Old Friends – Simon and Garfunkel
Old friends, old friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
Of the high shoes of the old friends
Ginny is the glue. The rest of us would not try too hard to keep in touch. Bless her, it was surprisingly nostalgic. We spoke of everything: old friends and enemies, wars we fought in the operating room, and all manner of stuff that would either curl your hair or turn it grey. I have accumulated plenty of enemies in my career. It was nice to meet up with some old friends. Thank you, Ginny. We all changed. Yup, a few pounds and a few gray hairs. And most of you don’t remember Simon and Garfunkel. This is not fine photography. Its meaning lies with the people in the shots and what history it conjures. Sometimes a picture is more to anchor a memory of what once was.
I could use an alternate brain. It’s simply amazing the number of things I have forgotten. I don’t throw things away. I simply put them away… in places… and then promptly forget until… here’s an example. Back in 2007 Carol gave me a gift that I kept safe and never used. I found the card, box, and all, the other day. We are still in touch, so I thanked her again. … yup! It’s back in the box. I’ll find it in another ten years… and thank her once again.
Throwback. Here’s an interesting piece of history. Historical? It dates back a few decades. Lisa was drunk. Rare to say, but, she’s not driving either. MA – Maryanne – no longer speaks to me. She chose Lisa in the divorce. Bob, stopped talking with me. He perceived some insult when he got divorced (to Kathy, not me). Susan, I apologize. Last time we emailed, I insulted her Republican values and support for T(rump) – would that be asshole? – in this time of corona. I never remember the date of her birthday. Sorry. Both. I never remember your birthday and I never should question your beliefs. My bad. It’s been on my mind lately. And, when I did a search on my hard drive, this photo popped at the top of my search.
Shutterfly sends me periodic messages with memories (pics) from the past. The last time I contacted Maryanne was around 2015. She declined a get together, telling me her best friend was my former wife and that she chose her over me. No hard feelings. It’s just life. People get divorced. Who gets the friends? Who gets the favorite restaurant? Too bad. Maryanne you did yourself stupid. I am in touch with Lisa. Though I have not spoken with you, your life is the less because of your choice. It matters not to me.
This one is for Ginny. She is a friend who inserted herself into my life. I was reluctant. Maybe I still am. I count her among the only conservative Republicans I speak with. Ha ha. This is a shot of my OR nurses at the time. (a long time ago, so long that we won’t count the decades) This was a one of, a singular pool party that did not occur again for me. I am not used to things out of context. I’m used to seeing this group in scrubs. It’s like my elementary teachers. I go home and they are there the next day: kind of like the refrigerator light. Don’t laugh. It’s just my juvenile mind not seeing past my nose.
noun: friend; plural noun: friends; noun: Friend; plural noun: Friends
- 1. a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations
Not. Kristina entertained me at Harald’s party. She’s Swedish. What fascinated me was she’s actually related to a famous Swedish neurosurgeon. Don’t ask. Hey! It was a party where the birthday boy was a neurosurgeon. I sat with her and she tested me on identifying Swedish, Finnish, or Norse women from their looks. I was a miserable failure. You can’t judge a book by its cover. We traveled from Unset back to Oslo and then I never saw her again. Like me, she lived in NY. She remembered me to some folks at Harald’s house some years later. I remember her too. Harald’s Norse. She’s Swedish. Can you tell? I will admit… nah… it would only give me grief.
(not… in a galaxy far away) …for me. I was friends with this group for a long long time – more than 25 years. Things change. We are not much in contact. Two of the four couples are divorced. Guys are good. We don’t stay in touch. The wives do all of the work. So I am not in touch. I’m lazy? Don’t care? No, just passive. Friends who remain friends work at it to stay in touch with me. Sorry. I’m just ok with whatever. I’m gregarious and like a good laugh. But, I don’t chase. I don’t cling. I’m passive. If you go, it’s ok. If you are there, it’s all good. So, it is with some interest that I ran across this old picture of when they all spontaneously posed for me. It’s a nice memory. Time has moved us on. It was a bright sunny day and a bright memory too. Regret?
