Old Friends Are Good For The Soul

Celebrating decades of friendship at Avalon nature trail in Stony Brook, NY.

Forty years ago, in September of 1981, my friends and I hopped on the Long Island railroad and went to see Simon & Garfunkel perform in Central Park.

It was a legendary evening immortalized in a hit live album and film. For us, it was an adventure; an experience… another chapter in a deep bank of memories.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were already sort of an oldies act when they took the stage and sang their timeless classics.

“Old friends, old friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends”

The song is about childhood friends who sit together on a park bench a lifetime of memories between them.

In the song, the characters are 70 and they find that fact to be strange.

Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Where did life go, they wonder. And so do we all.

Back in ‘81, we were 16 and 17, we had just gotten our driver’s licenses and our first cars.

A green ‘67 Mustang for Ben, a ‘69 Karmann Ghia for Dewey and oddly, a 76 AMC Pacer for Scott who insisted that the car was really a squat version of a Porsche. Nice try…Scott.

Life for us, was just beginning. We were loving high school, chasing young women with mixed success, going to parties on weekends and watching something called a music video on a new station called MTV.

College, marriage, careers, children, homes, travel and all the other stuff was all ahead for us.

It was a special time. Our parents and grandparents and beloved aunts and uncles were alive and very much in our lives. The mysteries of life were still there to be experienced for the first time.

They were truly the “wonder years” and we were experiencing them together. We spent our time talking about the future into the wee hours of the morning on deserted beach roads on the east end of Long Island.

Last weekend, several of us left our lives behind to meet back home in Stony Brook for a quick mini-reunion. We visited old haunts, fell into old taunts and drank wine and bourbon way past our normal bedtimes.

We are 57 now. Still young and spry enough to kick up a little trouble but old enough to see that 70 year old man on the park bench and realize we are fast approaching that part of our lives if we are fortunate enough to get there.  We know there are no guarantees.

A few of us have had scares and were left scarred by what life throws at all of us. A serious bout of melanoma, Covid, divorce, financial crises, business ups and downs and the loss of people we knew to cancer, heart attacks, strokes and crashes both plane and car.

Nobody gets out unscathed. It seems to be the law.

But it’s the “in betweens” that matter too. The joys which are so abundant.

We have all found love, we all have kids we are proud of, we have all done well in our careers. We have also experienced the joys of friendship. The flat out miracle of enduring bonds that formed when we were 5,6 and 8 years old that have lasted a half century.

From Nixon to Biden, from rotary dial phones to smart phones and from MTV to Netflix. The one constant for me and for the others has been each other.

We have been there for one another  at every step of the journey and at this stage it’s a reasonable assumption that will always be true.

Together and collectively, we’ve travelled a million miles and gone a million places. I am so proud of these guys. They are good men in a world where that is not a given.

During the height of the pandemic, my oldest friend Dave, organized a regular Zoom call for all of us to gather and share wine, spirits and conversation. The zoom happy hours helped us all get through the isolation of lockdowns.

Those calls were a lifeline and a joy. Old stories that make us laugh, gaps in our memories filled, new stories and plenty of debates about the day’s news. I loved every call and they are ongoing.

When I got a bad case of Covid, I couldn’t participate for two months or so. But as I lay on my back too weak to sit up and too sick to walk across the room, I could count on a steady stream of texts from my brothers. Funny messages. Encouraging words. Hopeful questions. I felt the care and concern. And I thought “my goodness, I may never see these guys again.”

If Covid takes me out, I won’t be on that park bench when I’m 70 telling the story of that time in the parking lot of Mario’s… But, miraculously I made it home and back to the calls and my friends.

We resolved that when vaccines were out and it was safer to meet that we would get together.

We used to get together every few years as a group but life got in the way. We got busy. We all get busy.

But this time we met—back home where we came of age— together.

The details of the weekend are private but suffice it to say that we did a lot more worrisome things when we were teenage boy’s roaming those winding roads of the Three Villages in unsafe muscle cars with questionable brakes.

I do want to say that if you are lucky enough to have an old friend or two or 10, make sure to see them while you can. Zoom is great. So are texts. But live and in person beats Facebook, FaceTime and WhatsApp.

The park bench looms large these days. I can see it in a dozen years of so.

