When I moved to Las Vegas I left quite a few friends behind, most of whom I have never seen again and a few I have only seen a few times before finally falling completely out of contact. Jason, Ishmael, Shannon, Toni, Glenda, my friend and trainer Kru Sam along with all the guys I trained with at Team USA, Anthony, John, and a couple dozen other friends and acquaintances. Some were very close friends and confidants who'd been extremely important in my life. I had to move on in order to seek greater opportunities and to grow and because frankly, San Francisco was dangerous for me. There was no possible way for me to be a good husband and father in San Francisco. The temptations were far too great and the women were far too easy.
I have seldom regretted my decision to leave. It is doubtable that I would have had any of the experiences I now cherish had I stayed and even more doubtable that I would have been able to provide for my family in the manner I am now able to if I were still struggling in SF. My only regrets are the friends I have left behind in California.
I have recently reconnected with one of my closest and oldest friends and I could not be happier. He has been like a brother to me for more than fifteen years. Yet, at the same time one of my oldest friends in Las Vegas is moving to Texas on Tuesday. In addition to that, one of my closest friends and the most successful fighter I train will probably never fight again and if he does I will most likely not be in his corner, which puts big doubts in my head as to whether our friendship will continue.
I know how it goes when you go through something life changing like retiring from the ring. Often, you don't want anything around you to remind you of what you used to be or could have become. There is also the fact that much of our friendship revolved around fighting and I may simply become unnecessary in his life now. No hard feelings. I've been there myself before.
When I retired from the ring six years ago, many of my closest friends disappeared. Guys who I'd helped to train, who had bled and sweat with me, who I'd travelled with, who had been to my home, played with my kids, ate at my table, now, did not even bother to call. In fact, to this day I am no longer close with any of the friends I made in the gym back when I was still fighting. That's how it goes. I understand that now. Still, it sucks.
Before that I'd had friends that had been extremely close to me who simply left town. Las Vegas is, after all, a very transient town. My first close friend in Vegas, Maurice, moved back to Ohio after losing a couple of fights. I've never seen him again and he and I were once inseparable. Next, my friend Mike moved back to Alabama. He and I stayed in touch for a little while and he even came out to visit me once or twice before we eventually fell out of contact with one another about six years ago. Then my friend Roger, who I lifted weights with and ran with in the park on the weekends and partied with, moved to Colorado. I have really not had a male friend that close to me since he left.
It goes all the way back to when I first left Philadelphia, I tried very hard to keep parts of Philly with me. I did, in fact, move to LA with a girl I started dating back in Philly. Rene'. I still miss her, truth be told. We fell out of touch several times after we separated, the last time being when I moved to Las Vegas and she called to speak with me just before I left San Fransisco. My ex-wife did not give me the message until a year later; a message with no phone number attached.
I even tried bringing some of my friends from Philadelphia out to California with me. I brought my friend Jason (aka Atheist) to stay with me. He and I had been homeless together while hanging out on South Street in Philadelphia as part of the Philly Punk/Hardcore scene. I couldn't deal with him living like he was still homeless in my apartment and eventually the filth got to be too much and I had to ask him to leave. We remained friends and we were even roommates again for a brief time before I moved in with the woman who became my ex-wife. Then we lost touch and I have never seen him again.
My closest friend from childhood, Rick, even came out to stay with me. He was living in London at the time and had gotten into some kind of trouble so I sent him a ticket to fly back to America and gave him a place to stay. He disappeared two days later and I haven't seen him since.
Recently, the woman who had been my closest friends since I was 29 got married. I did too so I can't blame it all on her. Since we had been in love with each other for many years, our friendship just could not continue with both of us now married. So, another friendship came to an end. I doubt whether she will remain in Las Vegas or whether we will ever speak again. Another one bites the dust.
In the end, it all comes down to family. My mother, my grandmother, my wife, my children. These are the only friends I can always count on. They are the only ones who will always be with me. Until, one day, I have to say goodbye to them too in some solemn graveyard or by my own bedside as I breathe my last breath. Then, I will loose them too.
It is easy to understand why there is such a powerful human longing for God and an afterlife where we are reunited with all of our loved ones. It must be an amazing comfort even if it is an illusion. Santa Clause is an illusion too, but yet for a child, few things can compare to the wonder and joy and magic of Christmas. God is the friend who does not move away, who you don't loose contact with, who you don't grow apart from, who doesn't die. Every bit as comforting and reliable as Santa Clause on Christmas morning but for the believer, Christmas lasts all year long all day long. But just as we outgrew Santa Clause and had to face the reality that Mom and Dad were the only magic on Christmas morning, I think mankind will have to grow up too and face the fact that we, each other, your fellow humans, are the only magic in our lives.
We have to learn to deal with the losses and the disappointments like adults. We have to learn to accept that things change and embrace that by continuing to look for new friends, by expanding our definitions of family, and by accepting death and loss as an inevitable consequence of living and not trying to hide from it behind imaginary friends. That old axiom, "It is better to have loved and loss than to never have loved at all." is a truism. It is better. Every friend who has come into my life has enriched it and even if I never see any of them again, I would not trade a minute of my time with any of them. It is hard to say goodbye, so I will simply say, farewell. I wish you all good luck on your journeys and all the happiness and success due to you and maybe even a little more that you don't deserve. I hope to see you all again some day, but if our paths never cross again, I will keep your memories always and you will all be there with me on the day I finally leave you.