This morning, I was thinking about the concept of “best friend.”
I was thinking of it because Keanu Reeves has a “best friend” — the coolest woman, ever. She’s an artist. I can’t remember her name now, but she’s absolutely totally interesting. There is an amazingly powerful PR campaign out there in the world, strongly discouraging us from thinking that the two are dating. Instead, they are “best friends, collaborators, and business partners.” (They were all over Instagram yesterday, too, because of that art museum gala fashion fundraiser thing in Los Angeles on Saturday.)
And they always look indescribably happy when they are out & about together, which seems to be all the time. And they are always holding hands and stuff.
They do look extremely happy and they are just intensely interesting looking people. And I was thinking this morning how it is infinitely more appealing to be best friends, collaborators and business partners with someone, than to be “dating.”
(I hate dating. I am not a “dater.” I am not someone who has ever gone out on “dates.” If I’m out to dinner with you, you’re either my best friend, collaborator and/or business partner, or we’re planning on having sex after we eat, or you’ve called me on the phone and I got the distinct impression we were going to move in together and get married, so I agreed to meet you for dinner first.) (That is my way of explaining that when Wayne and I were introduced by mutual friends at a Christmas party in Brooklyn Heights in 1991, I had the distinct impression he and I were going to get married. I came to this impression not because I felt like he and I would fall in love, but because of the fact that, in those first few moments that we were speaking to each other, he mentioned Emmylou Harris and Patti Smith in the same sentence — two of the most profound female influences on my life as a songwriter to that point (and he didn’t know that yet). So when he took down my phone number, and then called me extremely late one night and asked me out on a date, non-dater that I was, I still said okay. By summer, we were living together; by the following spring, we were married.) (Perhaps you can see why I avoid dating; the commitment is just huge.)
Anyway, I digress!! I was lying in bed in the dark this morning, thinking about the concept of “best friend,” and then it occurred to me that I had missed the 20th anniversary of the death of my best friend in the world, Paul — back on October 22nd.
I don’t think this is a bad thing. I never, ever forget his birthday, which means more to me than the day he died. But back on October 22nd, a couple of weeks ago, I kept wondering why the date meant something to me; why was it sticking out in my mind all day? October 20th was Tom Petty’s birthday. October 23rd was the anniversary of Bunny’s death (one of my sweet cats). But why would October 22nd mean anything?
But this morning in the dark, I finally remembered. And it was hard to believe that it had really been 20 years. The day he died was a gorgeous fall day in Manhattan. I had been working all day in my business partner’s apartment — she lived 20 blocks from me, a straight shot down Riverside Drive, so I always walked to her apartment and back. And that day was so beautiful that, after work, I decided to walk home through Riverside Park, along the Hudson River.
At one point, I stopped and just looked out at the river and I couldn’t believe how much profound joy I felt, a sense of peace I had never felt before. Life seemed unspeakably beautiful; New York City itself filled me with so much joy, especially on that gorgeous October day.
And then, a couple of hours later, Paul’s mom called me from the nursing home and told me that Paul had died.
I know the news pierced me and I cried, but mostly I recalled the feeling I’d had walking along the river in Riverside Park, and I knew then that had been Paul saying goodbye to me. He always loved visiting me in NYC; equally in my days of poverty and in my days of success.
So when I think of Paul’s actual death, I think of that gorgeous day and that profound sense of peace and joy. However, the 7 years it took him to die (from AIDS), were a whole other story. I nearly lost my mind with grief over what he was going through and what was going to lie ahead for me — the rest of my life without a best friend. I drank and smoked really heavily that whole time, hardly ate, lost a ton of weight. Stopped the songwriting totally, abruptly broke up the band. Went into my room and started writing intense erotic fiction.
By the time he died, he and I had already worked it through as best we could: he was leaving and I was going to be left behind and I was going to survive somehow.
I did, of course. And even though Peitor comes close to being that type of best friend for me over the course of all these years, it is not the same. Peitor and I met as adults in NYC; we were both already in the music business, dealing with the stress of daily “life in NYC” in a huge way. Whereas Paul and I had met at 17, in high school in Ohio — doing high school plays (he designed and built all the sets and then went on to do that as a career in professional theater and in the movies); all of our dreams were still ahead of us. Everything was brand new. That part of life doesn’t come again. (Not that it should — a lot of what was brand new at age 17 truly sucked.)
This morning, while it struck me as sort of profound that I had missed the 20th anniversary of my best friend’s death, it nevertheless seemed extremely cool to me that Keanu has such an interesting “best friend, collaborator and business partner.” If you have to be famous and wear labels, those labels are so much more life-affirming than the label of “dating.” True best friends are more valuable than anything else in the whole world.
Okay. So here we are. Monday. I seriously need to tackle this ending of Tell My Bones. A lot of intense plot points have to entwine, explode and yet, ultimately, be joyful. So I’m gonna get back at it. (And likely eat a lot of dark chocolate — I do that when the mind gets too intense even for coffee!)
I hope you have a really wonderful day out there, wherever you are in the world. And if your best friend is still here with you in the physical, well, I don’t know — just enjoy the heck out of yourselves!
I’m still in Art Garfunkel’s Angel Clare mode around here. I leave you with another truly lovely song, but it’s one that used to just break my heart when I was a young girl. I identified with it way too much. But it is still beautiful. Thanks for visiting, gang. I love you guys! See ya!
“Mary Was An Only Child”
Mary was an only child,
Nobody held her, nobody smiled.
She was born in a trailer, wretched and poor,
And she shone like a gem in a five and dime store.
Mary had no friends at all,
Just famous faces pinned to the wall.
All of them watched her, none of them saw
That she shone like a gem in a five and dime store.
And if you watch the stars at night,
And find them shining equally bright,
You might have seen Jesus and not have known what you saw.
Who would notice a gem in a five and dime store?
c – 1973 Albert Hammond, Mike Hazlewood