Sometimes you can’t choose your friends

They say that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I beg to differ. Sometimes you’re stuck with your friends like a bad hangover after a crime spree barely remembered.

We did what? He did what? And that’s a lost crown he’s sporting, right? Holy mother of god.

I’ve lost track of friends with whom I’ve played golf. I’ve lost track of friends who sat at Monday morning status meetings with me. I’ve lost track of friends who drove with me in a convertible Miata with the top down, an hour after touchdown in Maui from Newark, NJ, in January. Well, we didn’t lose touch, exactly. He’s dead now. God bless you, Joseph Hoffman.

The point is, I’ve never lost track of a friend who took a leak with me off the porch in the springtime, the heat of summer, the gusting fall, the freezing winter. Peeing in such circumstances is a challenge that opens your mind to those around you, those who might provide protection or be happy to share the blame.

And now I’m faced with reality TV, and am reminded of these old friends. Friends who would know how to weld the leaky radiator in my Opel. Friends who had guitars, and we’d jam all night, and play hearts and spades and poker till we knew who was a threat and who wasn’t.

One of the reality TV shows I’m faced with is “Duck Dynasty.” I don’t know them, but I have a lot of friends just like them, somewhere in central Pennsylvania mainly.

“Duck Dynasty” cast:
The Robertsons: (left to right) Miss Kay, Phil, Willie, Si, Jase, and Korie

When I first got married in the early 1980s, I lived in West Chester, PA, which is almost considered the end of the “Main Line” out of Philadelphia—a sort of extension of Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr and Malvern. And my ex-wife was from the area. So when my son was a baby, a bunch of my central Pennsylvania friends visited to pay their respects. One or two brought along hallucinogenics. Everyone brought a guitar. And, unfortunately, we had a porch on the tenant house we rented on a farm.

My wife had never seen me (or any other man) pee off a porch. It was a facet of my history I didn’t have an opportunity to share prior to that point. So she was shocked, horrified, when she discovered the whole gang of us peeing off the porch as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Which to all of us, in our heart of hearts, it was and had always been. There was just a bunch of grass and bushes out there. No animals were hurt in the peeing off the porch.

My friends did it without even thinking, but I was thinking: “Oh, shit! We’re going to pee off the porch!” And then I relaxed, as the hospitable host, and went with the flow, so to speak. There was no stopping us now. My wife was about to find out the ugly truth regarding my friends and my upbringing.

We were raised as hunters and fisherman, but always bought a license and tried to keep within the law (unless a really poor family you happened to know needed some extra fish or venison). We could lock and load the usual weapons, and operate heavy equipment by our teens. We could jack up a car, set timing, adjust point gaps in a carburetor, change belts and hoses and water pumps and alternators and gaskets.

And we could play full-contact football until dusk, shirts versus skins, until we were so sweaty and thirsty we could drink a gallon or more of water out of the hose, even blowing some of it out our nose.

Now, many of us live in suburban areas where we are thought to be proper people. We watch “Duck Dynasty” and see those old friends—the ones you can’t choose, the ones who choose you. And maybe our wives look at us and wonder.

The wonder is, those guys—and often us also—have women who choose us, too. They know what we are, and choose us anyway. And that’s another bond that becomes something you can’t ignore. You don’t have any choice about those friends. No choice at all.


About Keith Croes

Nice to meet you. Thanks for dropping by.

Posted on August 20, 2013, in Autobiographical, Country living, Pop culture and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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