Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum

Once I finished college and graduate school and poked a toe into the frigid air of that fabled place called “real world,” I realized that it’s hard to make new friends when they’re not stuck next to you for 16 weeks in Psycholinguistics; there’s a natural flow towards beer and conversation when class is over, but if there is no class, then it’s just you and beer and silence and not have flow. Connections are easily made when you’re comparing $600 bookstore receipts with your peers; they are less apt to happen some years later when you’re comparing insurance information with the person you’ve just sideswiped in front of the Juan More Taco on Main Street.

Indeed, when you’re in that post-educational phase of life called “work suck junk,” it’s a challenge to find new BFFs, to find kindred spirits. In my job experiences–with a few notable exceptions–I have been surrounded by people who take professionalism seriously; who believe meetings are a place of productivity; who feel everyone should sign a card for Joe when his mom dies, even though they’ve never actually spoken to Joe, outside of asking him to pass the staples when they’ve been “shopping” in the supply closet at the same time. In short, I’ve been surrounded by people with whom I have very little in common, outside of our need for staples. Of course, there is a certain amount of forced conviviality, a few slaps on the back as a display of collegiality, the occasional soft moment over a Ziploc bag of celery sticks at the little refrigerator in the lounge…but the truth is that, at the end of the day, I don’t necessarily want to hang out with people I know simply by virtue of having the same employer. And, quite rightly, they shouldn’t want to hang out with me. Cuz, hell, baby, I’m not always the nicest W-2 withholder in the room. If they need to run away fast, it’s completely understandable to me, and I’m happy to give them a starting shove.

Imagine, then, what a rare bit of bliss it is to encounter a colleague with whom I genuinely click, with whom I can be my genuine overblown self. Up until this past semester, I had only two folks like that on my campus, two folks who can tolerate my pissing and cackling and scorching and chortling, and they don’t blink. But suddenly, I’m finding three is the magic number.

Three is named Gretchen, and she’s livened up my life a bit this last month, sharing stories of unbelievable students, having my family over for dinner, introducing me to limoncello, abetting my habits of gossip and swearing, and giving me the warm feeling that comes from having a new friend around whom I can use the word “anus” and not, upon seeing her astonished mug, have to suddenly pretend I was just randomly naming parts of the body because that’s what I do from 2:58-3:00 p.m. each day.

So I have a new galpal, and I have been liking her. But lately, I like her even more, and here’s why: she’s got killer interesting kids. Evidence of this is contained in the photos below. Gretchen recently had her birthday, and on that special day, her eight-year-old son, Oscar, slipped a card into her bag, a little something he’d picked out just for her.

It was one of those musical cards, so sing aloud the song “Good Love” as you look at the images, starting with the envelope:

…proceeding to the attention-getter:

…and ending with the HIGH-larious, completely-inappropriate, but ever-so-dear-because-it-shows-that-although-he’s-a-behavioral-problem-at-school-he’s-still-innocent punch line:

Like she won’t flash this bit of memory lane on him some evening when he’s fifteen and has his buddies Doug and Cal over for a gaming marathon?

Dwarfing the birthday card, however, is her family’s Christmas card, which will adorn the magnet board in our kitchen for some months to come:

“May brotherly love and goodwill give you
Joy this holiday season!
Best wishes,
Rick, Gretchen, Jeremy, and Oscar”

Well pleased with the past year and its new friendshipial developments, I’m ready to move on and face 2009. Where better to start the year than California, where mudslides and wildfires seem a reasonable compromise to having the entire state break off and slide into the Pacific?

Between now and January 5th, we’ll hit the L.A. area to visit my mom (with side jaunts to San Diego, Palm Springs, and Pasadena).

And who knows…even though I won’t be attending college there, it seems possible that I could, maybe, possibly–

perhaps while watching Shamu perform at Sea World–

make a new friend.

After all, even killer whales have anuses.




29 responses to “Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum”

  1. geewits Avatar

    It’s always nice to make a new friend when you’re older even though you are not older, well not older than me I mean, it’s just that you are older than when you were in college I think.

    Have fun in California. This time of year you never know what the weather will be like. Kinda like Texas.

  2. Star Avatar

    That is the best Christmas card ever! I feel largely the same about my co-workers. Nice people to work with, but not looking to form long lasting friendships with. Enjoy your trip.

  3. Jeannie Avatar

    I think I love gretchen and her kids too.

  4. Patience Avatar

    Great cards!

    Merry Christmas!

  5. lime Avatar

    oh man, she could sell that image and those words to some twisted non-hallmark type card company. i’d buy a gross of them to send out next year. but i’m kinda sick like that.

    how do ya feel about a mom who guffaws every time her son blurts out the word “nipples!” yeah, that would be the boy child and me.

  6. chelle Avatar

    HAHAHA I love that Christmas card!!!

    You have the coolest friends!

    Merry Christmas

  7. cathy Avatar

    Happy Hols gal.

  8. citizen of the world Avatar
    citizen of the world

    New friends are so great. Of course, old ones are pretty cool, too. I don’t know where I’d be wihtout friends.

  9. Bob Avatar

    if, when in San Diego, you pass through Santee, wave hello at my brother & his family.

  10. Susan Avatar

    I agree with Lime, I’m sure there’s a market for something like that!

    Merry Christmas!

  11. Becky Cazares Avatar
    Becky Cazares

    Oh, wow. Friend connections after thirty are a treasure, indeed. I envy you and it gives me hope for my next friend I haven’t met yet. Merry Christmas!