I hope to make it.  I trust these guys will meet me there.

Old Friends…

Old friends sit on the park bench like bookends.

What a slog we’ve been through.

What an exhausting and scary experience Covid has been for all of us.

Worldwide more than 3.2 million people have died from the virus and that number is likely an undercount. We have lost almost 600,000 Americans and despite a light at the end of the tunnel we are not out of the woods yet… but we can see the light that leads to normal.

Still, I don’t see us ever forgetting this experience. The pandemic has changed us—I’m hoping for the better.

Lately, I have been having some “Covid dreams”—it’s a phenomenon that I have read a few articles about. Some therapists call it a form of PTSD, others say it is how we humans process what we’ve been through. I don’t know what to call it, but for me the dreams are vivid and frequent.

I’m often trapped in a room, or a box with blank walls. In my dreams, I call out but no one hears me. I’m alone.

The other day, I  dreamt I was in a room filling with water chasing after a piece of paper. I’m not sure what the paper represents or what was on it but I just couldn’t get it. When I would get close, it would slosh away on a wave.

Like I mentioned before, I’m not alone in the crazy dream business.

A change in dreams due to a crisis is very common, says Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard. When we’re in a dream state, the brain is processing the same things we think about during the day. But when we’re asleep, the parts of our brain that handle logic and speech are damped down. The parts that handle visuals, however, are ramped up.


Barrett has been collecting dreams from people all over the world since the start of the pandemic. She says common dream themes range from actually getting the virus to natural disasters and bug attacks. Healthcare workers have regularly reported the highest level of stressful COVID-19 dreams, according to her data.


“The typical dream from the healthcare workers is really a full-on nightmare,” Barrett told “Science Friday” recently. “Just as bad as you’d see in war zones.”

Barrett has a new book out called “Pandemic Dreams.” I read a few excerpts online and some of the dreams she shares are jarring.

I have a feeling we will be dealing with the psychological, physical, economic and emotional side effects of this pandemic for the foreseeable future. If you are someone struggling, please know you are not alone and it’s OK to reach out for help.

If I may, here’s what has worked for me.

A dash of music, a dollop of comedy and a big heaping serving of family and friends.

For me, it’s just that simple.

Music is a tonic, comedy is medicine and friends and family are good for the soul.

Admittedly, it sounds trite and simple and in the Covid era, its been hard to see people in person.  But that’s changing.  If we’re vaccinated, it’s safe for us to get out and “see the world.” (Great song by Brett Dennen by the way).

Luckily, thanks to medical science, things are opening up quite a bit and thankfully technology has been there to fill in some gaps.

Readers of this blog know that I have a group of childhood friends who gather via Zoom every other week to reminisce about the glory days, joke around and talk about the issue du jour.

These calls have been a lifeline for all of us during this strange time.

I’ve known some of these guys for 50 years—we went through school together, knew each other’s parents and grandparents, our siblings, childhood homes, first cars, first girlfriends, favorite teachers etc.

We played ball together, went to each other’s Bar Mitzvahs and weddings and were there through the good times and the bad. And there’s been plenty of both. That’s just the way it goes.

Every one of us has had a pretty nice life—we enjoy the love of good women, have great kids and tons of life experience. But we’ve had our struggles too—career crises, financial highs and lows and health challenges too.

But through it all– through the decades, the distance and the din of life—we’ve managed to stay together or find each other again and again.

We used to see each other every single day and that is where the bonds were forged—in school, at a summer pool club, on long summer nights spent driving to nowhere special. It was enough in those days just to be together and as a result develop a shorthand that in our case has lasted a lifetime.

Over the summer, when I thought Covid would mark the end of my story, I thought about these guys and some of my newer friends that I’ve also grown very close too. I thought how friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts and how I wasn’t ready to say goodbye and how sad it was for those who tragically couldn’t beat this damn virus.

When we pass, a whole world dies with us—but some of that world lives on in the hearts and minds of those we leave behind.

Still, as  I reflect back on the year or so of Covid, I can’t help but also think about the positives.

I’ve been surrounded by love, concern and friendship. My wife and I have grown closer, I feel closer to my children, my sister, in-laws and my dad and his wonderful girlfriend. What a gift.

What an amazing gift we’ve been given—another day.

