“Say Guatemala one more %@*$ time.” Valerie was staring at me from across the couch, crab rangoon poised perfected between her thumb and pinky like a weapon.
“But…” I stumbled, spilling some whiskey on my pink duvet, a christening of sorts as far as Valerie was concerned.
“No…No, I dare you. Say Guatemala ONE. MORE. TIME.” She looked fierce, but in the way that meant “I love you, and I WILL murder you if you don’t get your shit together immediately.”
I had been waxing poetic about the way that my ex-boyfriend could have, should have, might have, and…frankly probably never would have, turned his life around in Guatemala, if only he was given “the chance”. Valerie, or “Valerina” as I had dubbed her in the 7th grade, was hearing none of it. She had given me the obligatory 1-2 months to mourn my breakup, and now it was time for heavy drinking and Thai 9, straight out of the container. She was right, of course. She’s always right.
Especially about the fried rice.
I spent months thinking “for Valerie’s big 3-0, I’ll write her a special blog”.
It only makes sense as my biggest fan. She once mailed me a book for no other reason than because the author (Dorothy Parker) reminded her of my writing vibe and she couldn’t image that I should live another day without experiencing it. But writing a blog about a friend you’ve had for nearly 20 years looks more like a book than a short story, which has made this more difficult than you might imagine.
I gave up at one point, lying back to switch off my inspirational music which was, of course, a playlist made up exclusively of Jenny Lewis and “Summer Lovin’ Lakeage: Hullo Mike” – a mixtape we made in college. The title of the mixtape, as they are designed to do, gave me nostalgia for that summer. It was filled with trips to our friend’s lake, Billy Joel, and midnight screenings of old movies like “The Philadelphia Story”. I’ve always thought of Valerie when I watch that movie, and not just because I worship her the way Katherine Hepburn’s character is worshiped in the film (obsessively and with ample competition) but also because of the fierce determination of Katherine Hepburn’s character.
It’s tough to compare anyone to a 1940’s starlet without throwing out some feminist caveats, so to be sure, let me say that I mean whole heartedly that the two are comparative in radiance, poise, intelligence, and wit.
And of course that fierce fire. That determination, or as Jimmy Stewart calls it, the “hearth-fires and holocausts”.
That fire comes out and slaps you across the face with a crab rangoon when you least expect it, but most definitely when you absolutely need it. I, and many of my closest friends, would be entirely different people without Valerie. I certainly would have had a very different 30th year without her support, guidance, and continual love while living in a new place.
And so for HER 30th year, the best of birthdays (though a bit belated as it were) I’d like to toast to the woman I’m proud and lucky to have grown up alongside, while also bragging about her in the best way I know how. It may not be an amazing blog entry, or a book (yet), but it is a toast written entirely through the altered words of a Billy Joel song, and that’s pretty close.
She can kill with her heart, she can wound with her voice,
She can restore all your faith with advice straight from Joyce,
And she only reveals that she’ll love you for free,
She burps like a man, but she’s always just perfect to me.
She is stronger than hugs, mean mugs, and shoulder shrugs,
She always brings bear claws and drinks whiskey from mugs,
And she’ll take what you give her, as long as it’s pie,
Yeah she steals (sweatshirts) like a thief, but she’ll always be there for a cry.
Oh, she takes care of her friends, she has since we met,
She’s so generous with time,
Oh, and she never gives up, and she never gives in,
She is just asleep by nine.
And she’ll promise you more than half of the gin,
Then she’ll lovingly hug you and share LaCroix with a grin,
But she’ll bring out the best and the even better you’ll be,
Blame it all on gray t-shirts, cause she’s always just perfect to me.
Oh, she takes care of her curls, they’ll be straight if she wants,
She’s got the best hair of all time,
Oh, and she never picks up, and she never goes out,
When The West Wing is on.
She’s frequently kind, and she’s suddenly cruel,
But that’s only because you’re acting like a damn fool,
She can’t be arrested, she’s got plans at three,
And the most she will do is throw crab rangoon at you,
And she’s always just perfect to me.
Here’s to 30 years of life, almost 20 years of friendship, and 100 more of both!