The “ladies?” They stay in touch and remain the best of friends. The guys? Silence. We can’t be couples. So, everyman for himself. It’s a guy thing. Regret?
There is the story of the fisherman and the biggest fish you ever saw…. In one day recently, I saw a vulture – 3 foot wing spread – sunning and drying its wings in a field – and a pair of cute kids walking in the mist under an umbrella. You won’t get to see those shots. I missed them. Sorry, I see things but don’t always get a shot. Darn!
Here’s another from the archives of way back. We (four couples and my kids) used to rent a ski house. This one time we unexpectedly had a hot tub for which no one was prepared to play in. Undaunted and armed for any (wardrobe) possibility two ladies went in anyway. They were surprised by the guys. It was a big laugh, except one of them was only partially robed. I got there too late with the camera. It was already G-rated and tame by the time Jules summoned me.
I get melancholy looking at this image. I’m thinking about what lasts in life. Fran was a “good person.” There are few who qualify for this designation in my world. I know a few and am blessed. She was a quiet dependable friend. What can you say? She was just there for me on so many occasions. I never ask/asked for help. It’s just me, how I operate (pun). I miss her… both Ginny and me and a lot of others.
Don’t laugh. I don’t fit into this tux any more. The occasion? It was a formal dinner for a hospital fund raiser. I do believe it was the infamous dinner where Richard left after the soup. Yeah, he was a weird guy. … just left without even a “good-bye.”
This is for Ginny. It was her going away party. Retirement? Nah? Don? He’s a good sport. He does some weird shit?! In this case he was setup by the OR nurses who dressed him in a fake butt and sock filled jock strap. Yeah! You can’t make this shit up. Surprise?! Yup! She was! The photo is priceless and the expression barely recorded. I didn’t know what was coming. So, credit me for not dropping the camera and recording an image or two. There was a group of high school soccer girls in the next room who rapidly departed.
Why today? She’s been asking me to post people. It’s her birthday. She’s old! Really really old. Happy!
It’s not a good photo. I could improve it with means. I’m not bothering. It’s okay. It’s about the story. 2014. No. 2015. Was it? Gee time passes quickly. Valentine’s Day. Get it? Don’t try. I’m being obtuse. However… we were in this same restaurant again recently. I think it’s the second time for me (in this restaurant). It’s not Valentine’s. But I am there again with the same folks; yes,… and with my very significant other. The last time it was on the eve of our buying a house in Delaware. Prior to that, I had never even been in Delaware. And the topper? I was asked, “So how do you like the neighborhood?” just as I was driving in Delaware for the first time. Oh brother! You can’t make this stuff up. So, it was nice to have a steak once again. Meanwhile, my companion has gone vegetarian since then. She ate the risotto.
Not quite. I’m not religious. Particularly. In Saudi this view does not fly. So, say nothing. I was advised to do so and for this particular time I did so. So there is no upcoming crucifixion. However, there is always a last supper. My last night in Jeddah, well next to the last, I ate out with the people who cared about me and meant most to me. It was “bye.” We had a very nice peaceful subdued dinner in a Korean restaurant. My circle was complete. I taught Khalid how to use chop sticks in about ten seconds. He’s good. I’ll be missed. And I will miss them. A lot of history was shared these past four years. To paraphrase – what happened in Jeddah, stayed in Jeddah. Or, if you have something nice to say do it. No one likes to hear complaints. To which I can only add, “We sure did some interesting shit.” Yes, that’s the operative word.
The hardest thing about leaving anywhere is the friends you leave behind. And there is a certain familiarity to sameness. Folks don’t want to break away from the familiar. Would that be a contributing factor to mid-life crisis… fast car, girlfriend, new wife…? I grew up in a lot of different places. I’ve worked in a lot of places. Some things are constant – my profession and specialty. But otherwise, I have moved among groups and things with relative aplomb. No! I do not like to learn new operations. But learn we must. Or retire. It works that way. Watch. Observe. Shake your head. I watched my senior partner who could no longer operate. He’d failed to learn new tricks. It forces you to depend upon others or… retire. I promised myself never to be so. Fortunately, folks are friendly enough wherever you go. Characters! For sure! They are not family. They are friends. So I made some when I arrived.
