Having a church so close presents some disadvantages as well. Do loud bells bother you? Do you like being able to park near your house? Does having well-dressed people stare at you while you’re grabbing the morning paper in your underwear make you uncomfortable? If your answer to these questions is yes, you should probably avoid living close to a church.
The biggest perk for me was befriending a priest who was ministering at the church for a while. I moved into the house while I was in the process of getting divorced; it’s safe to say I wasn’t in the best head space. Father Lanny, as he’s known, was experiencing frustrations with his job; something we all go through from time to time. I happened to mention my close proximity during a casual chat with him, and he said he’d drop by some time with a 6-pack. I wasn’t born into the Catholic faith; I converted as an adult. I have and still have a reverent impression of those who dedicate their lives to their faith. I certainly didn’t expect them to be lugging around 6-packs. I shrugged off the gesture as a joke, and forgot about it.
But, since Lanny lived right across the street, he soon dropped by. I had my DJ equipment set up in the back patio room, so we went back there. I didn’t entertain Lanny in my decently furnished living room. We went back to the room with the most hideous carpet you’ve ever seen. It had a kind of technicolor pattern that was upsetting to look at, which explains why I seldom went in there during the day. I did have a couple of older, comfortable chairs, which seemed perfect at the time. Lanny has a disarming quality about him; he’s real, and he puts those around him at ease. We started talking, and sharing where we were emotionally at the time. It wasn’t a priest-parishioner conversation. It was just two men at mid-life, trying to sort things out. The six pack(s) helped.
While we’d be talking, I’d play music. The playlist was almost entirely comprised of 70s tunes. Now, when one says “70s tunes,” the mind tends to think of songs from the disco era. But the 70s was full of so much more. Being Bay Area natives, Lanny and I had grown up exposed to all kinds of genres of music. Lanny was well schooled in the R&B / Soul / Funk sound, and I could go on and on about Rock and Pop. While we had initially bonded over what was troubling us, ultimately our friendship deepened because of what united us: Our love of music. Many a night was spent enjoying adult beverages and singing along to whatever song came up next. We’d nerd out over certain bits; a drum sound here, a unique vocal there. They were the kind of blissful times you can have with a friend when all that’s troubling you disappears for a bit, and you’re solely focused on being in the moment. Those special moments are rare, and impossible to orchestrate. They have to happen naturally, when your guard is down, and you trust the person you’re with enough to admit just how passionate you are about what you love. Lanny is a faithful man, and he is an excellent servant of the Lord. He cares deeply for those he preaches to. But his passion, like mine, is music.
One afternoon after work, I was pulling into the driveway. Lanny saw me from his window, and yelled down: “Maas, you thirsty?” I tend to be thirsty after work, so naturally I said “yes”. He said he’d be right down. As I went inside, I absentmindedly left the front door open, so naturally my idiot dog ran off. She’s a little 6 lb. Maltese named Daisy, who has no sense of direction and will walk for hours and hours if she’s not tracked down. Once I realized she was gone, I went back outside, where found me in a panic.
“Hey man, can we put a hold on hanging out? I need to find my damn dog.” Lanny, still in his priest’s collar, said “sure”, dropped the beers on the porch, and hopped in my van. I had as of yet not purchased a car for personal use; I only had my DJ van. It’s a typical, white Ford van, just like the millions of other vans you see driving around. Lanny got in the passenger seat and buckled in. I quickly fired up the van and off we went, anxious to find my lost dog.
We weren’t far from my house when I saw a group of kids playing in the street. “Hey… maybe they saw her!” I pulled up to the kids slowly, rolled down my window, and politely but nervously asked them: “Hey, I’ve lost my dog. Have you seen her?”
At first, I didn’t understand the puzzled looks they all had on their faces. Was English a problem? Did they not know what a dog was? Should I be offering a reward? I turned to look at Father Lanny, when I noticed a sly smile slowing coming across his face. Then, it hit me. Here we were, in a white van. The driver was looking for a lost dog, with a priest in the passenger seat to boot. I went from panic to denial. “No no no no no… it’s not what it looks like. I really am looking for my dog.” The kids stopped looking at me, and glanced at Lanny, who by this point was beginning to laugh out loud. “Dude…” he said. “Move on, before one of their parents calls the cops!” You could not have created a more creepy scenario for those kids, and I quickly imagined the conversations they’d be having with their parents when they got home. I was never less proud of having my business logo on the side of my car. Off we drove, and within minutes we found the dog.
Lanny and I had many fun times together. Admittedly, several of them involved drinking. There was the Monday night when Lanny had to watch the NCAA Championship Bowl Game on my big TV because Notre Dame was playing. Lanny introduced me to tequila that evening, and, since the fighting Irish got killed that night, we drank a substantially unhealthy amount of it. Being the good Catholic I can on occasion be, I actually wobbled to 7am mass the next morning, only to find Lanny presenting the liturgy. Standing side by side, as sick as we felt, we must have looked like two puffy green beans. He made it through mass, and I made it through school, and we both vowed to keep the drinking for the weekends.
Lanny eventually moved on to another church. I moved on to a different school. Sometimes I look across the street up at what used to be Lanny’s window, and I long for those times when I could hang with my friend and talk about music and life and politics and faith all night long. Sometimes, we have friendships that last a lifetime. Other times, people cross paths at a time when they need someone else’s companionship even if they don’t know it at the time. But, at a time when I needed someone and something to pick me up, music was there for me. Just as it always has been.