Friendship is such an elusive thing. When I was in my twenties I made friends so easily. Most of these friendships were formed associated to place, first-where I went to school or worked. My first real job when I lived in New York was at Canal Jean Co. That job was an amalgam of my school and work life. My friend Steven worked there and when he heard me say at school (Parsons School of Design) one day that I needed to get a job (I had to finance my rising rent and night clubbing), he suggested I try there. Canal Jeans in the eighties was a very cool place to work and it attracted artists like myself, actors, musicians and all sorts of interesting young people trying to find themselves in the big city.
I could write tons of stories (and may still) about the variety of personalities I encountered while checking bags, doling out dressing rooms, or pushing socks on a hipster-fashion-hungry public. But the person I have been thinking about, and wondering how our friendship ultimately soured, was named Franco. He was an actor, and for a few years, was also a close friend of mine. He came to the work at the downtown clothing store in a wave of hiring, but he stood out, and my friend Mary and I quickly decided to add him to our little “band of the most interesting of the interesting.”
I have many vivid memories of evenings shared with Franco. One crazy New Year’s Eve we started out in a famous SoHo bar drinking Godmothers and then somehow decided it would be a good idea to travel to Brooklyn and crash a party only casually mentioned by one of our co-workers (and someone I was very interested in at the time.) The funny thing is, that although I may have had the most pressing interest in going to this shindig, I’m pretty sure it was Franco who gave us the push we needed to get a fairly large group of us on the subway to Brooklyn at 11:30pm-and also the one who charmed his (and our) way into this invitation-only bash. It was a crazy night, but what I remember as a highlight of the evening was Franco and his introduction and instruction of Spanglish catch phrases to the party. The combination of spirits, both high and alcoholic, made for one of those in-joke evenings where we couldn’t stop cracking each other up. Of course to anyone outside our circle we must have appeared extremely obnoxious. In fact, I’m sure the hostess tried to eject us quite a few times during the course of the evening. My favorite Spanglish phrase of Franco’s was “¡Callete, please!” which basically was “Shut up, por favor,” if you get my drift. I still use it to this day.
Franco was gay, but never talked too much about his love life. I believe he had a somewhat older boyfriend, who may not have wanted to troll the East Village after-work happy hour scene with a gaggle of twenty-somethings. Franco had a very Latin, very regal, bearing. Very masculine. Around this time my friend Mary and I created a game, ¿Quien es mas macho?, which we used to play when bored on the subway, or walking through Brooklyn, or on the phone. Although our subjects were always our favorite celebrities of the moment, ¿Quien es mas macho? ¿Mickey Rourke o Matt Dillon?, I think the game must have originated with Franco as one of the subjects. At least, he is always associated with it in my mind.
Franco was a member of The Spanish Repertory Theater/Repertorio Espanol. He invited me to come see him in a production of Blood Wedding. The entire production was in Spanish, which was a bit of a comprehension stretch for my high school Spanish, but I was able to get the gist of most of the goings-on. Franco was very good in his small part. After the performance, he took me to a party with the cast where they spoke broken English to me and I responded in broken Spanish to them. It was a surreal but exhilarating experience. Franco also taught me to salsa dance at the party. It was quite an evening.
Young artists, we were always looking for a project to work on. We played at making movies, music videos, performance pieces. It was the eighties. On one of these projects Franco and I teamed up to put together a film project-an art project that I initiated-set in my Brooklyn apartment. We had a falling out over a video camera that we rented together, a VHS camera rented for the weekend for the filming. A few years later cheap Sony handhelds would have made this a non-issue. C’est la vie. Franco was responsible for getting the camera back when we were done. Resentments arose that were never adequately expressed. To this day I’m still not sure exactly what happened. Money must have been involved, as most fallings out seem to have money at their root, but I couldn’t say exactly how the misunderstanding started or how much money may have been involved. Time passed and he didn’t call me and I didn’t call him. No big deal, at first. And then one day I realized that we hadn’t spoken, or called each other, or returned any calls, for quite a while. And later, we were just no longer friends.
This all happened long before facebook and email and twitter and texting were a part of our lives. There are now more opportunities to at least attempt contact. To try to reconnect. But I fear that is not a possibility in this instance. Friendship is such an elusive thing.