Monday, July 16, 2012

Friend Me

Us, June 2012My college friends have a saying, "There are only 700 people in theatre." We mean that the community is so small and the people so connected that pretty much everywhere you go you're going to run into someone who knows your ex or your roommate or who worked with that one director who creeped you the fuck out. I find there are similarities to the internet. Something along the lines of, "There are only 700 stories in circulation at any one time." You'll get the same funny grammar busting ecard from your aunt, your aforementioned ex, and your entire sorority. This article in the New York Times about making friends as an adult is one of those things I've gotten from every angle.

One of the things the article cites a lack of in adulthood is "repeated, unplanned interactions" with potential friends. Immediately upon reading the phrase I realized I needed to tell you about the funeral I went to two Saturdays ago.

Bear with me. It's relevant.

I go to the park in the morning for off leash time with my dog nearly every day. I'd guess 999 days out of 1000 except I haven't had him for 1000 days yet. On days when I'm going to the office we arrive between 6:00 and 6:30am and we generally run into Kath and my retired neighbor and the woman from Kentucky and a small clutch of teachers. On other days we roll in between 7:30 and 8:15. We stay longer on those days and run into Stella's people and Diego's people and R & Sara and the man behind the pitbull version of Pepper Potts, just to name a few. Some of these people we hang out with outside of the park and some not. For the most part I have at least an email where I can contact them or know, within a couple of doors, where their homes are.

UntitledIn the middle of Independence Day week the email chain fired up to say that a gentleman from the park, the wife of someone I see frequently on our later days, had passed away. He had been very ill and we hadn't seen her in a couple of weeks so it was assumed that he wasn't doing well. News of her well-being and promises to pass on contact information and schedule of services flew around for a couple of days. I debated going to the service. Some of our group were away for the holiday. I worried that enough of us wouldn't be here. I'm used to funerals so it's not traumatic for me to go to them. However, was it appropriate? We hardly knew each other.

While I debated the ins and outs others were making carpools and assigning seats and getting directions. One of the hottest Saturdays of the year so far found me crossing the park with Teddy's Girl to climb into the back seat of A&M's car and head off to a historic cemetery in Brooklyn. There were 9 of us park goers at the lovely informal service. We passed the time before paying our respects to the widow by deciding which of us now wanted to be buried in this wonderful place by the wildly personable funeral director. Our friend was glad to have us there and we were, I think, a little relieved just to lay eyes on her after so long away.

We decided to go out to lunch afterwards to a place on our way home. While others were considering the relative merits of oysters from different places I cast a glance around the table. Teddy's Girl was in the corner. I've known her the longest. We stood for early morning hours on frozen tarmac letting our dogs romp in a previous home neighborhood. I took care of Teddy when she traveled for business. She walked Emily when I was out late for rehearsals. Had Pony Express never picked Emily up off the street I probably would have let Mr. Hedgehog do all the off leash dogging and I never would have met her. But I did and I moved and then she moved and we're a block away with two new dogs who have become friends.

DrippingA & M, are friends from the old days in the park before Emily became too unpredictable for letting off leash. Their starter dog was a fluffy shepherd mix named Bingo that Emily and I both loved deeply.  Back then dog people were a bunch of law breakers and I'd often see them in the morning at sanctioned off leash time and again around 6:00pm when the smallish group of us would go up on the hill and let our dogs off leash to wrestle and eat dirt even though it was illegal because most of the time no one in their right mind would go up there outside of broad daylight, not even the cops. M has daubed Emily's wounds after an altercation with their current dog, Carly. After Emily died I soothed my heart a little by taking their former boy, Diego, out for walks around the park in the chilly darkness of the winter of 2009.

I was seated between R & Sara. They were close friends of Kath's and I'd always liked them and wished they could be my friends. A little over two years ago I realized that they could be my friends, I could actually take steps toward that, it was in my power. So I accepted more invitations and continued more conversations and here we are. They were the first people that Eddie stayed overnight with when I went to China. I rode to the emergency vet with R when Bu was so badly injured. We have a walking home from the park pattern together and regularly accidentally meet up for evening walks, too.

Miss CarlyL&D are, among other things, part of the group that stands around on weekend mornings with us, watching our leashless dogs frolic and shooting the shit. We disperse at 9:00 only to bump into each other repeatedly in the greenmarket just outside the park. I made my connection to L during a New Year's Eve party at R & Sara's house where I didn't really know anyone but I recognized her from dog events and we got to talking about their son. Now when we reminisce we often forget that the other one never knew our previous beloved curs because it seems impossible things weren't always like this.

I don't know if anyone really heard me when I said, "This is why people get dogs." In their defense I slipped that in while we were being served heaping plates of delicious food. I was hardly paying attention to me either. It is, though, at least here in New York. We get dogs for companionship and it turns out that the dogs aren't the only companions we acquire. As an adult with homebody tendencies I count myself extremely lucky for the chances for friendship I've had surrounding my little chupacabra and even luckier for the people who have watched my clumsy advances and seen them for the opportunities they are and not just another dog-related chore.


  1. as someone new to the dog world and the immediate impact that has on one's social life, it's...exhausting. hah. everyone wants to stop and meet the newest member of the neighborhood, and everyone seems to have lovins for him. it's amazing how social people are when a dog is present.

  2. It's especially exhausting when you have a cute puppy. It was a whole new world for me when I got a small, cute dog after having the German Shepherd who I thought was gorgeous and everyone else thought was terrifying. And, truth me told, a lot of days it exhausts me, too, but the benefits outweigh the price. At least for me they do.

  3. now that he's bigger, we seem to see a bit more caution from people who haven't seen us out and about. when he was tiny we'd get people asking if he was a min pin, and then the cooing would start. he's a great sport, though, and just wants lovins from everyone.

    i DO like how people tend to gossip about neighborhood goings-on with us now that we're out and about with him daily. i'm constantly wrestling with my inner hermit, but at least for the summer i think i've battled that tendency into submission.

    German Shedders seem to terrify a lot of people, and i'm not quite sure why. they're giant furry lovebugs. :(

  4. It's so important for them to get accustomed to people that it's nice when you live in a place where they get all that attention even though it makes walk time tedious if you've got other things to do. But you're getting it, it knits you into the fabric of your neighborhood. That becomes really important over time.

    To be fair I had a prong collar on my GSD so she was dressed to alienate but she really was a love and most of them are. Our groups new GSD/Malinois mix is an actually leaner she loves so much. Very rare in her breeds I think.

  5. i'm certainly meeting people i didn't know were here! i knew a good amount of the folks in the few blocks immediately adjacent to the house thanks to the community meetings, but the constant cooing over the dog has helped me to establish who belongs and who doesn't. we've got enough of a crime problem that this really helps when we have to notify the police of yet another suspicious individual (we have a drug dealer up the street, yay!).

    prongs on GSDs are almost necessary, i've noticed. so much fur means they just don't feel the collar like a single-coated short-haired dog would.

  6. I've been thinking about that article, also. Having a dog makes most of the points in that article irrelevant! Too bad the author of the piece didn't think about that angle.

  7. Depends on the dog and it depends where you live with the dog. In the suburbs with a big back yard you'd only meet someone in the vet's office. Here, as long as your dog is friendly it helps but if it's old or aggressive or other things. It's a good start, for sure, but not foolproof.