  12. Pam Avatar

    Very funny last line!I have enjoyed your posts so much this year.Have a great holiday season and happy and safe trip.

  13. Jeni Avatar

    Just as I clicked on your blog, I decided I really needed a beverage and headed to the kitchen to grab me a beer. Not just any beer, but a Yuengling Lager, compliments of my son after I called him yesterday, on his way home, to ask if he could pick up a case of beer for me as I couldn’t get out of the house to make a beer run! And he brought me Yuengling -in bottles! Normally, I am an “el cheapo” beer drinker at the house -Old Milwaukee, Keystone Light, Busch Light Pounders, even Genessee. In the bars, on the rare occasions I happen in one now, make mine Coors Draft please! But anyway, I come back in, beer in hand, and start to read. Lo and behold, in your first paragraph, you talk about beer and friends -and the dwindling supply of the latter -also something a bit on my mind too of late as I seem to become more and more reclusive as I age. Granted you have at least two more decades to cover before you hit this point in your life, but just wanted to tell you I was relating to your post from start to finish and also -enjoying the hell out of this nice cold beer too!
    Cheers and Merry Christmas along with big wishes for a very Happy New Year too! Safe travels to California and hurry back to Minnesota to report on students, snow and stuff!

  14. phd in yogurtry Avatar
    phd in yogurtry

    Tis the season for making merry .. with a newfound friend? Even better! Good friends are not something I take for granted. It gets tough post school.

    Enjoy your holiday travels and Happy 2009!

    Oh yeah, and that is an awesome Christmas card! Sure beats Olan Mills.

  15. movin' down the road Avatar
    movin’ down the road

    2009? Two Thousand NINE? Wow. I wonder what will happen…Happy New Year!

  16. SQT Avatar

    Oh man, why aren’t you coming to NorCal? I need a goofy friend in the worst way. All the preschool moms think I’m weird. What’s wrong with these people?

  17. rak Avatar

    I heart making new friends…leaves me feeling so hopeful 🙂

  18. franki Avatar

    If you came to the east coast, I’m quite sure you’d find a comfortable spot next to my fire in which you could say “anus” to your heart’s content and me and my juvenile children would snigger at you EVERY time.

    Add limoncello and I’ll also probably flash me boobies at you and fall down a lot. Your job will be to keep me out of the fire.

  19. Jill Avatar

    Love that Christmas card! I always have two types of cards to send out, the traditionally polite for those with delicate sensibilities, and the rude one for the fun people. This year the rude one had on the outside of the card: “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good.” And on the inside: “So try not to act like an asshole.” Gretchen sounds like my kind of people.

  20. kimber the wolfgrrrl Avatar
    kimber the wolfgrrrl

    Limoncello is the hallmark of a valuable friend indeed. Happy 2009 to you and your family!

  21. velvet Avatar

    You’re the luckiest! Three sounds like a real find! Those cards are an absolute hoot.

    How true it is that it’s hard to find a real friend once you leave the collegiate womb. In 13 years, I have yet to find a close pal of any gender around whom I can use the term “anus”. I think that it’s a New England thing and they don’t have them here. You can always shoot out an e-mail this way if you ever have the urge to spontaneously type “anus”. Ha!

    Happy New Year to you and your fam!

  22. Glamourpuss Avatar

    That’s a fine card. And finding new friends is like falling in love – exhilarating. Have a jolly time in LA.


  23. Diesel Avatar

    Glad you found a pal. I haven’t really found any of those since college my own self. Hope you’re having a swell time in SoCal. I hope you can open your door when you get home, what with the pile of emails from me that will be waiting for you.

  24. Voyager Avatar

    Happy new year! New friends are worth celebrating. Cyberfriends too. I’ve been in hibernation, and neglecting my cyberfriends. I’ve been lurking but silent.

  25. Mother of Invention Avatar
    Mother of Invention

    I’m glad you found a kindred spirit at work! It makes work life so much more enjoyable when you have a partner-in-crime! I’ve been lucky in my teaching elementary school to have founs many and still keep in touch with them all.

    HNY to you and your family and have a good first week back!

  26. the cubicle's backporch Avatar
    the cubicle’s backporch

    While the people I work with are fun and entertaining, I’m not outside-of-work friends with them. Of course I work with 95% middle-aged men so it’d be weird anyways!

    Congrats to you and your kindred spirit! 🙂

  27. movin' down the road Avatar
    movin’ down the road

    you should move to southern cal. totally dude.

  28. Kylie w Warszawie Avatar
    Kylie w Warszawie

    I love that Christmas card! I may steal that idea for next year:).

    But I know what you’re talking about. I’ve often wondered if my definition of friend is different than others or if I’m just so far off the deep end that no one wants to talk to me. I’ve had exactly one friend here in Warsaw and she left before Christmas. I also have this horrible habit of pretending “you’re not my only friend” when really, they are.

    It’s particularly hard with all the moving we do. I had 3 or 4 good friends in Ghana… and then one in Poland.

    I could go on and on, but I won’t.

  29. pistols at dawn Avatar
    pistols at dawn

    I am also often in situations where people’s dedication to professionalism earmarks them to me as people I would never, ever, want to be trapped in a conversation with, regardless of how much alcohol (and since this is a hypothetical, it’s the good stuff) was readily available.

    This “talking to others” could work, though, in theory.

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