Thursday, February 04, 2010

donde esta franco?

Friendship is such an elusive thing. When I was in my twenties I made friends easily. Most friendships were formed associated to place, first—where I went to school or worked. My first real job when I lived in New York was at Canal Jean Co. That job was an amalgam of my school and work life. My friend Steven Parrino worked there and when he heard me say at school (Parsons School of Design) one day that I needed to get a job, he suggested I try there. Canal Jeans in the eighties was a cool place to work and it attracted artists like myself and actors, musicians and all sorts of interesting young people trying to find themselves in the big city.

I could write tons of stories (and may still) about the variety of personalities I encountered while checking bags, doling out dressing rooms, or pushing socks on a hipster-fashion-hungry public. But the person I was thinking of when I started this post was named Franco. He was an actor, and for a few years, was also a friend of mine. He came to the store in a wave of hiring, but he stood out, and my friend Mary and I quickly decided to add him to our little band of the most interesting of the interesting.

collage - New York Stories

I have a few vivid memories of evenings shared with Franco. One crazy New Year's Eve we started out in a famous SoHo bar drinking Godmothers and then somehow decided it would be a good idea to crash a Brooklyn party of one of our co-workers (and someone I was very interested in.) The funny thing is, that although I may have had the most interest in going to this shindig, I'm pretty sure it was Franco who gave us the little push we needed to get there. It was a crazy night, but what I remember in relation to Franco was his introduction of Spanglish catch phrases that with the combination of spirits, both good and alcoholic, made for one of those in-joke evenings where we couldn't stop cracking each other up, but to anyone outside our circle must have appeared as extremely obnoxious. My favorite phrase of Franco's was ¡Callete, please! which basically was "Shut up, por favor," if you get my drift. And I still use it to this day.

Franco was gay, but never talked too much about his love life. I believe he had a somewhat older boyfriend, who may not have wanted to troll the East Village after-work happy hour scene. Franco had a very latin, very regal, bearing. Very masculine. My friend Mary and I created a game, ¿Quien es mas macho?, which we used to play on the subway, or walking through Brooklyn, or on the phone. Although our subjects were always celebrities (¿Quien es mas macho? ¿Mickey Rourke o Matt Dillon?), somehow I think the game must have originated with Franco. At least, he is always associated with it in my mind.

Franco was a member of The Spanish Repertory Theater/Repertorio Espanol. He invited me to come see him in a production of Blood Wedding. The entire production was in Spanish, which was a bit of a stretch for my four years of high school Spanish, but I was able to understand most of it. Franco was good in his small part. After the performance, he took me to a party with the cast where they spoke broken English to me as I responded in broken Spanish to them. It was a surreal, but exhilarating experience. He also taught me to salsa dance at the party. It was quite an evening.

We had a falling out over a video camera. To this day I'm still not sure what happened. Money must have been involved, as most fallings out seem to have money at their root, but I couldn't tell you exactly how or how much. We were working on a video that I wanted to do, an art project. We rented a VHS camera for the weekend for the filming and Franco was responsible for getting it back when we were done. Somehow this caused resentments that were never adequately expressed. Time passed and he didn't call me and I didn't call him. And then one day I realized that we were no longer friends. This was before facebook and email and texting—more opportunities to at least attempt contact exist today. Friendship is such an elusive thing.


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