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The Gray Line Tour

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / August 10, 1998

This week, I phoned an old friend of mine to wish him a happy birthday. Hejust turned 45 and is three months older than I am. We’ve been friendssince we were 8 years old.

When two people have been friends for so long, one gets into a certain comfortable routine. It’s not a friendship which requires highmaintenance, for instance. We don’t have to see each other once a week orphone every other day. We often go for months at a time without anycontact whatsoever, despite the fact that he lives in New Orleans East, which is really not that far away.

To be sure, with a friendship that long, we have many memories together.

Once, in fourth grade, he brought a train-set switch to school and told me at recess he could make rain. He turned it on. It rained. He’s never ceasedto impress me.

On my very first Boy Scout camping trip, he and I shared a tent and he had an appendicitis attack in the middle of the night. This was also the samecamping trip where I learned how NOT to cook a hamburger over an open fire. Let’s just say virtually-raw hamburger meat is not particularlyappetizing.

I remember him at Camp Salmen during summer camp one year, doing the mile swim. To me, it was amazing that a guy as young as he was actuallyswam for a full mile, back and forth along the length of the camp’s pool. Itwas also the same pool where I amazed his dad by jumping into the pool, knowing full well I could not swim a stroke, because I was told to as part of our swimming-skill evaluation.

I told the counselor I could not swim at all and, when I came up for air, he should grab me and pull me out. I jumped in, went straight to the bottom,bobbed up and was rescued. I still can’t swim very well but I’m not afraidof trying.

We went out on double dates and during college hung out with a group of people who have since splintered to the winds. Not he and I.He would sometimes visit me at college (I was at LSU and he was at UNO), and we’d talk long into the night.

He was my best man at my wedding, and I trusted him not only to protect my car from the usual shoe-polish “vandalism” but also to keep an eye out for one of my former girlfriends, in case she showed up.

We exchange birthday and Christmas gifts every year and spend perhaps a total of 30 hours per year together, all told. I have other friends, to besure. One couple in Texas has even honored me and my wife by making usgodparents to their children, a responsibility I take very seriously.

However, this guy is my oldest friend. We’re comfortable around eachother, even after a long absence. Few people appear to understand how oreven why we’ve remained friends after more than 30 years. To me, it’seasy. I value him, and I’ve always believed he’s valued me.And isn’t that what’s important?

Leonard Gray is a reporter for L’Observateur.

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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