My Best Friend Danny
Friends, I need your help. If you’ve ever had a best friend and want to help me please read on. If you haven’t you might want to read on anyway because best friends are perhaps in the top two of life’s gifts. I want to tell you about my best friend Danny before I tell you what I need from you. This post is entirely out of character for me as I never ask for anything and I try not to include family or close friends in my submissions. I’d like to say Danny just popped into my thoughts today after not thinking about him for a long time, but the truth is I often think of Danny and truly miss the type of friendship we used to share. Do any childhood friendships survive 40 years later? I sure hope so..
We grew up on a very quiet street in a quiet beachside town in Southern California. The sort of area long established with big magnificent trees and old Spanish styled stucco homes, green well maintained lawns, wide sidewalks, real alleys, and ordered structured blocks with Spanish street names and the occasional car driving by. As I said in a previous submission everybody knew their neighbors, their pets, cars, birthdays, brought each other the occasional batch of cookies or treats and lived quiet uneventful lives. I was four years old and those sidewalks seemed like an interstate as I’d venture up or down 2-3 houses on huge adventures of exploration. I’m convinced these earlier travels of 100-150 meters either way from my front yard wetted my appetite for the travels that would eventually lead me around the world several times and through Asia in some detail. As adventurous and independent as I was for a four year old I still craved companionship for my travels and recreation but the only kids on my “block” without crossing a street were much older and I regarded them as you would headhunters or rabid cannibals. When I saw them coming I’d duck behind a shrub and hope I’d gone unnoticed.
One day I made it all the way down to the corner and with my hand shading my eyes I looked out over the open expanses of the next block as a seafaring man would scan the oceans. Wait, what did I see 200 meters off the bow? Yes, a like creature of the right height and sex, someone like me. After what seemed like months of searching I couldn’t help but yell very loudly “HELLLLOOOO?” To my frustration my calls went unnoticed and soon he disappeared from my view. Disappointed I made the long journey home and vowed to search again the next day. Several weeks went past before I sighted him again and with my heart racing from excitement I waved my hand in the air and yelled “HHEELLLOOOOOOOO?” Would my calls go unnoticed once again or would “HIHIII?” he answered back and right then I knew he’d be the best friend anyone could ever hope for. For weeks we’d yell back and forth to each other from this great distance and then one day walking with my mom we headed down the street towards his home. For some reason I was afraid he’d actually be there, after all what would I say? As we neared the front yard where he always appeared the front door of the house opened and out walked a friendly looking lady and behind her my would be friend. So embarrassed, I was at a loss for words and found myself hiding behind my mother's legs and peering out from around her skirt as she talked with this strange lady. I didn’t listen to what they were saying as I was putting all my energies into making sure this other boy couldn’t see me, certainly if he saw me I’d have to say something and I didn’t have any idea what to say. Without making voice contact I breathed a sign of relief as my mother started for home and I followed along as fast as I could. Yet, I couldn’t help but be a bit excited as I wondered what this other kid liked to do, did he like to explore like I did, were gingerbread cookies also his favorite, and did he have the Tonka Toy big dump truck too?
As it turns out our mothers were discussing something called “school”, a place I learned I was soon to go for an event called “kindergarten” where I was to be walked everyday, one day with my own mother and this other boy, and the next day with his mother and the boy. I was scared and excited at the same time and looked forward to this important day when I’d start “school” and get to know my friend better. Soon that day came and halfway to school we told each other our names. It was the start of a great friendship. We walked to school with out parents that year and the next year were allowed to walk together alone. We’d always leave early and developed routines to entertain ourselves during the long journey of six city blocks and we’d talk the entire way. After school we’d meet up and walk home. Soon we knew all about each other and our families and our routine solidified and grew into after school activities, being friends on the playground, the normal competitions young boys have.
His family owned a business and at age 11 I went to work full time because by that age my family needed money and working was the only way I’d have lunch money, clothes, and often dinner for my family. I only worked 35-45 hours a week that first year but by the next year I had more responsibilities and was putting in even more hours. It never seemed like work because “my friend” worked with and we always had fun. We also played hard when not working, sports, bike riding, and so much more. As we got older we’d go to the beach during the summer and the snow during the winter. (In SoCal you have to drive to the snow..:) It’s impossible to detail all the activities and experiences we shared, but soon it was time to drive and we were in high school. This ushered in a new era of building cars and street racing them along Van Nuys Blvd on Wednesday nights, foosball tournaments, and girls.. Man did we do girls! We ran the gamut of girlfriends, poor and rich, short and tall, thin and built, blonds and brunettes, those who put out and.. well those who put out. Danny was always the ladies man, long perfect hair and good looks the ladies loved not to mention a rich family who bought him the nicest cars and clothes, much nicer than his work could pay for, at least at the wages I was being paid. In a way I got used to being in his shadow over the years, but I never minded or even knew it was a negative because.. we were great friends.
Our high school days were during the mid-70’s, the era of left over flower children, discos, and drugs.. lots and lots of drugs. For some reason Danny and I were part of a small handful of kids who didn’t do drugs, drink or smoke, and this was at a high school that produced Heather Thomas, Sean Penn, Charlie Sheen, and Bruce Lee’s daughter and many other Hollywood types. We worked, we raced cars, we bonked ourselves silly with many loyal subjects, and we just never had time to get high or drink beer or any of the things the other kids were doing. By the last year of high school I’d bonked myself into the family way and stopped going to school and worked several other jobs. This put a cramp in our normally active lifestyle and we had less and less time to “be friends” together and soon I was forced to start thinking of the future and how I was going to support a family in other than the small apartment in the “bad part of town” I was currently living in. Through all of this we still managed to do things together every week or so, but soon we had new friends and activities that fit around the lives we were living. Then one day I did what I later found out to be the “unthinkable”, I joined the military and was soon to be shipped off to boot camp and afterwards a school where I’d learn a trade and not need to worry where the next meal for my family was coming from. Immediately I noticed a coldness from Danny but as busy as life was back then I never stopped to wonder why. I shipped out for boot camp, schools, destinations overseas, universities and much more.
