Wednesday, April 19, 2006


My friend Joey and I have had a long and interesting friend-history. The story starts when I was 15 and went to the sweet 16 birthday party of a wealthyish classmate (The Other Emily). She'd invited everyone in the class, all her relatives around her age, and some of their friends. At the party I met this guy who was friends with Other Emily's cousin. Since he was from another town, he only knew the cousin and only peripherally knew Other Emily. I think we started talking when he and the cousin were sucking helium from balloons and lauging like only 15 year old boys can.

The party was kind of like a dance, only with less parental supervision, and I totally danced slow with this guy. I thought he was really cute and gave him my number.

A month later he called me. I still have the piece of paper where my sister took the message with his name and phone number. He told me later that he liked both me and one of my classmates who was also at the party and it took him a month to decide which one he liked better. I think that was actually a lie, looking back on it, because he's catholic and she's mormon and she wouldn't have ever gone out with him.

Anyhow, we started "dating," if you can call hitching rides with parents to hang out and taking the bus to one another's town on the weekends dating. We talked on the phone a lot and wrote letters and I really liked him a lot. But being 15 and in two different towns with no good transportation put a strain on the relationship, and we broke up a couple of months later.

Aside: Joey had a thing for my Oldest Friend, who went to junior high with him. I didn't know that until a while after we became friends. Later, Oldest Friend went to Joey's prom with him, and this other friend of ours took him to her prom, and I took him to my senior prom, all in the same spring. I have this picture frame with the little pictures from each of the proms and the fourth rectangle of the frame says "Joey's prom dates."

After we broke up, Joey and I became friends. And I don't just mean high school hi how are ya friends, I mean really good, really close friends. We talked a lot, having long grown-up philosopical conversations about evolution and morality and I learned how to be friends with someone who had totally different ideas about the world than I did (religous! Catholic! Republican!) and he drove up and visited with me and my family in his silver 1960 crazyass van after he got his license, and we wrote letters back and forth every week or so, complete with scribbled pen drawings of a mouse named Hot Cheese. We made each other mix tapes. Joey saw me through several failed relationships and crushes, and I dealt with it when his first really serious girlfriend turned out to be a psycho hose beast and forbid him from talking with any of his female friends for like 6 months, of whom he had many. We all loved Joey; he was crazy, doing stunts on his bikes and roller blades and hotwiring a cherry picker with his friends and videotaping it. One time he told me about a napalm-making experiment. One time he told me how to ruin the paint job on a car of someone you don't like (cut letter shapes out of bologna to spell whatever you want the car to say, and put the bologna on the car in the night. By morning, when the person finds the bologna and peels it off, it will have eaten the paint underneath, and the car says "Poo head" on it or whatever. Ha!) He'd tell me about his latest insane plan or exploit like maybe the time he put a shopping cart on the train tracks or the time he was shooting paint balls at passing cars and accidently hit his parents coming home early. I'd just shake my head and laugh, because it was Joey.

We'd all go to the beach, a big group of 8 or 10 of us, in his big silver van that was always breaking down. Or we'd run around Healdsburg in the middle of the night, making teenage mischief. He helped me make a video project for school my senior year and it was one of the most fun days of my life. I'd always bring him a birthday cake on his birthday, and one time his autistic little brother ate the whole thing when we were in his bedroom working on a video.

I took him to my senior prom as my best friend, and he was, and we totally made out that night and then the next week he got back together with the psycho hose beast. And then I went to college.

Joey did visit me at college my freshman year. He loved coming to Berkeley, and we'd always find something fun going on. When I came home for breaks he was always at my house visiting with me and my family and teasing my sisters. My sophomore year, I found out that Joey had started dating my middle sister, four years younger than he was, and it totally freaked me out. I mean, he was my best friend. And he was going out with my little sister! It was too weird. Our friendship got really strained after that, and it wasn't until about a year after they broke up that we really became good friends again. I found out later that Joey was in love with Lissa but realized that he couldn't make things work with her because they were in different life stages (he was 20, she was 16), and he was Catholic and conservative and she, like me, was not. I think he pined for her for years, just like he pined for Oldest Friend.

And then I broke up with my college boyfriend, and I was home visiting, and we went to the movies and smuggled in some rum and drank a gigantic movie coke full of rum and we got so wasted and we totally made out. And we might have done more, but we were both too tired and drunk.

The last few years, since I graduated college and moved to Denver, Joey's been busy finishing school and now is working constantly to save money to go back to get another bachelor's degree and teaching credential. I've seen him a couple of times in the last 3 or 4 years when I go home and he isn't sick or working on his (still usually broken) van. The Hulk got to meet him last new year's, the friend I have been talking about since Hulk and I got together.

Two weeks ago Joey called me to say happy belated birthday and to tell me he's been putting all his old videos on DVD. Today, I got a package in the mail with the DVD of the movie we made together in high school set to the Rancid song I'd picked, plus a cd with the same songs on it as his favorite mix tape that I made him. The cover of the DVD had a drawing of Hot Cheese. It made me smile. I can't wait to get home this evening to watch the movie and listen to the tape and think about my friend Joey, who I am glad to know.

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