Wissam , neurologist, sometimes scuba diver, with a poor sense of direction – in the sea. He once tried to Sudan. I pulled him back, pointed him correctly, and told him it would have been a very long swim…
Rida, ophthalmologist, a man with muscles who could do delicate eye surgery, someone better with 10-0 suture than me – by far!
And Nasser, GS – general surgeon, no – he does not dress like this for the OR. But the man undeniably has style.
Farid, orthopedic surgery – are you seeing a pattern here? Farid is the closest buddy I have here. Curiously, I’m older than all of them. See that? I apologize to him for this picture. Things will tie in eventually… He got me to learn scuba diving. And then we went on a boat trip. He’s very gracious. Shhh.. don’t tell him. He gets sea sick and actually hates boats. To be sure he gave me some pills for sea sickness. Yes, I toss my cookies too. Actually the secret is that when the boat stops, the up and down immediately makes you hurl. Got it? Laughing yet. It’s hard when you are green! What Farid neglected to say, was that he took six pills. We literally had to push him over the side to dive when the time came. He did not remember too much about the diving that day. That would put him high on my friend list – to take me – when he’d rather not. Yes, you make friends. Life is about change. It sometimes feels like jumping from the fire from the frying pan. But on the other side, the experience is exhilarating. One go around, life is one way. I’m thinking I’d like to have been in new situations and recall the stories with fondness.
I hide out in an alcove of the hospital. No office. Nowhere to hide. There was an area on the second floor…but they told me people would hide out and have sex. Damn, why do I always miss out on stuff like that. So I am being harassed by my buddies. They make fun that they see me sleeping when they walk by. I know it’s not true because they have never complained about my snoring. Faisal is on the right. He is from Yemen and is my gym buddy. He calls to wake me when I pass out on the gym mat. Rida is my neighbor in the compound and the chief of eye surgery. The whole body – and all he cares about is 2 square centimeters of eye. Yeah, pretty funny. Obviously I was not sleeping. I took the picture! Right? Yes, it’s not much of a portrait, but then again this was not a beauty contest.
Everyone happy? You bet. People were smiling for two days straight. Unlike weddings before digital, the smart phone has captured spontaneity and turned everything on end. I still like a real image, you know, real camera? But the smartphone captures that moment in ways film never could. Instant. Instant feedback. Do over. Yup. No waiting. It’s the new order. There are more smartphone images and by far iPhone images online than traditional camera images. Bet you knew that. I’m still amazed at how digital imaging has so easily allowed us to take images in the dark. No flash. No muss. No fuss. Totally spontaneous. Ok, so I shot with a real camera and with a real flash. But you get the idea. They walked away with a shot in hand immediately. Hello World!
David Mike Josh – buddies since kindergarten. How about that? I’m not in touch with anyone from grade school to college to med school. Of course we moved about every two years. No Facebook, Twitter… well there is this one girl… Jules was kind enough to invite the guys. All single! Yup – “Wedding Crashers” on the prowl. Dave has a girl – sort of – and the others checked out the single ladies…not too many and not too available. Yes, right after the ceremony the rain let up for a moment. The mist or the water on my lens was still significant. Do you think they were happy? Yup! I do! Hey, they still say that phrase at the end of the ceremony. I heard it! We always joked that groom said, “I do.” followed by, “I did?!” But yes, Dave’s sister is still happily married! As for this crew, they will be buddies for life. It’s so nice to see them again. It’s been a while.
Colleen was a girl I met in the third grade. She lived across the street from my grade school. And when she didn’t feel like attending she walked across the street through the school building and out the other door to return home without being seen by her mother. Yes, that is my kind of humor. This many years later she remains a good sport. Imagine during our early conversation she said to me, “I like beer.” Well, “I like pretzels.” It’s all relative I guess. Beer and pretzels go – right? A year ago I met her again.
