Friends Like These

Last Friday, UK-based social media news feeds were awash with post-election bitterness. Profanities, accusations and rudeness abounded between those who were – according to their profile descriptions if not evidenced elsewhere that day – ‘friends’ with one another. Characterised by a desire to shove opinions down each other’s throats whilst savagely and wantonly disregarding the pesky facts of emotional sensitivity and human decency, this was a war of attrition using words as weapons. And by God was it unpleasant.

To quote a friend who has herself been subject to recent politically-charged vitriol:

“Friendship does not spout vile names. It involves two parties making equal effort. It involves honesty delivered with tact and kindness. It involves laughing, a lot. It involves knowing when to step in and when to step back. It involves communication, balanced and regular. Anything that feels one-sided and wrong, probably is.”

Friendship isn’t always easy. As individuals (the clue is in the name), we will rarely find people with whom we always agree. But that’s okay, because being challenged in our views is the best way we can grow – so long as those who are challenging us do so in a way that is considered, measured and, above all else, respectful. Without mutual respect, friendship cannot exist. In its place is a barren wasteland of forced opinions, deaf ears and closed hearts. This world is full enough of hatred as it is. If we turn on those closest to us, what hope is there for a better future?

Another feature of friendship that is paramount to its survival is honesty. So many people let the behaviour of so-called ‘friends’ go unchecked, despite it impacting negatively upon them, because it’s easier to put up and shut up than it is to rock the boat by being honest. But if you can’t be honest with the person in question, can you truly call your relationship a friendship?

Finally, and most importantly of all, friendship cannot flourish without kindness. When we are going through our own struggles, it is easy to forget that others have theirs too. We cannot change the way others behave towards us during challenging times, but we can try to understand and forgive negative words and behaviour, and stop ourselves from getting drawn into a vortex of negativity.

We are, all of us, only human, and our time on earth is short. Friendship is one of the greatest gifts we have, so instead of squandering it we would do well to work on nurturing it.

23

Day Two, Stateside – the adventure continues

Day two of my New Jersey adventure dawned bright and clear. After our enormous dinner the previous evening we opted for a tummy friendly start to the day with some granola and yoghurt before walking the short distance to another of Jen’s favourite coffee shops/writing spots, the warehouse coffee shop. The sun hit the decking exactly where we sat so we basked in it for a while as we sipped our coffees before heading to the Path train for another river crossing to Manhattan.

Today’s activities, we had decided, would begin with a traditional tourist activity: A jaunt up the famous Rockefeller building to see the amazing panoramic views over the city. We didn’t get off to the best of starts after spending a not insignificant amount of time circumnavigating a building that we thought was the fabled Rockefeller looking for the entrance, before realising with some embarrassment that the actual Rockefeller centre was a block further along.

Fortunately we took a last minute decision to visit Dunkin’ Donuts before ascending the tower, as what we’d anticipated would be a quick up and down visit inevitably turned into a tourist honey trap full of inescapable opportunities to purchase bits of crap (a t-shirt with a metro map on it – really?) and have your photo taken in front of ridiculous backgrounds for the price of a small condominium. The views more than made up for the tourist crap, however.

By the time we were done at the Rockefeller we were ravenous (obviously), so immediately sought out the nearest Two Brothers pizza joint for a slice of one dollar (one dollar!) pizza. Seeing us struggle to eat our giant slices of pizza a British hedge fund manager sitting next to us handed Jen a napkin and said he hadn’t realised eating pizza could be so funny. We told him he should see us eating donuts, which shut him up.

After Two Brothers we decided to walk off the pizza and head to Soho on foot. But not long after we set off it started to rain so we ducked into Grand Central Station, where we saw posters advertising an art installation by Nick Cave comprising brightly coloured horses made of corn husks that twice a day are ‘brought to life’ by human performers. We spent some time wandering around the central concourse looking for the horses before realising (again with some embarrassment) that they were in fact located in the next room, and would not be performing for the rest of the day.

After the non-performing horses we walked the 30 or so blocks to Patisserie Rocco in Soho where we had the most delicious peanut butter cheesecake I have ever tasted and a cup of coffee before continuing on home to Jersey City. After a rest we walked (surely all this walking is offsetting all the food consumption – surely?) along the waterfront, taking in the glorious view of the Manhattan skyline by night, until we reached Teak restaurant in Hoboken.

Teak is a stunning sushi restaurant and bar with theatrical statues of lions on the walls and a giant fish tank running the length of the bar. As it was the start of Easter weekend the place was heaving, but after a half hour wait we managed to procure a table and settled in for some serious (and I do mean serious) sushi action. Afterwards we met Barry, a friend of Jen’s, who took us to a traditional American bar for some post-dinner drinks (cider beer’s a new one on me). Another all-American dream day 🙂