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I’ve always been pretty good at making friends in school and work, but none of those relationships are as close as the ones that I have with my About Men Radio posse.

As I look back, Pedro and I worked together in two different jobs as did Pedro and Chris.

Chris and I worked together briefly and I was his backup newspaper delivery boy when he went to Disney World with his family. Silvio and Rich also worked together on a neighbor’s food truck.

Oh the stories….

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Chris was the first to get married and moved way upstate. We’d exchange cassette tapes to give him an inkling of what we were doing.

Pedro was the next to take the dive.

Upon his breakup and with no place to go, he called me, and Father John’s chalet was open for him until he was back on his feet.

Pedro may have seen it as me helping him out, but he helped me through the grieving process of losing my dad.

Several years later, I was again cleaning out the apartment for my then-wife.

Joe McNulty, another longtime friend, helped paint and install some phone extensions in the house. Once the apartment was cleared out, my wife then thought it was suitable to move in.

The apartment was then redecorated with most of her things, which she took with her when she left.

What I didn’t realize is that Pedro and the guys would email me, but my wife (now ex-wife) was deleting the emails.

I eventually met Pedro for lunch and we re-connected. After my divorce, Pedro, Rich and I were driving around and I had a million questions of what I had missed over the previous three years.

Surprisingly, not very much.

Back in college hanging out with Pedro, Gary and Rich became relatively the same each weekend.

We’d get into the car and Pedro would say, “Rich, where do you wanna go?”

Rich: “I dunno. John?”

John: “I dunno. Gary?”

Gary would say that since he was driving that we could pick a place. Pedro would usually offer his suggestion, which was fine with us because we didn’t really have anything in mind.

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Years later when we reconnected, it was the same. It felt a bit like “Waiting for Godot.”

Godot never came and I thought in those three years that I missed out on things. Yes, there were moments that I did miss but rejoining the posse felt good.

The same thing happened over 10 years ago when I reached out to Carla, Chris’s then-fiancée, and Pedro and I drove out to Pennsylvania.

Upon seeing Chris, there was a feeling of no passage of time.

The band was finally back together.

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Friends Fill a 14-Year Void in My Life

Men, how many of you have male friends?

I mean close friends — not just co-workers, a brother-in-law or virtual friends on Facebook. And I don’t mean your “bros” with whom you might watch a game once in a while.

I mean flesh-and-blood friends whose numbers you have programmed on your phone and who you could call and rely on to help you out of a jam at 2:30 in the morning?

I bet that most of you can count on one hand – or less — the number of friends who truly qualify.

A recent story in The Telegraph from the UK reported that 11 percent of single men said they had no friends to turn to in a “serious situation” and that figure rose to 15 percent among married men.

Those numbers came from research conducted by the Movember Foundation, which is raising awareness of mental health issues among men.

It’s a stunning statistic but one that I can readily attest to.

I had about a 14-year stretch where my friends from my childhood — truly my only friends — were out of my life.

It was, to borrow a cliché, “just one of those things.”

I had gotten married and moved 300 miles away, and then when I moved closer to my friends, so much time had passed that it felt difficult to pick up their trail. Plus, I was busy raising a family, advancing my career, etc.

You get the picture.

I would pick up morsels of news from my mother, who was still living in my old neighborhood and remained plugged in about whose parents had died, who was working where, etc.

I pined to reconnect but somehow just could not get out of my own way to make it happen.

Then a crazy thing happened: Unbeknownst to me, my then-fiancée connected with Pedro and John by email and arranged for them to make a surprise visit at home.

The night of their arrival, she was acting all kinds of peculiar. I wanted to go to bed early and, she was like: “Don’t you dare! Stay up!”

Meanwhile, she would leave the room and have these furtive phone conversations with the guys, who in keeping with a time-honored tradition, were lost and late.

If memory serves, I think they were supposed to arrive at around 8:30 p.m. and instead showed up at 10:30 p.m.

It could have been 2:30 in the morning and I would have been just as thrilled.

In the years since, my circle of friends and I have made it a point to be in contact and to get together regularly. One of the side benefits of the About Men Radio podcast and website is that it bonds us and allows us to share our feelings for one another in a way that is funny and genuine.

A photo that Carla took of me the night of their surprise visit captured the absolute shock and joy I felt at seeing them as they came up the stairs.

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Doing my best to be an impromptu host, I got out the grill and whipped up barbecue hamburgers and hot dogs, all the while Pedro busted my stones: “What? We come to your house at 10:30 at night and there’s no lobster and filet mignon?”

It was as if nothing had changed and I knew then that a great hole in my life had been filled.

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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.

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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.

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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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‘I Love Them Like Brothers’

​I was deeply unnerved by what I read but I could not deny the truth of it:​​ A significant number of men have no close male friends they can turn to for help or advice.

An article in The Telegraph also suggests making close friends as adults is rare, and for​​ some guys, almost impossible.

Careers, marriages and kids eat into our free time and myriad distractions like television, the Internet and video ​games become substitutes for real, person-to-person, non-virtual social interaction.

Playing Fallout 4 or binging on Netflix during your downtime, rather than​ ​developing new relationships, is just easier. ​

​While 11 percent of single men said they had no friends to turn to in a serious​ situation, that rose to 15 per cent among married men.​

I’m no math wiz but that is 26 percent of adult men who have ZERO male friends to turn to​ ​when they need support.

The harsh reality is that there are some things​ ​a wife or a  mother just can’t help us with.

That brings me to the About Men Posse.

