Mickey McKay & Frank Conifrey - Lenox Hill Settle't [i.e., Settlement]

Mickey McKay & Frank Conifrey – Lenox Hill Settle’t [i.e., Settlement]

“Words are easy, like the wind;
Faithful friends are hard to find.” ― William Shakespeare

As a boy, even with best friends, there’s sometimes very little distance between a fist bump and a fist fight. At least that’s how it was for me growing up.

When you’re seven, eight, even nine-years-old, it doesn’t take a lot to turn all that get-up-and-go fueling your youthful exuberance into scowling proclamations of “take that back!”

As adults, a fight between friends can often turn into something much more dramatic and much more personal. There also tend to be less split lips and more ugly words or all-out avoidance. Of course, when adult friends have a moment, it can also seem like nothing at all – no blood drawn, no feelings hurt, just a word or two, an honest reminder, a respectful, loving, setting straight.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. I’m a very lucky guy.

I have some of the most remarkable friends. Ever!

It’s true. Scientists and Historians are still shaking their heads in disbelief. A few of my closest chums have been friends of mine for two or three decades. That’s right, they’re slow learners.

I had some great friends as a boy too, before we moved. It’s that in between time that was a bit more problematic, so it’s no wonder that’s the time I tend to write about.

One of my absolute favorite things to do as a writer is create the protagonist’s friends.

Without consciously setting out to do so, I’ve found that I imbue these fictional sidekicks with many traits my childhood possessed and my adult friends possess. Characteristics like pluck, curiosity, empathy, spunk, humor, and perhaps a slight propensity for mischief (like Webb) or nerdy interests (like Swatch).

Here are a handful of my favorite quotes about friendship (see if you agree with them or disagree):

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” – Elbert Hubbard

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” ― Aristotle

“Silence make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying, but the never needing to say that counts.” ― Margaret Lee Runbeck

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ― Anaïs Nin

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
Even longer,’ Pooh answered.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

My very first best friend was a boy named Keeko (names have been changed, basically so these brave people can still go out in public).

Keeko lived a block from the school, right across the street from the cemetery where we spent hours of our time, and only about three blocks from me. Of course, back then kids roamed. We played anywhere and everywhere within about a mile radius in any direction from our homes.

Keeko and I would hang out during school, would walk home together afterwards, and nearly every day we’d end up on his front lawn slinging knuckles. Don’t ask me why. I imagine it was the typical elementary school disagreements (about girls, sports, important stuff like that).

Trouble was, Keeko was the toughest kid in my grade, and probably the third toughest kid in the entire school.

Looking back, Keeko’s quick fuse and proficiency for settling a debate with fisticuffs probably saved me later on when it was two or three or four boys unleashing their daily reckoning on my head.

Keeko and I would throw down, usually in the grass of his yard, though we sometimes tumbled out into the street. Thanks to him, I developed my best weapon in those early days. It wasn’t a hay-maker, a dropkick, a karate chop. Next to running it was my go to move (hey, two or three or four guys inspire the feet to giddy-up). The headlock!

This was before MMA and the choke hold became popular. It was a last resort, but it never failed, regardless of how big the person was. And even if Thing Two and Thing Three kept thumping me, Thing One often realized he’d made a mistake. One-on-one, those same boys never picked a fight with me.

Of course, the boys who ended up being bullies had started out as my friends (middle school definition).

They were some of my first friends at a new school. But, in the end, our “friendship” wasn’t the result of some integral connection, but simply because we were teammates. It had more to do with proximity and timing than anything else. And the fact that we shared a common interest. That interest just didn’t happen to be each other. But this is how we learn, I suppose.

It’s the evolution of friendship.

I’ll admit here that I flat out hate fighting! But sometimes you do what you have to do.

I hated it even way back when Keeko and I were best friends. That was just the way of settling things sometimes, like what we wanted to do after school. We’d “duke it out,” as they used to say, stomp away in opposite directions, grumbling. But before I got to the corner one of us would holler to the other, “Want to hang out after dinner?” And we did.

Some of my favorite characters, of those I’ve created, are the best friends of my protagonists. Even though they’re teens, they’re connected at the core. So, even the friendship of these misfits is a bit atypical for that age group.

Webb, for example, if a lot of fun. I already have some pretty cool ideas about the trouble he’ll be getting into in future stories. Swatch is one of my favorite characters too. She’s a spitfire, and is one of the strongest, bravest characters I’ve created so far. She’s also pretty level-headed, except when it comes to Tyler. She’s so not a fan and goes out of her way to let him know every chance she gets which, unintentionally, backfires on Gabe sometimes.

What sort of friends did you have when you were seven or eight-years-old?

How about now?

What was our favorite things about them? How about your least favorite thing?

In an article for Psychology Today, Karen Karbo writes: “The conventional wisdom is that we choose friends because of who they are. But it turns out that we actually love them because of the way they support who we are.”

I’d have to say, in the case of my best friend of the past two decades, it’s both.

The article goes on to say that a best friend tends to be someone in whom we confide or someone who’s there for us if we “need to talk,” but I’ve found with my best friend, words don’t even need to be spoken. There’s just this sense that you’re with someone who gets you and that, perhaps even more than any verbal recognition or lent ear, makes all the difference.

What sort of character traits do your closest friends have?

What is it about YOU that they support?

Have you ever had a friend who supported you even when you didn’t?

Do you have any favorite fictional characters (from books or movies or TV shows) who are the protagonist’s best friend?

What about them appeals to you?

I’d love to hear. And remember, as Mr. Bones likes to say, “True friends ain’t the ones you latch onto because you got everything in common, they’re the ones you latch onto even when you don’t.”

Keep after it. Keep chasing your dreams!

Boxing photo used via Creative Commons License on Flickr – Mickey McKay & Frank Conifrey – Lenox Hill Settle’t [i.e., Settlement] from Library of Congress Collection on Flickr (Prints and Photographs Division; Call Number: LC-B2- 3849-4)