Focusing on Friends!

Next to spending time with family, spending time with friends ranks right up there—and I don’t mean Facebook time.

I recently got back from a week’s vacation with my best friends, and the importance of maintaining those relationships and going out of our way to get together cannot be overestimated.

For 30+ years, our gang from high school has been getting together for an annual “Boy’s Weekend.” We haven’t missed a single year. We are all from Pittsburgh, and at first, the guys who were coming in from around the country would combine the trip with a visit to see their parents. As we aged and most of our parents passed, we continued the “Boy’s Weekend” but everyone stayed at my house on Inverness Avenue. All but one of us graduated from Allderdice in 1974.

In order of self-recognized importance, Bill Sikov, Joe Weiss, Arnold Friedman, Bruce Stephen, Marc Fargotstein, and I all attended this year. Jay Pearlstein and Dave Weisberg and Jeff Westerman, also part of our gang, couldn’t make it. Interestingly, there is a “sister gang” of women who graduated from Allderdice in 1974 who also get together on a regular basis.

Last year, Joe was sick during “Boy’s Weekend” so to make up for it, I suggested we have an extra one this year. I suggested we do it out west since Joe lives in Houston. The problem was picking a date. A major scheduling consideration was making the meet-up convenient for Bill. After all, we all know how important it is to arrange our lives to accommodate a doctor’s schedule.

Bill and I organized our week in Las Vegas. It was a bit like herding cats to get the six of us on the same page, but we rented a six-bedroom house, and it worked out fine.We played golf, went on hikes, played Frisbee golf, table tennis, and grilled steaks. We are a bunch of wild and crazy guys.We stayed up until midnight playing bridge and drinking diet coke practically every night.

We even ate 6 pizzas from Mineos! Did you know that you can buy half-baked pizzas from Mineos and have them shipped anywhere? I’m pretty thoughtful about what I eat, so I may have said something like, “Sugar, gluten, and dairy all in one bite…” But they enjoyed the taste of home despite my warning. Of course I didn’t have any, so that means the 5 of them averaged 1.2 pizzas each during the trip (three lunches and snacks)!

We also went to the Pinball Museum and played pinball (just twice). We visited the strip to see a show. (Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque de Soleil which I would not recommend, even though it had its moments).

In other words, we spent time together much like we did when we were 15. And that is what keeps our bonds so strong. Friendships have to be cultivated and nurtured.

Did we get along perfectly? Absolutely. Unless you count the time when one of us, who will remain nameless, didn’t get up until noon on the day we planned a desert hike. Mornings are the preferred time for hiking in the desert as it gets very hot in the afternoon. That same person took so much time for each golf shot you would have thought he was a chess grandmaster contemplating a tough position. I was constantly razzed for my “no sugar, no gluten, no dairy” diet every time we went out to eat, and for my clear preference for a restaurant that was quiet enough that we could hear each other talk.

But we overlooked those issues. Good friends turn a blind eye to each other’s foibles (mostly) because the camaraderie outweighs the irritations. Friendships are important—I can’t stress that enough, and forgiving each other for small transgressions is essential.

My mother inadvertently taught me that lesson. Whether intentionally or by accident, she did not include one of her oldest friends on the guest list to my wedding. The offense was never forgiven. My mom and this ex-friend were both widows and both bridge players who could have enjoyed an extra 25 years of each other’s company. But neither picked up the phone to call a truce. What a loss. Now, when I see similar grudges between family members and friends, I recognize the potential tragedy and encourage them to find a remedy.

I hope this article motivates you to pick up the phone and get together with some of your friends and maybe even plan a trip with them—herding cats is worth the effort.

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