I’ve known Chris, John, Rich and Silvio since we were in grade school and while we​ ​​have occasionally drifted apart for a few years, I know every one of them would be there for me in a crisis.

Let me rephrase that.

Each and every one of them HAS been there for me in a crisis​ ​and they know that I have their back 24/7. ​

At the risk of a being on the receiving end of a merciless roasting from the dirtbags, I will go on record as saying I’m honored to be their friend and I love them like​ ​ ​brothers.

 

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Modern-Day Man and His Lack of Friends

Recently I read an article from the UK on how “2.5 million men have no close friends.”

Fifty percent of them have two or less friends, while 1 in 8 said they have no close friends they could to turn to in times of need.

This really piqued my interest, especially when thinking of my crew from About Men Radio.

We were all friends early in our lives — some of us from grade school and then through high school and college.

After that, many of us went off in different directions to pursue careers, marriages, family, kids, etc.

Twenty-plus years later, we have reunited as a group and have picked up our friendships just where we left off.

What makes this article about us men having few or no close friends really hit home is when I think about how many close male friends I’ve had in the interim.

The friendships are very few and not the lasting friendships like the ones fostered from when we were kids.

So, can I be considered to be part of this group of men that do not have close friends?

It seems that being married and raising a family definitely has limited the time and desire to make lasting friendships with other men.

Now that my kids are older, I have found that I allow myself to foster more male bonding with some work friends and some dads who have kids who are friends with my kids. (It makes it easier.)

Twenty-one years at the same place of employment also helped to allow me to build some good friendships of both men and women, but again nothing like the relationships that I have with the About Men group.

What is it that makes these older relationships stand the test of time while the newer friendships typically fade without much consequence and we can easily live without them?

I will be interested to know what others in my age bracket think and what experiences they’ve had with friendships over the years.

Email us at amr@aboutmenshow.com to share your experiences of friendship.

 

A New Feature: ‘Ask Us Men’!

Introducing a new feature at About Men Radio we call “Ask Us Men.”

The concept is simple and is offered especially as a service to our female listeners and readers:

What do you want explained about inexplicable guy behavior? What questions have you always had but were too afraid to ask? What things about what we do and how we do them just leaves you mystified?

We invite you to raise any topic — no matter how far-ranging or embarrassing.

Why we like porn? Bring it.

Why we don’t open up much emotionally? Sure thing.

Why we are genetically incapable of asking for directions? HEY! Wait a minute! Now that’s crossing a line…!

Anyway, send us your questions, comments and unwanted Halloween candy to amr@aboutmenshow.com or post your questions on our Facebook page.

Enlightenment is only a few keystrokes away!

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Will You Still Need Me? Will You Still Feed me?!?!

Two of the world’s great philosophers have weighed in about getting old.

“Aging is for people who don’t know any better.” — Exercise guru Tony Horton, creator of the P90X workouts

“Getting old sucks. I don’t recommend it.” — My old man

I am rapidly moving toward being a man of a certain age *cough cough* (or should that be *wheeze wheeze*?). That is to say, I am turning 50 in a few months.

Certainly millions of other men have crossed this threshold before me and millions more will after. But there’s something mystical and captivating about 50.

For one thing, at this stage of half a century, you are forced to slow down.

The conversation I sometimes have with my body goes like this: “What do you mean my knee is giving me trouble?” “What the hell? My bedtime is now 10 p.m.?” And, standing in the bathroom at 2 a.m.: “Why is it taking me so damn long to start peeing?”

And with slowing down, comes reflection. I look back at my mistakes (mostly) and then I look forward and start saying: Gee, what DO I want to be when (if) I grow up?

That’s the thing: There is your biological/chronological age and then there’s your emotional age. And in the case of the latter, I’m 17.

I’m 17 and in the hallway at my friend Silvio’s house, celebrating his birthday with my chums, raising glasses of Tom Collins (long before I embraced the virtues of vodka-and-tonics) and pledging to each other that, like Peter Pan, we would never grow up. We promised to never, ever abandon the essence of our 17-year-old selves.

Mission accomplished.

I still celebrate burping with the gusto of a teen, guffaw at stupid jokes and recite random pieces of dialogue from “Airplane!” as if it was from a Shakespearean play.

Still, it’s hard to keep up that kind of frozen-in-Neverland fantasy when you face an uncertain economic future because of the challenges of your career, the certainty that your kids will soon be leaving your daily protective care and the crapshoot of what your health will be like in your even-more advanced years.

And if that dose of reality were not enough, there are these recurring questions: What is my next act? Have I peaked? Is there anything left for me to wring from my professional career or is it all one slow slide from here?

I was recently looking at a CNN.com slide show of celebrities who this year are turning 50. Among them, Russell Crowe. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Does that put me in good company? Do I look younger than Russell Crowe? Does he look older than 50?

True story: I recently visited my old high school for a Career Day presentation. I ran into a classmate who I had not seen since we graduated in 1982. As I looked into his face, I was like: Holy smokes! His hair is white and he’s got these creases in his face. Boy HAS he aged! I suddenly started to feel very smug and better about myself. Until….Wait just a minute here! He’s MY age!

This is the kind of crap that goes through your mind as a man. How do I stack up compared to my peers? How do I stack up against my own benchmarks of success?

Comics have an expression that speaks to the challenge of slaying an audience with your performance vs. bombing on stage: Dying is easy, killing is harder.

In a similar way, I don’t fear my mortality. Dying is easy.

It’s the living between now and my mortality that, dear 50, is a lot harder.