“…in the old days, I remember a wind that would blow down through the canyons. It was a hot wind called a Santana, and it carried with it the smell of… warm places. It blew the strongest before dawn, across the point. My friends and I would sleep in our cars and the smell of the offshore wind would often wake us… and each morning, we knew this would be a special day…”
So begins the opening credits to Big Wednesday. A rite of passage movie about friends and friendship starring Jan Michael Vincent, Gary Busey (a precursor to him becoming crazy), and William Katt (pre Greatest American Hero). I can’t remember the first time I saw this movie, I just remember always loving it. It captures that spirit of friendship and youth and the love and loss that is so powerful when we are experiencing the world for the first time. Careening through life without a governor, without rules, and without caution. It speaks to the way we come to understand what being a friend means. What it should mean. What it doesn’t. At one point in the movie, Jack Barlow (William Katt) reluctantly partakes in a toast with his estranged friends. “What are we drinking to?” he asks. Bear (Sam Melville) touts, “To nothing but your friends. To your friends come hail or high water.” It is the toast, the mantra of friendship. that brings a smile to Barlow’s face and reunites him with his dear friends, Matt Johnson (Jan Michael Vincent) and Leroy the Masochist (Gary Busey) in spite of their checkered history and old wounds. It’s a universal theme. If it were a beer it would be called St. Pauli’s Girl. Cuz you never forget your first. And those childhood friendships stay with us too don’t they? They become the standard. The nostalgic weight. The classic memory.
And for me, as I follow the myriad of friends Facebook says I have and the myriad still outside the social media realm, I can’t help but get a little nostalgic about the ones who shaped and molded me growing up. We’ve all got at least one that pops in our head even now as we ponder… The one who got in to trouble with us. The one who dared us and we did it. The one who pulled us back from where we didn’t need to be. The one who dragged us where we thought we didn’t want to go. Yeah. We’ve all got at least one. So let me just say ala the Bear, “To your friends come hail or high water!” And with those words let new friends be included as well. The ones who are there for us now as we live in our day to day. The ones who know the value of a true friend because they remember their own impressionable moments once upon a time ago. The ones who know who they are even as they read. Am I getting too… sentimental. Maybe. But the truth is, friends are found in the most sentimental of places. Right at the heart.