I recently had a shocking realization - in my heart of hearts - that a friendship of almost ten years - is, for the time being, over. It's a weird feeling, which shouldn't surprise me. It was an odd friendship. John goes to my church, and as long as I've known him, he's been one of those standoffish-old crabs with a heart of gold.... He had a lot of idiosyncracies, too. He liked really "cutting edge" music (and by that I mean music that very very few want to listen to... Like Yoko Ono). He also had a great penchant for the Kingston Trio. I will never understand this. To me, the trio in each of its incarnations was nothing but a bunch of over loud, plodding musicians with very little to offer me. I'm not saying they don't have talent... I'm just saying I don't like them.
If you're a friend of John, though, you MUST like them. It was a prerequsite. I tried to say as little as I could about the KT... because to be John's friend meant being a fan of the KT. I grudgingly watched their reunion tour on DVD. I listened to about a second or two of each song, because I knew I was going to be quizzed on it. I practiced mentioning things like "I didn't know they did "Yippie Kay-Yay-Yoooo, Get Along little Doggie..." John made the Kingston Trio such a part of his personality that saying anything other than "I'm a card carrying KT fan club member" was a personal attack (at least it seemed that way.) When I saw him and said, proudly, that I'd watched the DVD, he asked, "How'd you like Tommy Smother's jokes? Weren't they funny? Which was your favorite, I was cornered. I hadn't watched Tommy Smother's segment.
He swore off ever going to a local theater where he'd seen the Kingston Trio played when he learned that the business manager did not enjoy picking the band up at the airport, and had very little to say to them... When John caught on that I didn't like the Kinston Trio, he attacked my favorite singer, Bruce Cockburn. "If he's so great, Kelly, why doesn't he have a bazillion hits like the Kingston Trio?"
Dave asked why the Kingston Trio didn't write a bazillion of their own songs like Bruce Cockburn. It was always fun, but there was always this strange undercurrent to all of John's ribbing.
John is a very generous man.... generous with his time, generous with his resources, etc... And we had an enjoyable platonic friendship. When I'd met him, he used to repeat (over and over and over and over....) this mantra: "Life would be great with no mailbox, no women, no phone, no car, no kids, no pets... You get the idea. I'd always viewed him as very asexual. Yet somehow, through all these rules, he came out with a crush on me. I'm not telling you this as a point of pride. It's odd - but it's what happened. I won't go into details, but I kind of felt the whole thing looked an awful lot like a junior high school crush... Looking back, I should have seen it... John got involved in many of the projects I did - would often play music with me (despite his rule "NO Live Music...") and was eager to have me join his band...
So I became the singer/rhythm guitar player. John played bass. Like a true Kingston Trio Superfan, John plays bass like the Kingston Trio. So. Naturally, it's fine - it's just not very dynamic or interesting. Within months, John left the band for personal reasons. We replaced him with Scott, who is a wonderfully adaptable bass player. It really changed things around. Practices were conspicuously void of common John-isms like "If it ain't written down, it don't get played," and "Did you know the Kingston Trio recorded that song?"
I mention this not to be mean. It's just kind of how it was. We all tolerated these things because John is a nice man. But when he left the band, we moved on.
When John wanted back in the band, things got difficult. I figured our friendship would change. This is when I really discovered the "Crush..." It was disturbing. I decided some distance would be in order, and things would blow over... Right? Eventually? Sigh. Not only did I receive a copy of John's latest CD (very, very "Kingston Trio meets Brian Wilson). He asked twice how I liked it. He argued with my critique. I coudn't find a corner of the internet large enough to hide in, so I stopped answering his e-mails...
The other day, I returned a pile of DVD's I had neglected to give back - one was the Kingston Trio... When I handed them to him, it was kind of like saying goodbye. Even though John had been one of the strangest, hardest to please people I have ever known, we had a history.... And it hurt to set a boundary that said, "You can't have the access to me that you once did..."
I don't feel responsible. I don't think my actions led him on, or were in any way deserving of the erratic treatment I got... But I feel very very badly about the whole thing. Do I miss the Kingston Trio? No. Do I miss John? Sure. I have hope that when his feelings settle, maybe we can have a presence in each other's lives again - but not for awhile. I'm just not up for it.