Jew's Muse A Dangerous Walk Down Memory Lane, via Facebook

Tis dangerous, this Facebook; still we needn't kill the messenger: a popular internet program merely aimed a harsh light on a weathered friendship, battered by irreconcilable incompatibilities and festering issues unresolved, exacerbated by the passage of many years and more miles.

Uzi Silber
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Uzi Silber

We all know the telltale signs of friendship outgrown: stilted conversation; humor out of sync; forced laughter; missed birthdays, ever expanding time lags between calls.

Frequently, we're comfortable pretending things remain as they were, as we artificially prop up a hollow corpse of a friendship running on the fumes of nostalgia. And then one day, the plug is sadly pulled by something, anything: Facebook, for instance.

For years I boasted a tight stable of old companions, mostly fellow yeshiva boys with whom I loitered on Manhattan's Upper West Side during the 1970s and 80s.

That my age-old friendships were immortal was a certainty for me. But then I met my first girlfriend Melissa, an alienated if hypermature high school senior who'd cultivated no enduring friendships to speak of.

This troubled me, and as it turned out, for good reason: our summer camp relationship was promptly terminated when she embarked on a new one with a mohawked psychopath from New Jersey who reminded her of Sting. But that's another riveting story altogether.

Melissa was introduced to me by Peretz, the first of my friends outgrown (whose Hebrew names will be used here). Peretz would DJ dance parties during our Yeshiva high school years and would frequently shimmy and boogie before large mirrors in his bedroom, his swaying curls gelled like Ron Duguay, a long forgotten early 80s hockey heartthrob.

Our friendship withered in college, once it was clear he preferred the company of Mafiosi look-alikes and Sugar Hill Gang impersonators to mine.

This was deeply disappointing: Peretz was highly amusing and extremely good with chicks - traits never to be underestimated. But by then I?d already had enough of his patented brand of shtick.

Or take Rafael, a gentle and introspective guy who in the late 1980s suddenly downshifted our relationship when he embarked on a contemplative journey to the depths of innerspace, only to emerge years later as a published astrologer with a cult following.

Preferring the spiritually-elevated company of wiccans and Buddhist shamans, Rafael is now referred to as 'The Wizard'. While our friendship was never the same, he did generously lend me his snazzy tux for a recent bar-mitzvah.

Not to propagate the impression of victimhood, I began to initiate ruptures of my own. Binyamin and I had been enduring some frugality-related strains in our relationship. So when in 1991 he adamantly refused to drive his father's Plymouth Volare the three extra blocks to my girlfriend?s apartment, stranding us along the desolate and frigid bank of the East River at 3 A.M., he was finished.

Politics alienated me from Michael who in his huskier teens enjoyed hassling Jews for Jesus freaks at the Times Square subway station, which really isn't such a bad thing.

Yet a generation later he'd morphed into a rabid Marxist Anti-Zionist in Jerusalem, exchanging his Jewish mates for a bunch of bespectacled Arab academics hunched over espressos at the Ramallah 'Stars & Bucks'.

Petty differences eroded my ancient friendship with Elan and the gap only grew wider once he departed for San Diego. And though we've recently resumed occasional contact after many years, I've never quite forgiven him for sucker punching me in the face in 1977 on the school bus on West End Avenue.

This brings me to Elyakum, on whose recommendation Elan headed west in the first place. Looking for adventure and new blood, Elyakum abandoned Manhattan in 1992, and bounced around Portland, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Harlem and Austin over the ensuing 17 years.

Sporting a shaved head and a square-inch hair patch beneath his lower lip (known colloquially as a flavor-saver), Elyakum's unquenchable wanderlust now leads him to the greener pastures of Guatemala. Or maybe Cambodia.

In contrast I remained stranded on this island all these years, married a beautiful and brilliant Jewish girl and spawned three kids.

With Peretz, Rafael, Binyamin, Elan, and Michael largely absent, my friendship with Elyakum still seemed intact. Despite the widening lifestyle and spatial chasms between us, we managed to plod on through the years by phone and email.

During rare visits to Manhattan he?d regale me with extremely detailed sagas of his dalliances with tattooed and pierced twentysomething babes.

But it was a cryptic Facebook exchange that revealed just how seriously our friendship had decayed.

Admittedly I may have provoked it all. Here's what happened: Elyakum had accumulated a collection of terribly hip Midwestern boys and girls on his Facebook page, many of whom he'd met at ?Burning Man?, the annual phantasmagoria of youthful debauchery in the Nevada desert.

Call me an intolerant curmudgeon, but Elyakum's predilection for posting photos of his Hebrew schooled baldpate in the company of the grinning members of this revolving cast of fresh-faced youngsters was beginning to grate on my sleep-deprived nerves.

Restraint was unbearable; intimately familiar with Elyakum's tortured psyche I knew which of his buttons to press. Impulsively, I inscribed on his Facebook page a seemingly innocuous comment in transliterated Hebrew that would be clearly understood by him but none of his happy Facebook friends.

Elyakum's reaction was swift and wildly disproportionate; a nasty exchange ensued. And when it all ended, there was only eerie silence.

Tis dangerous, this Facebook; still we needn't kill the messenger: a popular internet program merely aimed a harsh light on a weathered friendship, battered by irreconcilable incompatibilities and festering issues unresolved, exacerbated by the passage of many years and more miles.

On the other hand, if only I'd managed to resist the primal urge to click that 'send' button, our long-distance friendship could have very well limped on forever fueled by yeshiva memories of long ago.

That was months ago; so it must have been those nostalgia fumes that finally prompted Elyakum to leave a Hanukkah greeting of sorts in my voice mailbox two weeks ago, a call for closure and reconciliation that was also a fond farewell to an old friend prior to boarding a jet plane bound for who knows where.



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