And then there’s the friendships. The new ones and the old ones.

That every other week Zoom call is a real highlight—a precious gift because it connects me to a group of guys who are my brothers. We fill the gaps in each other’s memories, support each other in our current ventures and know that we will always be there for each other. We also laugh. A lot. Its been good for the soul.

I have a great set of local friends too—and I really wish there was a way these groups could meet because I know they would hit it off instantly.

Maybe someday they will—like the old Simon & Garfunkel song “Bookends”—on some park bench somewhere.


Until then, the old friends plan to meet via Zoom and my local buddies will gather at some of our favorite watering holes. Now that we are vaccinated we are beginning to feel safer.

Meanwhile, we have been forever influenced by our pandemic experience.

The other week, after another particularly vivid dream, I woke up with a phrase on my mind: “love is the prize.” Four simple words—corny I know.

But I’ve been thinking about those words a lot.

We live in an area that has great wealth and great poverty. In Delray, where I live, we are America in 16 square miles. In Boca, where I work, I see a whole lot of bling and pristine beauty. We live in paradise—we truly do.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the craziness. I do all the time—until I’m grounded by a friend, a circumstance, my lovely wife or a situation at work and then I realize that love is the prize. I never had the words until that dream. Now I do.

Love is the prize.

I’ve found it.

I hope you do too.

Old Friends

Scott, Ben and yours truly.

My old friend, I apologize

For the years that have passed

Since the last time you and I

Dusted off those memories

The running and the races

The people and the places

There was always somewhere else I had to be

And time gets thin, my old friend

Don’t know why…Tim McGraw, My Old Friend


There’s something comforting about old friends.

Something so easy that within moments of seeing them you pick up where you left off regardless of the time and the miles, the running and the races, the people and the places.

My childhood friend Ben was in town last week, passing through on his way to see his father in Port St. Lucie. So I rang up Scott–another old friend—and we found a cozy bar in Boca to reconnect. It took about 30 seconds and we were lost in laughs and good conversation.

We will all be 55 this year.

Ben and Scott go back to the third grade. I met Ben in junior high and I’ve known Scott since I was 8 or 9.

That’s a long, long time.

We’ve covered a lot of miles in life—a lot together (school, first loves, neighborhoods, first cars, road trips, youthful adventures) and a whole lot apart.

Frankly, the last thirty years were a blur for all of us.

Marriage, kids, careers, businesses, travel—deadlines and commitments as Bob Seger sings —what to leave in, what to leave out.

And then one day you’re 54 and you walk into a bar to meet two of the best friends you’ve ever had or ever will have and time melts away instantly.

Ben still has his boyish face and Scott still has the sense of a humor of a 12 year-old so the years seem to dissolve as if by magic.

We didn’t talk about the glory days (oh, maybe a little) but we do talk easily about our lives today and our hopes for the future. There’s always a lot to catch up on because we don’t see each other like we used to. We used to spend every single day together, but those days are long past.

Still,  there may be even more to talk about now because when we ran together as kids I knew everything about these guys—where they had travelled, what they were thinking (girls, cars, sports, music that was pretty much it) and what was happening in school.

But these days, they are full of mystery to me. They’ve been lots of places, seen lots of things and when we talk I hang on every word because it’s fresh, it’s interesting and I really, really care for these guys.

I didn’t have brothers growing up —so they are it. Something beyond friends.

I know that regardless of where life takes us—Park City, Utah, Red Bank, N.J. Raleigh, Asheville, Coral Springs or to Mr. W’s house in Port St. Lucie—there will always be a reunion. If life were a cruise with various ports of call, these guys and a few others would be my muster station. We will find a way to stay in touch and if emergencies strike we will surely be there for each other.

We can talk in a comfortable shorthand of sorts, because when these guys talk about their parents and siblings or I talk about mine, I have a picture in my mind. I know all of these people.

Same with our other friends.

We are well aware that we have been given a gift—each other’s friendship. We appreciate it, we enjoy it and we are grateful for the laughs, the talks and the experiences that we did share.

I’ve made a lot of friends over the years. Lost a few too and that can rattle a guy because I certainly wasn’t used to that.

But these guys…well let’s just say I know that they will always be there.

And for that I am eternally grateful.