Every time I was granted leave I’d return home to see my family and I’d always stop by my friends place of business to say hello and often times I’d work there while on vacation / leave to earn some extra money and spend time with my favorite people. I noticed during these times that Danny would distance himself from me almost on purpose and he was acting more strange every time I came home to visit. My own life turned some unfortunate turns as my “wife” was discovered to have multiple affairs and soon left with my son so I was distracted and didn’t notice my friend's decline. Other friends that knew us both told me of Danny’s drinking and new fascination with drugs, cocaine as I understand it. By now we were mid-20’s and he’s started wearing a baseball cap and dating women who in the looks department were way less than we were both used to. Something was going on, but with only a few weeks a year and his habit of always being “busy” when I returned home from wherever I was, we never had the opportunity to talk about it much less fix any problems.
20’s turned into 30’s and his behavior got worse to the point that he was actively avoiding me and I’d have to trick him by showing up out of nowhere unannounced. I learned that this man so popular with the girls and considered so handsome had early hair loss and a fairly empty head save for the sides by the time he was 25. The ball cap hid this pretty well, but a ball cap stands out on its own. With the hair loss and drug use his normally high confidence took a nose dive and his drinking increased and his choice of women worsened. His parents now old sold off the business and he had no place to work. To his credit he’d managed to care for a daughter full time that he’d had without the benefit of marriage and till this day has never been married. His daughter is beautiful and after attending the same high school that we once attended is now a young adult. His drug use waned but as far as I know the alcohol abuse continues but to a much smaller degree. For all I know he’s now totally clean, but I don’t know.. yet..
I’ve never missed sending a Christmas card and while he’s lived on his own, he now lives with his parents who are getting up there in years so his presence I’m sure is much appreciated. Their family business long since sold off left him with no marketable skills and no education. The last I heard he was making minimum wage at an amusement park. This is all quite a ways from the rich and fast lifestyle he lived as a teenager and young man. A few years back I moved back into town and of course looked him up and I think he was put off by my own small successes. I’ve managed to make it through the university and obtained a few degrees, drive a nice car (a very fast sports car true to our younger days), and I still have all my hair and.. it appears our life’s fortunes have reversed. I’m now the one with pretty girls, nice fast cars, and a better life, and I’d never intentionally rub it in his face anymore than he did to me, which was never. He was a true friend. During my brief stay in the town we hooked up several times and actually enjoyed ourselves on several occasions. I also had the opportunity to talk to a friend he opened up with and found out he heavily resented me for “abandoning” him and supposedly he used this as an excuse for starting his drug and alcohol abuse. The more I learned the more sad things appeared. It became apparent that he needs help in many ways, mostly with self confidence and learning how to enjoy life again. He needs motivation for working hard and becoming the winner he once was. I can tell you he was the envy of a very big and popular high school. A star in sports and with the girls and popular beyond reason.
Because I’ve seen this side of him and know him so well I’m convinced he can become his old self again, even a shadow of his old self would seem great to normal people like you and me. There is not many people I’ve truly respected in my life, but he is one of the ones who earned my respect. I think he can again. This is why every year or two, I send him a long letter asking him to come visit me, come spend time with me in Asia, in Oregon, wherever I might be. Heck, for everything he and his family did for me when I was younger I’d gladly support him while paying his way through a school of his choice, give him a car to drive, whatever it took for him to make a comeback. Did I mention he was a great friend? He still is I hope. Unfortunately he’s never answered my letters though I’m told by his mother that he reads them over and over again and saves each one. This is where Thailand and your help enters into this submission. And it’s why I’ve included my email address for a non-photography submission for the first time.
IMO Thailand is the perfect place for a mid-40’s man to get his confidence back, learn to enjoy living again, maybe learn a new trade. I didn’t tell you before, but the family business his family had was a large seafood restaurant and bar. The man knows the restaurant and entertainment business like no other, he’s got a natural flare with people and when ‘in his game” projects a sense of self confidence and spirit that motivates people to live large and have a great time. He truly becomes larger than life. If I ever owned a restaurant or bar and knew he was living right, I’d move mountains to have him work for me. He’s really that good. And of course the Thai girls would make him think he’d died and gone to heaven.
How can you help? Write a paragraph or two telling him how great Thailand can be and what a great place and great fun it is and email it to me. He doesn’t do computers or email at all so I’ll print this submission out along with all the responses, organize them into a neat packet, and Fedex him everything along with a plane ticket. With my wife still gone for a few more months or longer I have an empty apartment and more than enough time to treat him to a great vacation, if you guys can convince him to come. Perhaps during this time he’ll find purpose and direction if he hasn’t already done so. Maybe even a job, because people meeting him are instantly attracted to his intensity and power to bring people together. More, I’d just like to see him happy again and once more become the friend I always looked up to. Everyone needs a hero and a friend and he used to be mine. Anyone who really knows me knows I don’t say this lightly but I think and hope he could be again. All of this is why he’s never been far from my mind and I suspect never will be..
Until next time… and thank you…
He is very lucky to have a friend like you who is still looking out for him after such a long time.