Tag Archives: friendship

Getting by With a Little Help From Our Friends

It is not every day that the entire About Men Radio posse gets together.

In fact, it took a bit of carbon-dating to determine that the last time Silvio, Rich,  Pedro, John and I were all in the same room together was 1985!

It is almost hard to believe that it has been that long and that so much time has gone by in what feels like an instant.

To celebrate the occasion, we got together and memorialized our thoughts about our enduring friendship and its origins in a free-wheeling but sincere conversation presented to you here in this podcast.

The talk was revealing in how much Silvio can remember from yesteryear, how tenderly we feel about each other (please read that carefully as I did NOT say we felt each other tenderly) and what these connections mean to us as middle-aged men looking down the long barrel of families, careers and other pressures.

What the conversation underscores is the importance of having and maintaining these kinds of connections into male adulthood.

What are your friendships like and what do you do to nurture them? Tell us your story in our comments section on our website, on our Facebook page or write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com

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Friendships That Endured Through Moves and Time

In my youth, going out after school down the block or to the park was where we met up with our friends. Even kids we just met, after a spirited game of war, or tag or anything else, those new acquaintances became friends.

Through my childhood years, I migrated back and forth between the Bronx and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Each of these moves usually had us staying a year or two in a city before packing up and moving back.

This happened a few times during my school years. So I would harvest a circle of friends and then leave them to start anew.

My earliest friends I have pretty much forgotten by name. I remember some activities and a few kids from the block, but nobody that I would contact today.

But in one of my returns to the Bronx, I met a group of guys that I would never forget.

Our moves were always disruptive of the school year.

With the switch from southern to northern hemispheres and of seasons, a migration to the United States usually meant coming in the middle of a grade and being that kid that was introduced to the class as “… joining us from Argentina.”

In sixth grade at PS 36, I did not make any enduring school friends.

Instead I met a kid from around the block who happened to go to the same school but we never interacted there much.

Anyway, Rich and I hit it off pretty well, sharing a love for comic books, Legos, science fiction and classic horror. These similarities bonded us as friends despite being polar opposites in our baseball love. (He is a rabid Mets fan and I am a diehard Yankees fan.)

Regardless, our friendship grew.

We played pickup softball at the schoolyard, sometimes just him and me hitting and catching for what seemed like glorious hours days on end.

When we weren’t outside, it was games, comics and pool — he had a great pool table in his family room. We battled constantly at 8-ball, with him besting me probably 85 percent of the time.

When the next school year started, I went to a Catholic school that was two parishes away from home.

On Day One, the kids in the yard lining up by grade all knew each other.

This was seventh grade and many of these kids knew each other from kindergarten at St. Raymond’s. I had left all of those early friends behind after several relocations, and my friend Rich was at a different public school.

So I scanned the faces for another guy who also looked new. I found him: Pedro. We chatted briefly and said maybe we would get lucky enough to end up in the same class. We did.

Once we were in our class and lined up again, I was standing behind a flattop-haired kid, taller than me and with a jacket with Boy Scout patches. Having enjoyed my Cub Scout years, I tapped his shoulder and asked him about his troop and patches.

We hit it off and Chris and I became friends. He later introduced me to his longtime friend John and a new kid he met that also lived nearby in his neighborhood: Pedro!

We became close friends and I was fortunate to spend some after-school days with them, but my neighborhood was about 14 blocks away, so my after-school days were spent more with Rich.

Through birthday parties and other gatherings at home I introduced both groups and we became five best friends.


After two full school years I once again whisked off down south, starting high school in Argentina.

Two years later we once again returned.

This time though I had kept in touch with my “bros.” The long-distance friendship back then was through letters, cards and packages. Phone calls were prohibitively expensive and, of course, no one knew what an Internet was yet.

We traded letters, books, photos and cassette tapes. I wish I kept one of those. I still remember the one where Chris recorded latest hits off the radio and had everyone, including his sister and mom, talk up a song. I know I played that tape incessantly

When I returned, and with heavy long-distance help from Chris, I was able to attend the same Catholic high school as John, Pedro and Chris. Rich was at the Bronx High School of Science.