Yes. I did this in Photoshop. I’m lazy. I just kept the focal length the same and we each shot a frame standing in the same spot. Paste and clone. It’s not as close as a selfie but it works.
There are classic hot dog stands in Maine. Bob Draper and Kevin Frary introduced me to Wasse’s in Rockland. They have a couple more stores now. And the market carries hot dogs in a brilliant unnaturally red casing that you know is bad for you. Here is a lesser know institution in Boothbay. The name is self-evident. It looks like a one-man operation. Lots of folks come around. Even on this cold chill September day, there were folks braving a cool breeze and threatening rain. Business is enough to support a souvenir shop next door. Or is it the souvenir shop that brings people by? There is a menu with lots of other stuff. But why would you not order a dog?
Today it’s about the story of some other dear friends. I’d say ‘old friends’ but you might take it the wrong way. It was a celebration at their place and I didn’t get a single focused shot. Light was great but the digital camera failed me. And I didn’t look at the screen. The good news is… no wrinkles, anywhere. Fuzzy is okay, I can make-up the details myself. Sometimes it’s possible you don’t want to remember all the details. We’ve been friends since the kids were in preschool. That’s a lot of years ago.
The photo was taken in Ashburnham, Massachusetts on a lake in the fall. It was an early morning with a still wind. The reflection is self-explanatory except that it’s turned on its side. No, no Photoshop. It actually was the real deal. You don’t get this too often. But the story is of four couples, friends for many years (too many to say here) who would gather periodically to hangout and do whatever. In this case it was getting on a pontoon boat for a little early morning cruise. Sorry, if you don’t look your best early in the morning before coffee and tea. The guys were cooking breakfast.
Just like those buddy movies, David and Michael remain best friends to this day. They met in grammar school and have stayed steadfast ever since. This was one of the autumn trips we took to Bear Mountain. They were just a couple of buddies having a quiet walk in the woods. To complete the circle, David called me this past autumn for directions to the lake. He and Mike, with Sarah and Josh, were planning to hike in the autumn around the lake again. It’s pretty special to have that memory carrying forward.
You all know that I am not Muslim. It’s Ramadan and I was invited to an iftar dinner. I live in a compound of physicians and so it was a group of ‘docs’ who got together. I am also not conversant in Arabic. During the course of conversation everyone was laughing. One internist’s husband had a first name – Jihad. He was I guess 30 to 40 years old. At the time he was born it was not an inflammatory name. Other cultures name their children Jesus, Angel, or Neveah (heaven spelled backwards).
Definition of JIHAD
1 : a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty; also
: a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline
2 : a crusade for a principle or belief
But the laughter was over a story of Jihad being stopped at airport security. It turns out that he (Jihad) works for the Bin Laden group. Really! So anytime he travels he’s marked as “Jihad” who works for “Bin Laden.” And his wife added he was once asked by a customs official if, …”he’d named his son Osama?” There is a Bin Laden Hospital nearby to where I live. And it is a popular name – Osama.
I guess there are worse things to be named. And there are some things you just can’t make up.
I made this shot back in December when Farid and I took his kids to the Red Bull Flutag event in Jeddah. His brother had special passes and we were in the VIP section. It meant no crowding. And the kids got a hat. I’ve done some group shots of Farid and the kids. I recently loaded them on a CD and he took them with him when he visited the family in Lebanon. When he returned he had this shot on his iPhone and told me that everyone in the family was making prints and framing the shot. I made this shot without any special effort. It’s just the photo sense that I have developed with experience. I’m glad that I did not have pressure to produce a money shot. Anyway it’s flattering to know that someone is appreciative of your work. This photo will be in their family forever, my gift as a friend.
I took Farid. He’s never been. And in the Sands Hotel, there’s a franchise – cash only. I guided him to the hibachi and we picked streak. The chef came out for his knife and spatula routine. The difference is that they have heavy plexiglass that hangs down to within six inches. Protection! I guess he won’t be flipping any shrimp into the waiting mouth of the diners. After the cooking, the plexiglass rises. It’s another mystery to me. Farid can’t tell me, he’s never been here.