Friendships are a true gift, but they aren’t always easy and they should never be taken for granted. As with all relationships, you have to nurture them. I have three male friends I have known for a combined total of close to 100 years. These men are different in many ways; they do not know one another; I love all three for different reasons. When I spend time with each of them, I have a totally different experience.
I spoke with them separately about spending some bro time together; in two cases without their female spouses. They all three agreed to see me for quality time we may not have shared otherwise. All three have agreed to my public blog. My goal is to illustrate in words and pictures, how each person in our lives provides us with something unique and necessary — as necessary as the air we breathe.
No Two Friendships are Alike
I learned early in life, that friendship cannot be easily explained. A person may appear one day as if placed down by a divine hand and the next thing you know, you are the best of friends. What makes this connection different? Everything. Trust, security, loyalty, companionship, confidant, active listener, great dining partner, a shoulder to cry on, understanding, a history, strength, support, and so on. My friendships with these three men consist of all of the above and more. I thank them for sticking with me and by me; I congratulate myself for doing the work necessary to cultivate good friendships. I have other men and women in my life that I love and adore, but I limited this piece to Adam, David, and Don because they are the three I planned various parts of this trip with.
All three are exceptional men. I have never had more than a friendship with any of them. They have seen me through the best of times and the worst of times; I hope they feel the same way about me, I’m fairly certain they do. What I think makes this situation somewhat unique is several things: first, only one of them is gay, but our sexual orientation is not what binds us; second, the three only know of one another through me, and lastly, they each provide support and love in very different ways. I know how fortunate I am; however, laying it out helps me to understand why the work we put into relationships is worth the effort. I’m a firm believer that most of us take way too much for granted (including me).
I believe that most people would agree that men are vastly different from women in many ways. I’m being cautious here as to not offend either sex. For the purpose of this piece, I’d like to note my observations (not absolutes):
- Men leave a great deal unsaid.
- Men are a bit uneasy when discussing how they feel.
- Men are fairly competitive with one another.
- Men believe they are physically stronger than women, but there are times I would have to disagree.
- When men are into a sports event, very few things can/do distract them.
- Straight men are stubborn about asking for directions when lost.
- Gay men are particularly nostalgic.
- Gay men and straight men usually enjoy very different types of music.
- When a straight man is forced to be with someone or do something they’d rather not do, you will live to regret it in one way or another.
- Gay men talk about being gay, straight men do not talk about being straight.
- Men, gay or straight, prefer to be behind the wheel, as opposed to sitting in the passenger seat.
- I have never heard a straight man utter the words, “thread count.”
- Gay men tend to care more about fabric, wall color, and furniture.
- Straight men do not moisturize.
Don’t beat me up over my impressions and experiences.
Any fool knows men and women think differently at times, but the biggest difference is this: men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget.
All over the world when you test men and women for facial cue recognition, women test…better. It’s a negotiation tool.
Adam and Toronto were my first stop. I didn’t really give Adam a city choice; I was trying out a new direct flight from Faro to Toronto. I had only been to Toronto once and I have always wanted to return. I proposed a few days with me in Toronto and Adam said yes. I wasn’t surprised, we’ve been close friends for a long time.
I met Adam at the James Beard House in New York City in the 90s. We sat next to one another at a table of foodies; Adam was by far the foodiest. When he talks about food and wine his eyes sparkle and he becomes charmingly animated. I knew I could learn a lot from him. I invited him to L’Ecole at the French Culinary Institute and we became fast friends. He eventually asked me to be his Best Man. His wife is one of my favorite people and his children are two of the finest humans I know. Adam considers me part of his family and I am thrilled to have that distinguished place in his life. He is smart, worldly, empathetic, and he accepts me for who I am.
Adam is a planner. Being like minded about researching a place before you travel there is something we delight in. He sent me a long list of possible eateries and told me that each of them was negotiable save one. There was a restaurant he decided was a must and getting in during our time in Toronto was going to be challenging. I must confess that I never doubted his abilities for even a nano of a second. He got us in. Knowing it was a bit more than I would usually spend on a meal, he offered to treat. Adam is one of my most generous friends.
Rather than name specific places we visited or talk about dishes we ate, I’d rather share the dynamics of my relationship with this very special man.
I feel fortunate because not all straight men can get close to gay men. We all know why these limitations and challenges exist; therefore, I will spare you the psychology of all that. I will also point out that I am not easy to be friends with. I am demanding; I can be selfish; I often run my mouth endlessly and expect you to listen to every word I say; I can be controlling, fussy, and I sometimes lack empathy. So when someone (Adam) decides despite all of those obstacles and challenges, they still desire my company, I’m game.
Adam is a practicing Jew. I have had the pleasure of Passover meals with him and his family. I also attended his daughters Bar mitzvah (Bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah refer to the Jewish coming of age ritual. The plural is b’nei mitzvah for both boys and mixed gender groups, or b’not mitzvah for girls. Wikipedia). Sharing Adams faith with him is something he may not know is very special for me. Although, I am not Jewish, I love how strong his faith is and how happy it makes him. In some way it probably shapes my trust in him as a human.
We share a love of food, art, theatre, travel, making memories, and life itself. If I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t sure about my friendship with Adam at first. God knows he was persistent and laser focused on forming a friendship. I’m pleased that neither of us gave up. Adam is a mensch.
Adam’s advice is always thoughtful and sound. I picked his brain a lot this trip. Someone I have known and loved for many years passed while I was in Toronto with Adam. The support and love he showed me as I grieved was much appreciated and a tribute to the friend and man he is.
I might also add that his wife is very special to me. It is not always the case that you love a friend’s partner; both Adam’s wife and Don’s wife give their husbands the space to be with me.
