I’ve reached the age when I can relate to my parents’ friends as much as my own friends.
My parents are still friends with the same crew they rolled with in Pittsburgh, and now a slew of South Africans in San Diego where they’ve lived the last ten years. My parents are pick-up artists. At parties they run game, get numbers and set calendar dates to experience Ethiopian cuisine with other baby boomers who tuck in their shirts.
For every Maxine and Richard, there is a Steve and Suzie and a Diane and Howard. Then you throw Rick and Elyse into the picture or Marissa and Paul and you best believe you’ve found someone to bring a bowl of orzo to a party at your house like the party my parents threw last weekend for their friends to meet my baby niece, Dylan. I was meeting some of their new friends for the first time. My mom told me Greg was coming with his wife to the party.
“Since when are you friends with a Greg?” I asked.
Greg from Mexico came to the party wearing a sport coat and also a hearing aide. I guess he didn’t hear that the party was casual.
Maxine and Richard were early arrivals. Maxine and Richard are like doppelgangers of my parents, Judy and Marc. Maxine and Judy dress similarly and Richard and Marc tell the same corny jokes.
Last summer the furious foursome met me for dinner at Cha Cha Cha in Silverlake. Maxine asked me to tell my best joke. I told a joke about Israel. Maxine smiled politely. Breaking the silence, Richard told a joke which made the table laugh. Maxine followed with a funny joke of her own. I’ve performed at the Hollywood Improv and the Comedy Store, but how many comedians have opened for Maxine and Richard?
“I have to tell you. I loved your blog about your mother,” shared Maxine. “And congrats on the promotion. That is so wonderful!”
“That’s nice of you to say,” I shared.
Because of Maxine’s excitement, news of my recent promotion spread like wildfire around the party. Diane, my mom’s close friend, also from South Africa was the next to congratulate me. “Great news! Congratulations.”
Most of the others heard the news, except for Greg.
Our family friend Larry attacked the veggies with great fervor. It was a pleasure seeing Larry, one of our first friends in San Diego. In 2002 my mom launched her personal errand service “Mission Accomplished” and began preparing large quantities of vegetarian chili for a Spanish woman who lived in the neighborhood. Sara enjoyed my mom’s chili so much that she mentioned that her husband, Larry was looking for someone to help do some landscaping in the backyard. Unequipped for physical labor, my mom offered my services, “Shleps for Less.”
I met Larry in his garage where he was listening to doowop, the music of his youth. Incidentally, I preferred doowop to hip hop, the music of my youth.Larry explained to me that I would start out making minimum wage. If I worked hard and proved my worth I could make a tiny bit more than minimum wage. Under Larry’s scrutiny I learned the proper way to wax a car.
“Elliot, you must understand the value of precison,” he exclaimed as he pointed to a speck I missed on his Jaguar’s rear bumper.
While I borrowed one of Larry’s bathing suits to clean his pool, Larry was out at the pool with me telling me about his childhood in Jersey, and his travels to Spain where he met his wife Sara. Larry taught me how to use a chainsaw and a tree trimmer, and the two of us built a fence that still stands to this day.
“Elliot,” he said to me one day. “You are such a good kid. I’d love to meet your father.”
I didn’t know how well of a match Larry’s intensity would be for my easy going dad. Larry invited my dad to a bull fight and the two have been friends ever since.
At the party Larry invited my dad to see the Three Stooges. I told Larry about my blog and Larry told me about his son losing his virginity.
I ate some carrots and watched the Pens give up some tough goals to the Flyers. Richard sat next to me and asked me about my dating situation. I told him that I was starting to see someone, and we were having a lot of fun together.
“That’s great,” he said. “You just want to make sure you have common interests. Some women are great in the bedroom, but outside of the bedroom they don’t have anything interesting to say.”
Richard told me how he and Maxine were high school sweethearts who lost touch, moved across the country from one another with spouses they eventually divorced.
“After emailing for a year she finally agreed to meet me half-way,” Richard told me. “I was in San Diego and she was in New York. Half-way was Philadelphia.”
“My second wife wanted me to be someone I wasn’t. Maxine loves me for who I am.”
“You need to find someone who likes you for you,” Maxine chimed in.
Baby boomers are among my favorite people. Not just because I have some grey hairs and they do too. And not just because I, too, wear Land’s End. They are the kind of people who share wisdom and are genuinely happy that you have a good job and are sleeping with somebody. And who else brings the banana bread?
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