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Thursday, August 27, 2009

GMVW # 86: "Hello, Old Friend"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 86:  Hello, Old Friend
Song:  A Friend is a Friend by Pete Townshend
(Songwriter: Pete Townshend)
August 27, 2009

 I’ve heard it stated often and also experienced it: You make connections with an old friend who you have not seen in a while, and it’s like no time has passed.  Whatever bond you had way back when kicks in again, almost immediately.  Old memories are brought back from the dead and new ones take form.  This rekindling has never failed me, but if there was ever a time it would be put to the test it was two weeks ago.  Because two weeks ago, I reconnected with a friend I had not seen in twenty eight years.

Jeff Dangelo was a neighborhood friend all through grade school. He moved to Alaska with his family after high school and later ended up in Miami, Florida after joining the Air Force.  I made a few comments about him for Gem # 67 while lamenting the fact that we had lost touch.  Before two weeks ago, most of the old gang would have likely admitted that the chances of seeing Jeff again were slim at best, and I was beginning to believe it myself.  Too many opportunities to reconnect had fallen by the wayside: There was a last minute cancellation to attend my wedding, and a few other aborted reunions.  Also, for whatever reason, I’ve never been to Florida, never mind Miami. Ten years had gone by since Jeff had touched base with any of us.  Fate seemed to weigh heavily against us ever seeing him again and it appeared we had all moved on.

Twenty Eight years is a long time and a lot of water can pass under the bridge in that span, particularly if it’s that period of your life that covers your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.  For me, there was college and road trips, double dates, bachelor parties, weddings, home purchases and children, along with concerts, sporting events, weekend gatherings, parties, new friends, and, unfortunately/inevitably, funerals.  Even if there was a reunion, the idea of reconnecting at any meaningful level seemed far fetched.  We are all after all very different people in our middle age than when we graduate from high school…. aren’t we?

Two weeks ago today, I was about to find out.  A series of events over the previous month or so had led up to that point.  There was the initial suggestion by Amy that I get on Facebook (something I was very reluctant to do) and the virtual guarantee by Cousin Jack that it would one day pay off (Jack also made a noble but futile attempt to track down Jeff after reading the email for Gem # 67).  There was the surprise Facebook ‘visit’ from Jeff’s wife, Ivonne, asking if I was indeed who I appeared to be.  There was a follow up two hour phone conversation with Jeff, during which I half-jokingly suggested he join the old gang in Humarock at Mac’s cottage that very weekend.  Finally, there was the email from Jeff, stating he had a ticket and was ready to board a plane the very next day.  I spread the word to a shocked gang and we began to piece together what was to turn out to be a classic weekend itinerary. 

That Friday afternoon heading into Logan Airport, it all felt a bit bizarre. I was reassured, however, thinking back on the prior 24 hours and the reaction I was getting from everyone about seeing our old friend again. And so, after Jeff and I spotted one another in the baggage area, and sized each other up for a moment, that old truism kicked in yet again.  And though this time it was a twenty eight year challenge, it mattered not.  We were back on a track we left behind many years earlier.  There was no shortage of laughter and conversation on the drive back to Franklin.  On the contrary, we did a LOT of catching up on that ride, tumbling over one memory after another as well as catching up with each others lives to the present.  This carried through for the remainder of Jeff’s visit, not just between him and me, but everyone else as well. In some ways, Jeff’s visit even bridged a few gaps between the seven of us he left behind:  A much needed missing puzzle piece, I suppose.

Friendship can be a funny thing, playing out in all sorts of ways.  Two weeks ago, I saw it as a whole of eight; in a one on one moment; and all permutations in between of 3 or 4 of us, and so on.  I’ve seen it on entirely different planes with other friends from college, work and extended family, and certainly have seen it play out with Nancy’s long-time and extremely loyal friends (including Madeline, who is on the receiving end of these emails) and the friends of Fred, Jen, Joe, Amy, Pat, and their spouses, as well as Mom and Dad. 

This weeks Gem ‘A Friend is a Friend’ is live concert footage of Pete Townshend performing this song and it touches on much of what friendship is all about.  Sorry for the back-to-back Townshend-centric videos, but this I realized would happen sooner or later during the compilation of these Gems: There’s too much in Pete Townshend’s catalog (with and without the Who) that passes for Gem material to continue to avoid this inevitability.  As for this particular Gem, after what transpired two weeks ago, I’m more believing of Townshend’s lyrics now than ever before.  Below the Gem link is a second url link of the same song from the animation movie ‘The Iron Giant’.  Below that are the lyrics to ‘A Friend is a Friend’.

I searched a bit for other definitions of friendship on the Web.  Here’s one from a 19th century writer that stuck: “Friendship is the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring all right out just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful friendly hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth and, with a breath of comfort, blow the rest away.” 

Ok, perhaps a line is needed in this definition regarding tossing some friendly abuse out on occasion, but not bad.  Not bad at all.

- Pete

A Friend is a Friend, Pete Townshend live

From the animation movie ‘The Iron Giant’


Lyrics to ‘A Friend is a Friend’

When eyes meet in silence
A pact can be made
A lifelong alliance
That won't be betrayed
Won't be betrayed

Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly

A friend is a friend
Nothing can change that
Arguments, squabbles
Can't break the contract
That each of you makes
To the death, to the end
Deliver your future,
Into the hands of your friend

Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly yeah

A promise is a promise
A handshake will seal it
No amount of discussion
Can ever repeal it
Commitment forever
To borrow or lend
Deliver your future
Into the hands of your friend

Be friendly
Befriend me now
Come on
Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly

When eyes meet in silence
A pact can be made
(You need a pact)
A lifelong alliance
That won't be betrayed
(Won't be betrayed)
You need a mate
(You need a mate)
When facing the end
But what is the fate
(What is the fate)
Now facing my friend
Facing my friend, yeah
What faces my friend?

Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly

A friend is a friend
Nothing can change that
Arguments, squabbles
Can't break the contract
That each of you makes
To the death, to the end
Deliver your future,
Into the hands of your friend, yeah

Be friendly
Be friendly
Befriend me now
Be friendly
Befriend me now

About the Video: The Who on their 1989 “Farewell Tour”.  Townshend is on the stage without Daltrey or Entwistle for this number

Video Rating: 1

Best Feedback: Jeff Dangelo

Pete, old friend/new friend. As if my reunion with you guys couldn't have been any better, you top it off with your Gem e-mail. It brought tears to my eyes, as well as Ivonne's. You truly may not know how healing it was for me to see you all, and to know that I'm still, after all this time, thought of as a friend. I know now more than ever I won't waste this re-connection, and will consider going "home" every year a new tradition. Sorry I don't check my e-mail as much as I should, I really don't spend time on the computer that much, but I'll try harder. Keep those Gems coming, that's pretty cool that you write stuff like that all the time.


And Joe:
Pete - great write up below...it must have been nice to catch up with Jeff....does he look the same? 


And Fred:

And Happy Birthday week to you, Pete!

And Jeff’s wife, Ivonne:
Jeff was very emotional over your e-mail. I still can't believe how much it meant to Jeff to have you back in his life."

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