Even to pessimistic Russian Jews who grew up in Australia, where we don’t talk about what’s wrong (and chin up have a beer, mate) that have resettled in the temperate climes of Malibu, a paradise where it is acceptable to have problems but only if they’re serious. It is unseemly to complain about ‘the help’ for example. Or that one has to wait a full three months for the new Mercedes (it’s on back order, plus it’s getting customized.) This is not Beverly Hills, after all, and wealth here is necessarily understated, and kept on the ‘down low.’ The engagement ring might be big, but when paired with Ugg boots or flip-flops not quite as obnoxious.
It is not de rigeur to talk about friends or more whom one has loved and lost, the shambles of life we have all accumulated at a certain age, the people who have come and gone, who have made us what we are. We are lucky enough to live here, let’s not waste time worrying about stupid things, is the subtext of every conversation in the ‘Bu. The Pacific Ocean is not to be sneezed at (unless one has allergies, then it’s acceptable until someone well-meaning hands you the remedy Hystaminum Hydrochloricum.) We have first world problems and we are supposed to know it.
I have rarely discussed with my friends here, that ten years ago, one of my best friends from teenage-hood in Melbourne, came to Los Angeles to stay at our condo, then in Marina del Rey. She bunked down on the couch in our loft apartment, but that was not the problem. The problem was that by the end of her trip immaturity, selfishness and a cavalier attitude to long-term friendship had ended ours. And while she had a part in it, most of the blame for the behavior could be squarely laid at my doorstep on the welcome mat of said condo, like one of those pranks where someone lights a piece of shit in a paper bag and then runs away.
I wasn’t an asshole from the start; I was happy to see her- we had shared countless drug-fuelled memories, but also many (sober) others. Simple times outdoors (despite my crippling Melbourne allergies, since we’re on the subject, that disappeared in Malibu) pursuing her passions- gardening, art and nature. And indoors pursuing my passions- boys, alcohol and music; the last of which united us both. We were hippies in the eighties, and in the nineties we were both determined to be simply “individuals” we had mutual best friends, but our relationship was unique and we understood each other completely.
But as with any friendship there were skeletons and ghosts to step over, avoid and ignore. We had not lived in the same country for five years already, and all friendships are at some point strained by distance. She had not been able to make it to our wedding in L.A. in 2000 and I was holding a grudge for that which I’d never bothered to address. Doubtless I had done other things to piss her off over the course of our friendship that she chose not to bring up, I was in my twenties after all and nothing if not self-absorbed, melodramatic and unconsciously manipulative. Thank G-d I’m totally not like that now…
I will spare you the boring/gory details, because rehashing old drama is, as I’ve explained, unseemly when gazing at waves and hearing their comforting sighs. Suffice to say that the friendship was strained past its seams, and neither of us held out much hope for it.
Except I did. Because even as other mutual besties wrote her off, I sent this particular friend a birthday email EVERY YEAR for the last ten years (except last year when I got pissed off at the lack of response and refused to send one.) But something made me continue. Initially there were stingy apologies, then more heartfelt ones, and then the yearly email simply became a greeting, a gentle entreaty to consider having each other in our lives again.
A few years ago when I was visiting Melbourne I wrote my old friend a card with a rather more generous apology and bought her a Himalayan salt lamp, thinking it might help the negative energy between us. I entrusted my father with delivering it after I went back to the States, instructing him to drop it off where I knew she worked.
Of course the next time I came to Melbourne the whole package was still in the closet in my parents’ house. My father said he couldn’t find her. (He managed to get out of the old Soviet Union but apparently he wasn’t resourceful enough to Google.)
So I got pissed off and thought she’ll never respond anyway, and ripped up the card and brought the lamp back to LA. (It was heavy!) I had it in my office for a while, then in the spare room, which we call the “peace and love room” because I have Beatles posters there, plus a couple of Peter Maxes. Needless to say it reminded me of my friend and my hippie years, and I never once looked at it without knowing it was “Her Lamp.”
Recently a friend who is a single mom with four kids in Malibu schools found out she has stage 4 cancer. Lots of people on our community have provided her with lots of practical help which has been beautiful to see… Anyway I worry about this woman, and her kids, and she is into spiritual cures, so I gave her a small Kabbalah book the Pinchas, for healing. She’s not Jewish but she asked for another one so we passed along the big one, the original volume 11 of the Zohar from my Hebrew/Aramaic set. The idea is to keep it open in your room, or when you have any medical procedures.
Three weeks ago, (a few days before the accident) I found a US electric adaptor and gave my mom friend Her salt lamp after hauling it around in my trunk for a good two weeks first, of course. She was very appreciative, and I felt so good that it was going to be put to good use. A few days later, I emailed my old friend a birthday greeting, but perhaps for first time, truly without expectation.
A few hours later I got an email back! She wrote that she found my tenacity astounding, and that she’s a parent now, and these things had melted her reserve. We have been in touch. She has a son! I have sons. Once again my native pessimism has been spectacularly overturned. Fate is an incredible thing. And I pray that the miracle of our renewed friendship, extends to our community’s sick friend, who could use a miracle just about now…