We all again went our separate ways to college, but we were all still in New York City, so again we did everything together, until again I departed.

This time it was of my own accord, testing out my future plans in my native Argentina. Since conscription was still a thing then, I had to complete a year in the Army there.

But the country was still in disarray after regaining democracy, and it stood on the verge of a takeover at any time (two failed coups did occur), so once again I returned to the United States.

Together with my new wife, we moved south again, but this time staying in the northern hemisphere and landing in Orlando, Fla. It would be 16 years before I got back together with the gang.

I located each of my AMR pals and connected through Facebook.

This led to a reintegration with a group of guys with whom I shared so many experiences and an online gathering space allowed us to catch up.

After a while, it’s as if we never went our separate ways.


Although it’s been harder for me to meet up, I have taken full advantage of trips made to reconnect with one friend at a time or the group as we did for an elementary school reunion.

Now we share our anecdotes in our writings and podcasts. I look forward to those like a kid waiting for Santa.

And this week there will be a full reunion of the original AMR boys in a visit to sunny Florida.

I am so thankful for my friends, the real ones with whom I have shared a childhood and early adulthood.

I now look forward to those middle-age memories still to come. I don’t want to call it a bucket list, but when we get to those formative years, I hope I will still have these AMR brothers to share them with.


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Pedal Power Fuels Friendships

If you want to gauge who your true friends are, come up with a ridiculous idea for an adventure that requires five hours of driving (one way) to visit an attraction for 90 minutes and then see how many of your buddies raise their hands.

In my case, it was a perfect score: Three out of three.

That says three things about my friends: They are committed to maintaining and keeping alive connections among us that date back 40 years. They are giving of themselves. And they’re completely nuts.

Last fall, I convinced two of my buds to come with me to Minnesota to drive a tank at a place cleverly called Drive A Tank.

This fall, it was the (railroad) ties that bind.

I read a story in The New York Times about this rail biking adventure in my former stomping grounds in Saranac Lake and Lake Clear, N.Y.

Rail Explorers puts you on open-air cars the deep red color of Radio Flyers that are equipped with seats, safety belts and pedals. The cars can accommodate from one to four passengers.

The premise is simple: You pedal six miles along a section of an old rail line through the Adirondack wilderness, passing lakes, ponds and woodlands during the fall foliage.

Now picture four middle-aged guys on one of these contraptions. We were not exactly the “Fast and Furious.” More like the “Evenly Paced and Moderately Angry.”

That said, we did reach downhill speeds of about 20 mph (nowhere near the sound-barrier-smashing speed of 516.7 mph Pedro and I achieved in our feat of derring-do on the Olympic bobsled run in Lake Placid).

Rail bikes like the ones we rode have been operating in South Korea for about 10 years, according to Alex Catchpoole, the owner/managing director of Rail Explorers.

The ones in the Adirondacks mark the first operation to bring these specially engineered and designed vehicles outside of South Korea, he said.

Since its start in July, the company has hosted 10,000 riders.

It’s easy to see why: The scenery is magnificent and you get to easily access parts of the woodlands that ordinarily would require you to hike.

The big question we faced before we got to Rail Explorers was whether two of the About Men Radio crew – Rich and John – were going to make it on time.

Pedro and I drove up the night before and stayed at a hotel. But Rich and John were going to have to get up at zero-dark-thirty to drive five hours to make our 11:30 a.m. start time.

Not only were they on time, but John – aka “Mannix” – got them there early! (Talk about pedal power! He applied it to both his car AND the rail bike!)

The outing was a chance to enjoy a glorious day in the breathtaking outdoors of the Adirondacks. We also enjoyed a delicious homemade lunch overlooking the lake at the Lake Clear Lodge and Retreat courtesy of Ernest and Cathy Hohmeyer.

But more important, it was a day punctuated by ceaseless chop-busting, laughter bordering on tears and great company.

I got a chance to spend five hours in a car with Pedro heading north and got caught up on things in his life, and then five hours back with Rich catching up on things in his life.

For busy career guys/dads/husbands, this was important time we had together.

Much the same way we enjoyed the rail biking from Lake Clear to Saranac Lake, this trip was not about reaching our destination, but very much about the journey.

