I spent seven days in Vancouver, B.C., visiting Nick, my best friend. He’s an actor filming a TV series there; he’s also a young man who is less than half my age. But I think Nick nor I doubt the depth of our friendship — one as genuine as a friendship can get.
I wish we knew the exact moment when we crossed the invisible line that you stepped over to reach a friendship like ours. To be sure, we didn’t know it when we first met, which was at a journalism convention in Philadelphia.
Nick, a college students and aspiring journalist back then, was there to shake hands and make connections. I was there because, well … I always went to this annual convention. Though I was between jobs, I wasn’t looking too hard for one. In my mind, I had done the journalism thing, and whatever love I had for it was lost when my last employer laid me off.
“Layoff” is a kinder word than what actually happened. Fired would be more accurate. For when one of your bosses says your salary is too rich for the company, you’re speechless as to what to tell him. You had walked away from a secure job to join some internet startup. The site courted you, wooed you with promises of fatter paychecks and a chance to build something.
I bought that fiction. Yet I knew it wasn’t true. I’m dispensable, as is anybody else who works for a company he doesn’t own.
I took that rejection and shared it with Nick. I reminded him early on in our friendship that he didn’t owe his employer anything more than a hard day of work. You don’t pledge your everlasting allegiance to the company, because you have to be prepared for lean times. For the lean times make you a candidate for the unemployment line.
Nick and I didn’t dwell overly much on my joblessness. We spent the first few conversations on our cells trying to learn about our likes and dislikes. I wanted to know what his dreams were, what he thought might bring him happiness and a hefty paycheck.
He was candid about the latter. Money did matter. Unlike me, Nick didn’t want to throw himself into a company that didn’t value his time or his intellect. I applauded him, because I didn’t want him to make a mistake like I did.
Not surprisingly, Nick understood. How could he not? Because on the end of each of our hourlong phone calls was a blood-sweat-tears example of someone who had been blindsided by the belief that a company would do right by him.
I explained that often to Nick.
He listened — to every word I told him.
On my end, I listened to every word he told me. Nick wanted me to know him well. Why he did, I still can’t say. But he made his life an open book, allowing me to pore over the pages and quiz him about whatever I didn’t understand.
He left no mysteries for me to piece together. Ask, and I got an answer.
To say some of his answers surprised me would not be inaccurate. Yet I never judged him. Nick wasn’t perfect; he made mistakes in his youth. But could I say I was better, that my life, too, had no mistakes I wish I could undo?
We get one go-around in life on earth, and we have to make the best of it. I saw that’s what Nick was doing, squeezing as much living out of every moment.
That’s what brought him to Vancouver. A few years earlier, he realized he wanted to control his hours. He disliked the thought of sitting behind a news desk and being tied to someone else’s whims. He cashed in that first dream for fresh ones, and he didn’t apologize to anyone for his decision.
Of course, he asked my thoughts, and I gave him the same answer I did when he was looking to work in front of a camera as a journalist: Seek happiness.
I told him happiness isn’t found in how much money you make, how many friends you have and the number of flashy car you park in your driveway. The world is full of miserable, unhappy people who have cars, money aplenty and sycophants. What they don’t have are the deep friendships that can endure throughout their lives.
A couple of years ago, Nick, now 32, realized he’d outlive me. Losing his grandmother brought him that clarity. He said he wanted to spend more time with me, to do more things together, to build more memories.
At first, I didn’t know if that would be possible. Baby Boomers and millennials make strange bedfellows. Men in their 60s don’t have best friends in their late 20s, right?
I’m certain the rules on friendship never address age. They mention something, however, about “trust,” the importance of trust in bromances or romances.
That fact struck us both about the same time. When it did, we never dwelled on age. Instead, we laughed, teased, joked, cried in front of each other. We didn’t apologize for the tears anymore than we did for the laughs.
So when Nick got the part in “Batwoman,” he asked me to come visit. He would show me around, but more than that he would find time for the two of us to hang out — to enjoy the best of a best friendship, no misunderstanding what we meant to each other.
One day, after I’m gone, he’ll reflect on what we meant to each other. He’ll remember Vancouver, as well as the sundry places he and I traveled in hoboing around the planet. Nick will share those memories with his children, his wife and his friends, and he’ll do so without trying to explain how someone his age came to call someone my age a best friend.