David and I met while sharing a house in The Pines on Fire Island. We ended up with bedrooms on the same floor with a shared bedroom inbetween. There were something like 11 other men involved in the share. David wasn’t anything like any of them. David was easy to talk with and real. Early on in our friendship we went for long walks on Fire Island and shared some of what frustrated us about our boyfriends at the time.
We participated in the share for several summers and spend time together during the other three seasons. We shared a very close friendship with a third man from the house who eventually died of complications from AIDS. David helped take care of Roger at the end of his life (he’s a saint) and always kept me in the loop. He called me shortly before Roger died to let me know it was time to say goodbye to him.
In many ways, David has taught me how to a gay man. It was David who instructed me on how to party safely. He accompanied me to many club events; he always made sure I was enjoying myself and made it home safely.
In addition to the many things we love doing together, we have one thing that we are polar opposites about; David loves opera and I hate it. He always had very expensive seats to the Met and once, I’m still not sure why, I accompanied him to see an opera. Once was more than enough. I love how passionate he is about opera, music, theatre and art. I asked in if he ever dreamed about being someone else or doing something else and he told me that he would have loved to have been a famous opera singer. You think you know someone.
David is a magnificent and talented artist. Several of his pieces have been shown in prestigious galleries and institutes. He is humble and creates in order to move people in some way — not in order to get rich from the sale of his work. He is a weaver; not shocking that the loom in his studio was larger than the bed I slept in. He is also painting these days. He’s his worst critic, but no doubt, he is good at everything he does.
Everything David owns in his beautiful apartment has been carefully curated. His taste is impeccable. I cannot say this about everyone I love, but David is someone whose home I could live in comfortably. It is surrounded by beautiful things; however, it remains cozy and comfortable. Oh and he is a wonderful cook; especially his Swedish dishes which come from several years of living and studying weaving there. He speaks Swedish too. I’m so pleased to have stayed with him. Now I can picture him in his studio. Now I can say that I have been to the homes of all three of these friends; they are all magnificent in different ways.
My conversations with David are usually very intense. We share just about everything and we share without judgment. As with most friendships, being friends doesn’t mean we are the same people. We are passionate about different things. What I think is unique about us, compared to Adam and Don, is our own stories of fighting to be ourselves as gay men. Our stories are different and similar, but they are ours to share with one another. Our conversations on these trip were no different. However, this time we talked more about quality of life, future plans, and end of life.
David visited me in Portugal and trusted me to plan his time with me. Except for insisting we spend no more than three hours in a car at a time, I did the same with him. He took me to Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs, Maroon Bells, Aspen, and several excellent restaurants. I won’t lie, one of the hikes was quick challenging, but I have no regrets and I will remember the experience forever. He also threw a party for me and allowed me to invites other friends who live in Denver. I was also able to meet people in his life I have not met in the past.
I’ve known Don longer than my other two friends; we were roommates at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (44 years ago). Don is a very successful architect. When we were roommates he promised to design an underground house for me. While in Detroit, I asked him if he is still committed to design that house for me and he said he is. That’s all I needed to hear.
We chose Detroit because of its rich architecture and outstanding restaurants. Neither Don nor the reason for meeting there were disappointments. The city has rebounded from despair to beauty and culture at every turn — we were impressed. Cranbrook House & Gardens were a real trip. We took a side trip to Ann Arbor which was also fruitful.
Don was my best man when I married 40 years ago. He arrived at the church missing a sock and someone else from my wedding party had to run to a store to buy him socks. This is probably one of the things I love about Don. He is about as easy going as a human can be. I checked this fact with him on this trip:
Don, have we ever had words?
No, I’m pretty sure we haven’t.
That’s pretty crazy considering how difficult I can be.
No Chris, you’re easy.
Me easy? Perhaps Don makes it easy?
Don and I have long periods of silence when we are together, no matter where we might be. The silence is about respect and comfort. There is no concern about what might be unsaid. When Don says he wants to see a building, I want to see that building. When I say I want to eat Italian, Don is fine with Italian. The ease of our choices is delightful.
I learned something shocking about Don on this trip: he has never been to a nightclub. This blows me away on so many levels. He believes in God and doesn’t shove religion down my throat. He speaks fondly and respectfully of his incredible wife and two amazing daughters. I listen with awe and delight, having been in his life for all of the milestones and disappointments.
I cannot say that I got closer to these three men on this trip, because I’m not sure we can be any closer. I feel privileged and blessed to have had the time to be with them and I’m pleased that they made the time to be with me. True friendship is a gift that keeps on giving and these three friendships are more than I could ever hope for.
The three cities we spent time in matched our personalities in a way. Toronto is intelligent as is Adam. Denver is filled with natural beauty and light, not unlike David. Detroit offered a rich history; Don as my oldest friend knows a whole lot about that.
I realized on this trip that all three men love to walk, love to eat, love film, love to talk, love their friends and family, love to read, and truly love life. These are the things that bind us together.
An Old Friend I Haven’t Seen
I met Gina over 15 years ago at an accreditation conference. We hit it off instantly and we’ve never lost touch. I had breakfast with her and in Denver. It was as if no time at all had gone by.
My three times cancelled cruise (COVID) to northern Europe is coming up in just a week. I’m sad about just getting home to see and spend time with Paco and then having to leave him again. I know he loves his sitter, but I like to think he’d prefer to have me at home. When I return from the cruise I intend to stay put for a few weeks. The timing of the cruise is not ideal, however, there is nothing I can do to change NCL dates.
Lyon, France with friends in November and a few trips planned for 2023.
My Paco (right) and his best friend Petucha, while I was away
I apologize for spelling or grammar mistakes. I’m not in the mood to reread this blog.