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AMR 12: Friends Can Be Hard To Come By

It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.

– Marlene Dietrich

The passing of Leonard Nimoy was felt strongly by all of us here at About Men Radio and our thoughts go out to his family and friends. It appears that even in death Mr. Nimoy and his co-star on the legendary science fiction TV classic Star Trek, William Shatner, will be inexorably linked.

That decades long friendship, forged when both men were adults, sparked this week’s podcast discussion between Chris and Pedro.

Are male friendships challenging to form and maintain as adults? What makes these bonds strong and why are they so important?

Several studies show that having close friends makes men happier and live longer but  as men get older it may be more difficult for us to cultivate the type of emotional relationships we did when we were younger.

The members of the AMR posse have been close friends since our middle-school years but would it be as intimate a friendship if we’d met much later in life?

As usual, the conversation is frank, funny and deeply insightful.

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True Friends Help You Drive A Tank

More than a year ago, I had read of a place called Drive A Tank.

At this “tank camp” in Kasota, Minn., (its motto: “History. Power. Tanks.”) you can channel your inner Patton, Rommel, or more likely in my case,  Dukakis.

Powerful rumbling machines that can obliterate whatever’s in their path? A chance to do something completely different? And a memorable way to celebrate my 50th birthday with my childhood chums?

Thus a scheme was born.

For well over a year, I saved and plotted, luring my friends into this indulgence. John and Pedro were daft enough to agree to my Walter Mitty adventure.

To get in the proper tank-driving mood, we visited the mammoth Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., to catch the World War II tank drama “Fury” starring Brad Pitt.

The movie was gritty, violent and realistic, and watching it gave me renewed appreciation for our men and women of the military, and especially those who are so-called “tankers.”

The next morning, we drove an hour south, the flat farmlands of Minnesota punctuated occasionally by a roadside stand or a nature preserve.

Inspired by the movie the night before, we spent part of the trip brainstorming nicknames for ourselves: I was “Bushmeat,” (don’t ask); Pedro was “Gas Can” (really don’t ask) and John was the ever-fear-inspiring “Butter Sauce” because, John, like butter sauce, is addictive and bad for your health!

We got to DAT, which is headquartered at a former quarry, and, unexpectedly, is separated only by railroad tracks from a residential neighborhood.

In keeping with the spirit of the trip, John bought each of us camo shirts. Silly? Yes. Dorky? Yes. In keeping with our fashion sensibilities? 100 percent.

Upon seeing a photo of the three of us in these shirts, Pedro dubbed us the “Menudo of Macho”!

We had an hour-long history and safety orientation that was both alarming — we were told these were not Disney World rides, that these were killing machines and we would die indescribably horrible deaths if we did not follow instructions — and illuminating about the history of tanks.

After the safety session we were divided into two groups: Those who would drive a tank first and those who would fire machine guns first.

As part of my booking of the “4-Star General Package,” I got to fire a Sten machine gun (that was cool); a 1919 belt-fed machine gun (which was crazy) but the mother of them all was the M4, which had such recoil that it damn near put me on my butt!

Then we piled into an enclosed 5-ton Army transport truck, which drove us to a concrete barrier-enclosed pen that served as the starting place for the tank driving.

We waited as other drivers and their passengers went first. Seeing “my ride” — an FV433 Abbot SPG  — was bit of a holy Moses moment.

With its squeaky, rattling treads and stout turret, the Abbot was more compact than I imagined but no less fearsome.

I watched as other drivers climbed a ladder to reach the top of the tank, which drove off in a plume of dust. Then a DAT staffer with a clipboard called out my name. My moment of glory! To drive a tank!

I lowered myself into a narrow hatch into the controls of the Abbot (top speed of 29 mph).

Pedro and John were passengers in the rear. Like gophers, our heads stuck out from just the tops of the hatches.

For the record, the artillery function on the tanks was disabled so there was no chance of blowing things up. Just the same, I was warned not to press any buttons on the control panels.

A tank “commander” (a staffer of DAT) rode atop the tank offering me instructions. Essentially, the controls consisted of a gas pedal and two sticks that you used to steer and to brake.

