I remember as a young 20 something, going to bars with my buds pretty much every day of the week. I often wonder – first, how the heck on $9/h, I ever afforded that. Second, I have never had much tolerance for copious amounts of alcohol so how did I stomach it? Of course I would have been the driver on at least a couple of those evenings as we were always good at taking turns being DD but still…
As I returned from day 5 of my visits with old pals, I was thinking about the establishments we frequented back in those days. Monday’s at Kelsey’s on Upper James. Tuesday Ladies Night at Tailgate Charlies. Wednesday’s at O’Tooles on Upper James (later Queenston Rd and later yet a name change seen it as Mustang Sally’s), Thursday’s Rockabilies, Friday and Saturday the Texas Border, and on rare occasion Sunday’s at Barranga’s on the Beach depending on the season. Or any of those days in Hess Village at the Scotsman, Gown and Gavel, 33 Hess, or the Lazy Flamingo in the warmer months.
Oh to be young (but not really).
Sunday was the start of of my travels, although this first encounter had to be a virtual trip with my cousin and brother, Florida Mike, living down in Panama City.
Mike has always lived south of the border, but when he lived in the Buffalo area or even along the southern tier of New York State, I was able to see him much more often then every 5 years. I would get off work on a Friday sometimes and just say ‘Hey. I’m coming down.” Sometimes I wouldn’t arrive until 1 in the morning and worry him sick but those were some of the best weekends I had as a young 20 something before he escaped winters to Panama City, Florida.
Mike is an amazing cook and both fed me well and made sure I was well ‘hydrated’ during my visits. He always welcomed me with open arms and met many friends of mine over the years.
We’ve traveled a bit together, enjoyed the bars, the beach, I was honored to be the Best Man in his wedding in a beautiful mountain setting in Friendship, NY., and I have had the pleasure of walking his step children grow from my many visits. Mike is a wonderful husband and step father.
I’m excited to see Mike again and have him part of our special day. I only wish our adventures were not so few and far between though as age beats us down.
Day two of my travels was spent with a guy I’ve been friends with since grade 7, Chris. We’ve made animated videos where I forgot to turn on the camera for the whole shoot, hung out for hours in the art rooms in High School together, played street hockey and football in front of his house, frequented bars, drove around in his shiny Camero, watched hockey played poker, traveled to Buffalo to see a Bills game and south of the border to visit Florida Mike. We have been a constant in each other’s lives that whole time although many months would go by without a word with kids at completely different ages and very different work schedules. We have lived only a couple of city blocks away for almost the entire time we’ve known one another, but have never been good at picking up the phone. I just chalk it up to being dudes.
We stopped by the Endzone for a drink, wings and pizza where we caught up a bit before I asked him to be in my wedding party. Of course there was no hesitation because we’ll do anything for one another.
Tuesday was a bit of a whirlwind as I had set up two separate dates with two more long time friends. Both have really been lifetime friends and in both instances, our moms have been very close for a long, long time.
I met Hamilton Mike at his place but couldn’t stay too long. We spent many months together recently running a mayoral campaign together so it hadn’t been that long since we chatted but long enough after spending that much time together in the latter half of last year.
This visit was special none the less even though it was short because I have looked up to this bloke all of my life. We have come in and out of each other’s lives over the years, but there were countless sleepovers as kids, trips up north camping, an adventure south of the border to Model Search America in my wheezing old Mustang, and both present during major events in our lives being family and all. Since around our mid 20’s, that bond started to grow deeper as we enjoyed hours upon hours of hike time with our dogs talking about changing the world, creative ideas, and a genuine love and appreciation for the other.
Mike is my 2nd cousin but my brother too. I’ve always known he has had my back from being a minor niner about to have my head shaved in high school football, to this very day in the various circumstances we find ourselves in. He boosts me up to everyone he meets and has made me cuz’n Lare to half of the city.
Mike agreed to be my best man.
From there, I hauled my arse to Welland – a bit late but so was the evening as it turned out.
I hadn’t seen Cam in a year or two. Not only does he live in Niagara, but he has a house of 6 at various ages and keeps quite busy being involved in their extra curricular and school activities. His experience would also make him a good school Trustee and we did spend some time talking about education.
