Issue #96 – “Friends Without Benefits” – September 25th, 2006

-Chi and Claudio, two of my buddies in New York, left me a drunken voicemail the other night.  They said that they miss me since I moved to Los Angeles.  Then, they listed the reasons why they miss me.  To paraphrase: “Things are way too calm around here.  When you’re around, Karo, it’s a fucking commotion, there’s chaos everywhere and shit gets destroyed.  OK dude we’re wasted, gotta go. (pause) You LA fuck.”  That might have been the nicest voicemail I’ve ever received.  And it struck me that twentysomethings value their buddies not for what they bring to the table, but for what they don’t – in my case, predictability, reason, and common sense.  In fact, if you truly examine your closest companions, you’re bound to find that they’re friends without benefits.

-When I have buddies come to visit for the weekend, I make sure to finish every last bit of work and run every single errand before they arrive.  Because I know that for the next 48 to 72 hours, every single second will be spent either feeding them, getting them fucked up, cleaning up after them, or occasionally napping.  After dropping them off at the airport on Sunday, I feel like I can rejoin the human race, until realizing that most humans would have provided their four friends with more than one pillow, towel, and bar of soap to share between them for three days.

-I met my buddy Chi when I was assigned the cubicle adjacent to his during my Wall Street days.  He’s Korean and from Los Angeles, and thus, we couldn’t have been more different.  But we became fast friends for two reasons.  One, we shared a common interest in getting blindingly drunk after work.  And two, I admired how he could get away with sporting a goatee and Diesel sneakers to the office (both against company policy) simply because he’s Korean and from Los Angeles and people were afraid to say anything.

-I hang out with my frat buddy Zach a lot in LA.  He kind of looks like Patrick Dempsey (aka “Dr. McDreamy”).  What’s odd is that in the nine years I’ve known Zach, never until recently have I heard so many girls comment about him – his popularity has mirrored the success of Grey’s Anatomy.  Zach has a girlfriend, but if they ever break up and Grey’s gets canceled, he may never get laid again.

-I will forever be amused by my high school buddies, the Triplets.  Triplet #2 and I went to Penn together, and Triplet #3 later transferred to Penn.  I’ll never forget when Trip 3 joined our frat as a sophomore yet already knew everything that was going to happen.  I yelled at Trip 2 like, “Dude, why the hell did you tell him all the secrets about the House?”  And he was like, “Karo, what were the odds that twelve months later my brother was going to apply, get accepted, transfer, matriculate, rush, and pledge the exact same fraternity?”

-The cardinal rule among my friends is to never misspeak, lest you suffer the consequences of hearing about it for the rest of your life.  For instance, I once heard someone ask Chi if he’d ever consider moving back to the West Coast and he replied, “Well, I do love Manhattan,” and then let this beauty slip: “But I miss the ocean like crazy.”  Oh sweet mother did we have a field day with that one.  What normal, well-adjusted person says that they “miss” the ocean, let alone “like crazy”?  From then on, God forbid Chi ever innocently utters the words “ocean” or “miss” and we’re all over him: “What did you say, Chi?  You missed the subway?  Do you miss it like crazy?  Do you want to rent Ocean’s Eleven and cry, pussy?”  Then, just to remind everyone that I’m originally from New York and he’s the one from Cali, I top it off with a pause and then, “You LA fuck.”

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-Why is that when I tell someone what time I have to be at the airport and then ask them what time I should leave to get there, their first question is always, “When is your flight?”  Hello?  Were you not fucking listening?  I already did that math for you!

-The only thing worse than seeing someone with food stuck in their teeth is standing there going, “Still there.  No, still there.  No, still there.  To your left.  Wait.  Nope, still there.”

-I realized I haven’t done one of these in a while, so here’s a new list of people that irk, annoy, or otherwise piss me off.  People who fall asleep instantaneously on airplanes.  People who write letters to Sports Illustrated every time someone on last week’s cover loses a game, claiming there’s a “cover jinx.”  People who have their religion listed as an “interest” on their Facebook profile.  People on Myspace who complain about Myspace on their actual Myspace page.  People who include their home mailing address in their email signature.  People who send me – unsolicited, mind you – pages-long emails describing their vacations in depth and then get pissed when I don’t write that much back.  People who beg me for comped tickets to my stand-up shows then don’t fucking show up.  People who still don’t understand that domestic beers are twist-off and imported beers need an opener.  Any receptionist in any waiting room in any doctor’s office I’ve ever been to in my entire life.  People who don’t realize that, even though I have an NYC cell number, I live in LA and you just called and woke me up at seven in the morning.  And, finally, people whose work number pops up on caller ID differently than the number I have in my address book and therefore their name doesn’t show up in my phone when they call, so I’m forced to screen the call, check my voicemail, then call them back…and not only do I get their voicemail, even though they called me literally eight seconds ago, but I also have to hear that they haven’t changed their outgoing message since they went on vacation two months ago and if there’s an urgent matter during the last fucking week of July I shouldn’t hesitate to contact Mary at extension six.  Phew, that felt good to get off my chest.

-I have this sneaking suspicion that when people say to me “No worries,” they mean just the opposite.

-And, finally, my buddies and I have a running joke that we can easily take over one another’s roles within the group.  For instance, Claudio is the most unreliable, slowest-moving human on earth.  So if I show up fifteen minutes late to a pre-game but he’s actually on time for once, I become the “new Claudio.”  Likewise, when I rip shots, there’s a better chance than not that I will throw up violently.  Recently, however, I’ve been able to hold it in, while my old roommate Brian has been booting more than a bulimic at a buffet, and is therefore now the “new Karo.”  To me, the idea that each of us is so easily interchangeable means there really is no such thing as friends without benefits.  When someone isn’t running late or vomiting as much as they should be, someone else is right there behind them to carry the load.  Since I’m not Korean, nor wear Diesel sneakers, there’s little chance, though, that I’ll ever be anointed the “new Chi.”  That is, unless the next time I visit New York, I get drunk and proclaim, “Boys, it’s great to be back.  But I miss the ocean like crazy.”  Fuck me.