Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dear Barry

Dear Barry Manilow,
Last night, my best friend from 9th grade showed me letters that we had written to you 29 years ago. As young, innocent girls we had sat with pencil and paper and poured our hearts out onto wide-ruled lined paper and asked for you to be "our buddy". We were two sweet girls who met in 1979 while walking home from school. It wasn't too long after we met that we discovered we were both crazy about you. At that time, being a Barry Manilow fan wasn't as cool as it is now. Most of our peers were into Led Zepplin, The Doors, or The Boss and when we talked about Barry Manilow it wasn't very popular. Fortunately, we were adorable, so people forgave us for being Fanilows. We went to see you, Barry, on two occasions--at the Greek Theater and at the Hollywood Bowl--and we joined the BMIFC (Barry Manilow International Fan Club).
When we met last night it was to attend the Ultimate Manilow Benefit Concert at the Hollywood Bowl. It was an event to raise money for the Los Angeles Unified School District to help keep music in the schools. Honestly, we would have gone if it was to keep Botox in Beauty Queens--we were going to see Barry, and each other. My friend and I had the chance to meet after not having seen one another for over 20 years. We never had a falling out, what happened with us was very common--we drifted our separate ways. We slowly drifted apart from one another and toward other people and other lives. When we found one another on Facebook, it was such a blessing to me to see her beautiful face and to be able comment on the pictures of her adorable family. I really didn't think it would go further than that.
Then one day while "facebook-stalking" half the class of 1983, I saw an add for the concert to see YOU--Barry Manilow! I knew immediately that I wanted to go and I wanted to go with my friend who had shared that love for you so long ago. I posted a note on her Facebook wall and asked her if she would want to go.
Now, for most people this wouldn't be a big deal. For me, this was huge. Almost immediately after I posted it I was scared beyond belief. For some reason, over the years I have been developing and at the same time fighting against a feeling of social awkwardness. Being in certain social situations makes me a little uncomfortable--ironically, if I am holding a microphone I am completely at ease. I probably need psychotherapy, but, seriously, I already can't afford to get dental work, which I need worse, so I'll have to settle for being a little weird.
After she accepted and the details began to unfold and the date was crawling closer on the calendar, I would start to feel a little nauseous at the prospect of what it might be like. All of the "what if's " would begin to cloud my mind. The morning of the concert I couldn't even feel excitement because I was so nervous that it would be awkward. I was trying on different outfits when my son's sweet girlfriend said to me, "Is it ever as awkward as you think it is going to be?" I didn't answer her, I just pretended that I wasn't listening. I simply went along with my preparations and attended to the voices in my head.
Driving to the restaurant, listening to your songs, Barry, relaxed me and I gently kept reminding myself that like the predictability of your songs this would be a predicable story and like most predictable stories this one would have a happy ending where there was no feeling of isolation--but one of acceptance and joy.
Little did I ever think it would go beyond my expectations. She was always special and unique as a girl, but as a woman, she is even more amazing. I am just as much in awe of her today as I was when I first met her 30 years ago. The fact that I ever allowed this young woman to drift away is enough evidence to prove the case that I was an idiot as a teenager. She is unlike so many people in the world today. She is sensitive and artistic and confident beyond her years. I cannot believe that she was wise enough to save letters that we had written so long ago. The words that we wrote to you were so sincere and it is such a blessing to see how much you meant to us. We had so much faith in the world and in ourselves. We were so brave in our belief that if we wrote to you asked to be your friend, that naturally, you would consider us "a buddy".
We met for dinner and then drove together to the Bowl for the concert and while it was only a mile and a half and we had a GPS--we managed to get lost and had to turn around a couple times and then landed in the wrong parking lot. The attendant must have recognized us as your "buddies" though because he broke traffic laws and allowed us to drive the wrong way in the middle of traffic to get to the correct parking lot. The men at the gate let us park at the front door and as we jumped out of the car we could hear you were already singing. That voice! That very familiar voice was calling out to us! We ran up the hill and around the Bowl to get in. It was an amazing moment. We were running along the walkway, looking at you on the stage, singing along as you belted out "Even Now" and we were holding hands. The wind was blowing in my face and I had tears in my eyes. I felt 15 all over again. I felt time go backwards and your words were all fresh! Each lyric that I have sung a million times was new in that moment. Holding her hand and running along backwards in time to a place where neither of us had been to a mortuary to bury a parent or pick out a coffin for our child. We were running back to a time before divorce and disappointment. Before loss had taught us the true meaning of all those songs we had sung in our innocence. We had no idea of the heartache that life was going to show us and the individual pain that we would face. We ran back to a time when we didn't know the depth of the meaning to the words we knew so well. And it was beautiful. We sang every song and we hugged one another the entire concert. I felt myself holding onto to her as if it would change the course of the past. Maybe, if I held on tight enough I could stop the drifting apart that happened so long ago. Maybe I could alter the past with out destroying the beauty of the present. Isn't that possible?
But, sadly, eventually, Barry, you sang your last song. The lights came up and the orchestra filed off the stage. 1980 was gone. We said our goodbyes and confirmed plans for a lunch in a couple weeks. But, next time it will be without you, sweet Barry Manilow, and we will have to move through the emotions on our own.
It's been a long time since we first wrote to you and made that "friend request" and so much has changed in that time. We are older and as we have moved through time we've learned that friendship is something to be cherished, that no one can be taken for granted and that life is too short to allow anyone to drift away. As for me, I am questioning everything that I have accepted as status quo and I'm learning every day to say "Yes" without fear.
So, dear Barry, I have to ask. Will you be our friend? Will you be our buddy?