Our mother’s had been friends since they were teenagers as life guards and crash test dummies alike at the Municipal (Jimmy Thompson) Pool. We’ve been friends since we were wee lads and too had many sleepovers, boat rides, cruises with buds to Port Dover in Mustangs and Bonnevilles, pool matches, partying with his Rover buds, travelling to dance clubs in the area and over the border, trips to the southern teir in New York State, taking him for his first bus ride in the big city, and so many other great adventures over the years. I am god father to his middle daughter although it’s been awhile since I have seen her.
Cam was also glad to accept being a part of my wedding party.
Thursday was a quick evening and a visit up to the Honest Lawyer on the mountain in my old CB Sterling neighborhood. I wanted to get home to tuck the girls into bed as I don’t usually make plans when I have them, but I was on a mission (or Tara had me one), to get my side of the party figured out by the end of the week.
This was another friend that I have known most of my life. Since we were two and living in the middle of Niagara nowhere. Playing in a sandbox between our houses, our mother’s and father’s very close friends for all this time, our sisters friends and I also think of his sisters as dear friends too. Also many sleepovers, trips south of the border, parties in far off fields, driving around in his Capri or Mustang Cobra, many family gatherings, playing pool in his parents basement listening to their records like Centerfold, Maneater, or some other similar era track. His dad fixed our cars, his mom cut our hair or gave us perms – don’t ask please, and so many more memories.
Ryan and I also don’t see much of one another through our own divorces, busy work and kid schedules, but we are family through our parents and sisters and because through good and bad, we’ve been through too much together to not be friends anymore no matter what happens.
He quickly said yes and we started to make plans to get together soon now that I wasn’t running rampant at two jobs.
Friday had me on a bus to downtown to meet the brides brother, Dave. It had been a long, busy week so I decided hopping on a bus and just relaxing was in order.
We met at the Cat and Fiddle on John Street, and proceeded to indulge a ‘wee’ bit in pints of Labatt 50. I am not sure I have ever seen 50 on tap but it went down a little too good.
Although we had had many drinks together at family functions, this was the first time the two of us had gone out for a few wobbly pops and we certainly made up for lost time. We made friends with various folks who sat beside us – many had recently or at some point, moved to Hamilton from Toronto. A fun band came on later on called Patsy and the Mustache. They played everything from the Hip to … well I don’t know what but they were engaging and had many of us singing at the top of our lungs as we sat around the bar. Or maybe that was just me?
I was home by around 12:30 from the return #2 home, grabbed some za and crashed hard.
Saturday was to be the final stop on the travelling bro show but both a long day at the 50th Annual Hamilton/Halton Wedding Show and a bad winter storm, had me skipping the trip to Brantford and instead, engaging in an hour long chat with Bob, a longtime friend and the 7th member of my wedding party.
Bob and I have been friends since grade 1, lost touch when I changed schools, only to re-connect some time around grade 7 when his family moved to the catchment area of the middle school we both attended. We’ve been to Fenway Park for an outdoor hockey game, south of the border to visit Florida Mike, Montreal, not to mention a camping trip or two or three over the years and attending college together as well. We also go long periods without seeing one another with a fair age gap between our kids and now the Brantford-Hamilton distance between, but Bob is definitely the best of all my friends at keeping in touch with a phone call from time to time. I am also godfather to his cute little guy, Ethan.
So there you have it. My groom’s men and a bit of the connection between us. I’m a lucky guy and not just because of these 7 guys, but the countless friends I’ve been lucky to call friends over the years that will be in attendance at the wedding or whom I have lost touch with for many years but whom played a significant part of my life over the years. They were also my best friends as a kid, as a teen, later in high school and beyond. Girls, guys, and all great people I hope at some point in my life, I’ll see again to share a coffee or a pint and reminisce of old times.
It’s going to be a fun six months with hopefully other events in between the wedding and stag and doe with both the bridal party, and the guys individually.
Time to re-connect with family, friends, and make this a year Tara, myself and our girls won’t soon forget.