The Sweet Music of Friendship

Our friendship began in a cinder block suite in the now non-existent Lee Hall at Southeastern Louisiana University. We bonded over bottles of Riunite purchased with small change and shared packs of Virginia Slims menthol cigarettes. I don’t know why but I fell in love with this grumpy New Orleans gymnast in the one semester that we lived together. She teased me trying to apply all my face creams in a drunken stupor. I brought her tea in the morning while she grumbled and groused about having to get up so early. We both had curly hair that frizzed in the Louisiana humidity and huge boobs that accentuated our hourglass figures. And we had no idea where our lives might take us.

One of the gifts of the pandemic was reigniting our friendship on a weekly basis through Zoom. Both of us have been crazy busy with our lives. I chose more of a business path, and Angel chose a stay-at-home Mom life. But with everything locked down, we both had time to schedule long talks. I often wonder why we had the opportunity to meet for such a short time. I was in her first wedding. I’ve visited her at multiple houses, and apartments. She visited me in a short-lived condo in Knoxville. I know her kids, her family and her pets, and she knows my family and all my fur babies. Our friendship has been close and distant but always percolating underneath our daily drama.

Sometime early in the year, she suggested we meet in Chicago for an Allison Kraus and Robert Plant concert. It seemed like it took three years to get here, but I picked her up at O’Hare this past Sunday. She spent a couple days at my house where we tore up Michigan roads – quite literally in one case where the GPS guided us down a muddy, dirt road. My car is covered in mud. We went shopping and hung out for hours upon hours talking and catching up. We took the train to Chicago on Tuesday to spend a couple nights in the city and to hear some beautiful music.

Angel made reservations at the Palmer House Hilton. What a fabulous old Grand Hotel! She treated us to a fancy 2-bedroom suite, and we joked that we’d come a long way from the cinderblock walls of Lee Hall. We ate lavish meals in the fabulous lobby with a Sistine Chapel sort of ceiling. We woke up with the smooth jolt of Lavazza coffee laced with milk. We watched the House of Gucci – me reclined on the velveteen chaise and Angel sprawled across the velveteen antique sofa. The hallway walls featured photos of long-ago musicians who played the Empire Room in the hotel’s heyday. We marveled at the lobby ceiling and furnishings while talking and talking and more talking. We also did a little shopping. Okay… we did a lot of shopping. Between us we purchased a half dozen lipsticks.

The highlight of the trip was the concert. I had seen this celebrity duo in Memphis in an amphitheater on the banks of the Mississippi River a decade or so ago. I attended with my second husband for his birthday, and he complained the entire time about the songs of Led Zeppelin not sounding the same. I finally told him to shut up and realize that Robert Plant had actually grown as an artist and wanted to try new things. It was a great reminder of why I was divorcing him. Change is good. Angel was a much more enthusiastic dance partner. The beautiful Millennium Park with the city of Chicago as an illuminating backdrop was magical.

After two years of being holed up in my house and not attending major events, I forgot how fun it was to people watch. Flowy Bohemian-style dresses and flashy sequined squirts were paired with eccentric hats. At one time I realized that I’d forgotten I could dress up in a rock star costume for a rock star concert. I need to get back on my game! People never stopped walking around and at one point I commented that I wish all these people would sit down. In hindsight I think they were enjoying being seen as much as I enjoyed seeing them. We were joined together to celebrate an oddly-paired, creative couple who cultivate a wonderfully unique musical style. The magic of live music is something I’ve missed a lot. I’m not even sure I knew how much.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a vacation week. I felt loved on and connected to my Louisiana sister. My heart is filled up on good food, soulful music, beautiful surroundings, dreamy coffee and the energy of one of my favorite cities. I dreaded this morning but knew that the end of one visit is only the beginning of another. We chatted about when I might visit her lovely beach house on the ocean in a suburb of Boston.

As I walked away from the Palmer House and the warm embrace of my lifelong friend, the history of our lives flashed across my heart. Our stories and paths are different, but our roots grow deep in the South Louisiana mud. Virginia Slims Menthols aren’t even legal in Angel’s home state. Neither one of us can drink sugary wine. Our southern accents have been dampened by our Northern environments. But when we get together, there is much that is the same. I’m not in a hurry to get there, but I know that one day we will be old ladies chatting of today as a happy memory. I look forward to seeing where we go, what we do and who we do it with. Safe travels, my friend. I’ll see you soon.

4 Comments on “The Sweet Music of Friendship

  1. What a lovely story!! I felt sad that your time together had to end! Happy you’ll be visiting her at her beach house. Sounds like a perfect time!!😊

    • I actually thought of our trip to Bay St. Louis while we were in Chicago. I wore one of the outfits I bought at California Drawstrings!!

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