“Old friends are the best friends.” It’s a catchphrase I’ve heard for as long as I can remember. But when I was young, it meant nothing to me. And then I grew up—and older. Now, that same cliché means the world to me.
Twenty years ago, I was working as a valet attendant at a nightclub. I’d just started writing and couldn’t have found a better job to fund my new addiction. While I struggled through page after page during the day, I shagged car after car at night for tips. And that’s when I met my friend, Patrick Barry. He was a bar back—which best translates into abused house servant—while he spent his days cutting his teeth as an Indie filmmaker. Young writer and inexperienced movie maker—it was a fated friendship right from the start.
Patrick and I only worked together for a few short years, but it was enough time to cultivate a friendship founded on mutual respect, laughter and a relentless desire to succeed at our chosen crafts. As poor struggling artists, we had nothing to lose and everything to gain. And when you have nothing to lose, there’s no reason to be untruthful about anything. We supported each other’s projects. We laughed away each other’s failures. And we celebrated each other’s successes which, for the record, were very few and far between back then. Bottom line—we became friends; the type of friends that remain connected regardless of time or distance.
I’ll never forget it. It was a warm spring afternoon when I received a random phone call from Patrick. “I’ve finally done it!” he announced, excitedly. “Made it to prison?” I asked. “No,” he said, laughing, “I’ve finally decided to give this filmmaking dream a real shot.” For the next hour, he explained how he’d sold off anything worth selling, emptied his bank account—all six hundred dollars of it—packed up his car and headed to Los Angeles, California. I honestly thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. He’d actually driven west to see what the world held for him beyond the horizon.
Years went by—many of them—and although we kept in touch, we did so through phone calls and emails. While I practiced the art of perseverance through my writing, I was blessed with marriage and children. Patrick, however, remained the bachelor while he drifted from one post-production project after the next. Although his dream had evolved from director to film editor, he’d made it come true and I still feel a great sense of pride for that.
Three years ago, I received another random phone call from Patrick. “Where are you?” he asked. “On Martha’s Vineyard with Paula and the kids,” I told him, “we rented a house for the week.” He laughed. “Do you mind if me and Sylvie take the ferry over? We’re actually on Cape Cod.” I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
Paula and I met Patrick and his new wife at the harbor, not far from where Spielberg had filmed the movie, Jaws (which Patrick immediately reminded me of). There were no handshakes or polite pleasantries exchanged. Instead, we hugged and then laughed at each other’s older—more bloated—appearances.
One day turned into three and it was a time I’ll cherish forever. Paula and I shared our love of the island. On that first day, we took our friends for a stroll down Main Street in Vineyard Haven where shops line both sides of the narrow street––art galleries, candy shops, antiques and collectibles. We visited the mom-and-pop souvenir shops, each one offering scrimshaw jewelry, seashell wind chimes and handmade leather bags. We then walked the two blocks to The Black Dog—the historic and legendary tavern whose world-famous ambassador represented the easy Vineyard way of life—and ate clam cakes and chowder by an empty fireplace. And we talked.
The following day, we visited Oak Bluffs. After visiting the Flying Horses Carousel, the nation’s oldest operating platform carousel, we headed for the gingerbread house colony. With rocking chairs on the front porches, these real-life doll houses—painted in candy cane colors of pink, blue and green—contained miniature gardens behind white picket fences. And as our wives marveled in whispers, we laughed.
On the third day, with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, we traveled further inland until we reached Aquinnah, better known as Gayhead. After browsing the Native Wampanoag’s wares at cliff-top, we headed to the red cliffs and watched the sun set over the turquoise water. And we remained silent.
On the drive back to the ferry, Patrick rambled on about how he’d love to film on location in Martha’s Vineyard, while I was already writing scenes in my head for a future novel (Twelve Months) that would take years to come to life.
After several strong hugs, Patrick and Sylvie boarded the ferry back to the mainland, while I headed back to the house rental. “Old friends are the best friends,” I said aloud, and then questioned why. The answer came to me as clear as the stars that shone above: It’s because old friends know you; they really know you. The time and effort needed to cultivate a true friendship has already been put in. You can talk about anything. You can laugh at each other. And most importantly, you can be in each other’s company—in complete silence—without feeling awkward or compelled to fill the dead air.
As I get older, I find that reconnecting with people from my past is a true blessing. No two lives will travel the same path, but when those paths cross again it really is nice not having to apologize for the time apart.
Steven Manchester is a #1 bestselling author and his novel Pressed Pennies is currently on sale for $1.99. Visit our website to learn more about Steven and his novels.