Want to steer left? Pull the left stick toward you. It effectively caused that side’s tread to brake so the tank would pull in the direction you wanted to go.

And off we went for about 12 minutes on an unpaved path, through a small water obstacle and back to our starting point. It was exhilarating to hear this machine snort and chug under my control!

Next was an FV432 APC (armored personnel carrier) with a top speed of 32 mph. I drove this one in “combat mode,” which meant I lowered myself into a narrow portal, with the hatch closed and my view was through a periscope!

It was hot, noisy and claustrophobic in there.

Pedro and John again were passengers, but they were enclosed in what amounted to a darkened vault in the rear of the vehicle. The guys said I drove this one much more smoothly than the first.

I have to say it was challenging to drive one of these vehicles in peacetime under optimal conditions. I cannot even imagine what it is like operating these machines in chaotic combat situations.

So I learned how to drive a tank. But the more enduring lesson I learned was about the importance of having best friends willing (and crazy enough) to help you fulfill your dreams!

About Friends: Checking One Off The Old Bucket List

Most of the AMR crew reached the half-century mark this year and Chris, the baby of the group, wanted to welcome his 50th year on this bright, blue marble in spectacular fashion. His pitch? Let’s ride a tank!

Well, El Kaiser abides… and so does Father John.

This video gives you a small taste of the fun we had playing tank commander in the wilds of Kasota, Minnesota. No one was hurt and despite the obstructed view you can plainly see the happiness on Chris’s face making him appear decades younger.

Turns out he was also piloting a time machine.

Friendship Forged With Ketchup and Cameras

Some friendships are forged in pick-up games of basketball, neighborhood games of stickball or friendly games of tag.

Mine were cemented in crime scene photos.

I was about 13 and active in Boy Scouts. I was a mere Webelo at the time and we had to do some kind of photo essay for a photography skill award.

Or maybe I’m ascribing all of what I’m about to describe to the Scouts and I was just a goofy, demented kid with too much time on his hands.

Anyway, the idea was that each photo would depict some scene and all the frames in sequence would collectively tell a story.

So, naturally, I chose something that would involve guns, drugs and suicide. See previous comment about being a demented kid.

At the time, I was fascinated by all things cops on TV (“Adam-12”, “The Rookies”, “S.W.A.T.”), so I thought it would be cool to re-enact some kind of crime scene and photograph it.

Over time, my friends and I ended up doing three different kinds of photo essays (one of which involved ketchup for blood after the perp gets “shot”).

Another called for my friend John and I to portray drug dealers who flee the cops and then get arrested as they draw down on us.

In these dramatic photos, (see attached) John and I (in the black jacket) complete a drug exchange (note the paper bag) while Pedro and Jimmy keep us under surveillance and then bravely rid the streets of filth like us.

Cue dramatic music. Roll credits.

But my true Cecil B. DeMille moment came weeks later when I decided we would stage a drug-addled, suicidal John standing just inside a bedroom window of my family’s third-floor apartment.

We took the window screen off for dramatic effect. And, oh yeah, the window was open. Wide open.

But we needed a cop. Someone who projected authority and sympathy and who could be seen as realistically trying to talk John out of jumping.

So we befriended the new guy at school.

Enter Pedro.

I don’t think he could have been there more than a week when we broached him with this half-baked idea.

And, in a display of the kind of white-hot intellect that only 13-year-old boys are capable of, Pedro said: Sure!

Somewhere I have photos of Pedro wearing a cop-like windbreaker, hands outstretched, pleading with John to come back from the ledge.

And there’s John, looking back – eyes glassy and his hair disheveled, looking strung out from drugs. (We used my acne medication as a prop in one of the photos.)

Sadly, Detective Pedro fails and John “jumps” from the third-story window. I shot a photo from out the window of John sprawled on the sidewalk below – SPLAT! – with a squirt of ketchup near his head.
Translated from Spanish, Pedro would later tell his mom that day: “I guess that’s just how white kids play, mom.”

Fast-forward nearly 40 years.

The photos have faded but the bonds of friendship – and the over-the-top sense of adventure – have endured and remain as bright as ever.

P.S.: Did I mention that Pedro and I recently went on an Olympic bobsled ride at speeds of up to 60 mph?