At Greens, my go-to lunch counter after exercise, I overheard the guy at the next counter seat ordering for himself and his “best friend.” Green’s is a homey, old-fashioned pharmacy that has been serving the north end of Palm Beach since 1942. The waitresses at the breakfast-lunch counter know many of the patrons by name, most of whom are year-round locals. The fire rescue gang are always there – a good place to be if you need emergency help. The local Palm Beach police are also regulars– not an ideal place to be disruptive, or a criminal. All in all, it is a warm, nostalgic environment, just down the road from the famous Mar-a-Lago. Back to my neighbor at the counter.
“Grilled cheese and tomato,” he said to the waitress.
“And for your best friend?” she responded.
“Oh a hamburger will do,” he said.
“Lettuce and tomato with french fries?” she asked.
“No I can’t give my buddy that stuff,” he said.
“Your friend ill?’ she asked.
“Nope, he isn’t a person, he’s a dog,” he answered. “He is my only friend,” he said laughing.
Well, why not. Friends come in all shapes and sizes – humans and pets. I have best friends going back to my grammar and high school years as well as college and beyond –not to mention several four-legged “best” friends throughout my life. My friends from Rochester, probably my oldest friendships from childhood, have a connection through our shared history together, of our families, early education, careers, heartbreaks and love lives. My good friend Bobby recently told me: “Lenny, I like you more as an adult than I did as a little guy!” Now that’s love if I didn’t know better.
I find there are always opportunities to meet new people who eventually become regular acquaintances, friends, maybe best friends. I make an effort because I believe those connections are tantamount to a happy life, and science is showing that they can even lead to a longer life.
Friendship means opening up, to admit someone new into one’s world. In the long run it is always worth the risk. I cherish the shared experiences with friends – outdoors, fishing and camping, dining, traveling, talking about books and business and the state of the world. Friendship also requires forgiveness–overlooking the immature remark or even the breach of trust.
I consider this column an important part of maintaining my friendships because it is a way of staying in touch. Friends who read it often respond with some kind of feedback and depending on what I’ve written about, share similar experiences of their own. I am often delighted to learn new things about old friends through this column.
I feel fortunate to have as many friends as I do. On Thanksgiving, I received notes and emails from all over —Tennessee, Colorado, California, Wales and Iceland. I embrace my friends, literally and figuratively – I am one of those huggers. I am grateful for all those who I call and who would call me friend—including the latest four-legged one, Patti’s dog Wally.