and it reminds me of the old days when memes would propagate like that on LiveJournal.
  • From the “Old Friends” Department: The Daily News has a nice piece on an old friend of mine, Jolie Mason, who runs the Los Angeles Radio Reading Service. They were knocked off the air during the recent Sesnon fire (which burned the KCSN transmitter), and are now attempting to raise $7,000 to get back on the airwaves. They do such a great service for folks, that I just wanted to mention the article. I worked with Jolie back when she was a programmer at SDC — yet another BLACKER person!
  • From the “Be Careful What You Eat… Or Maybe Not” Department: The New York Times today has an article today about how many food allergies might be false alarms. The article is interesting, but seems to forget one significant fact: Allergy .NE. (that’s != for you perl folks) Sensitivity. An allergy is something that raises a histamine reaction. But there are other forms of non-allergy sensitivies (such as Celiac Disease), which can be equally or more problematic. Further, those sensitivities can serve to create more sensitivities (i.e., if you are Celiac and keep eating wheat, other foods tend to create problems — often getting off the wheat clears the other sensitivites). So, eat what makes you feel healthy. If you don’t feel good eating it, don’t. But do eat your brussel sprouts.
  • From the “A Quite Amazing Paradox” Department: The New York Times is also reporting on an interesting transit paradox: although the economy is driving ridership on transit systems up, the economy is forcing such systems to make significant cutbacks. The problem is that fare-box revenue accounts for only a fifth to a half of the operating revenue of most transit systems — and the sputtering economy has eroded the state and local tax collections that the systems depend on to keep running. Further, the billions of dollars that Congress plans to spend on mass transit as part of the stimulus bill will also do little to help these systems with their current problems because the stimulus is for capital projects, not operations.
  • From the “Now You Take That Back!” Department: You may have heard that the Pope recently unexcommunicated (would that be communicated?) some cardinals who had very conservative views. The problem was the one of them was a holocaust denier. Well, the Pope (after some pressure from Merkel) has now directed that cardinal to recant those views. Evidently, the Pope knew nothing about them. Right. I thought he was infallible. In any case, he’s done the right thing.
  • From the “Where is the most unusual place that you and your husband have ever made whoopee?” Department: Yes, that story is true. But that’s not what this chum is about. You see, GSN is reviving the “Newlywed Game”, and has announced the new host. Carnie Wilson. Why, oh why? It’s not like Bob Eubanks is dead. In fact, he’s looking for work. Right now, he only seems to work one day a year. If the original is still around, why not use him. And if you can’t use him, rub it in his face and hire Stephanie Edwards!