I lost a good friend this week.
I’ve known him and his sisters for more than 40 years. We’ve spent countless hours together since we first met in 1978 on our way to see a Bruce Springsteen concert in Syracuse. We tell very few stories while reminiscing about those carefree days that don’t mention his name in some way, shape, or form.
He was part of my “inner circle” of friends. A tight-knit group that neither time nor distance could keep apart. Like many true friendships that develop, you drift in and out of each other’s lives over time. But that doesn’t change your feelings for each other. When you do get together, it’s like time and space has stood still. You are transported instantly back to a time in your lives when these friends were not just part of your life. They were your life.
And then adult life gets in the way.
You stay in touch; you have the occasional BBQ or birthday celebration and you reminisce about the good times. At the end of the evening, you all agree that we must do this more often, but you never do.
That doesn’t mean you don’t care about each other anymore—far from it. It’s just that all those years ago, we were living and enjoying the same life together. We were traveling together, partying and having way too much fun and adventure.
Now we have our own lives and our own families. Unfortunately, you can’t be 24 forever.
Doug was a special person, not just the life of the party, he was the party. He was a huge influence in my life, and if you ever met him, you would never forget him. He was genuine and non-pretentious, treating strangers like friends and friends like family. There wasn’t an evil bone in his body. He was carefree, dangerous and persuasive, with an infectious laugh. And boy, could he make us laugh. He was one of a kind.
The first time I met him was on that Syracuse trip in the fall of 1978. We were driving up with his two sisters and their friend, whom we had picked up in Cortland on the way further north. He was in the student lounge, shooting pool with a friend.
Wearing a T-shirt under a leather jacket. Doug was sporting a flat, Irish driving hat on his head. When introduced, he shook my hand and handed me a beer without uttering a word. I’ll always remember him like that.
Sometime after the concert, we waited outside the arena while he took a quick trip into town, returning with two cases of beer and a couple of pizzas. When he returned, we immediately dove into the pizzas and grabbed a beer by the side of the road.
Just then, one of Springsteen’s tour buses emerged from the parking lot and parked across from us on the other side of the road. Two of Springsteen’s band, Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, leaned out of their windows and called us to bring them some pizza. We all instinctively ran over to the bus to talk to them for a few minutes and brought a few slices with us
When we returned, our beer was gone.
Instead of lamenting our loss (everything was closed after 1 a.m.), my new friend Doug just suggested we go to sleep early and get up at 6 a.m. when the liquor stores reopen.
I’m sad because I lost a friend, but I feel guilty that I didn’t get a chance to tell him how much he meant to me all these years. Friendships like this come along once in a lifetime. If you are lucky enough to have a lifelong “inner circle” of friends, hold them close. Let them know how much their friendship still means to you.
Rest in Peace, my friend. You were one of a kind…
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist (2018, 2020) and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.