As I get ready for another trip to New York, something that's become almost a routine, my mind drifts back to a time not too long ago. Actually, it feels like a lifetime, but on a calendar it was only seven years ago.
I was about to turn 39 and I'd been a fervent promoter of a novel by Gregory Maguire called Wicked since the late '90s. If you were anywhere in my sphere back then, you'd have heard me hollering about that novel. I still holler about it if you catch me in a nostalgic moment.
Wicked is an achievement in American fiction and it remains an amazing read. If you've never read it, forget your preconceptions and pick up a copy. You'll never look at history the same way.
Anyhow, seven years ago somebody turned my beloved novel into a Broadway musical that was then struggling to keep the doors open. I was beyond intrigued by the idea of it and I hadn't been in New York in nearly 15 years. So to commemorate my 39th, my great friend Kevin Smith and I flew to New York for a weekend. We'd see the show, hang out with his friend Janine and spend a whole day running around New York.
Despite the juggernaut Wicked became eventually, Kevin and I saw it with its original cast in a half empty Gershwin Theater. We sat feet away in the fifth row of the orchestra when Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel sang this:
I remember sitting in that theater during that number and getting choked up because that song was about me and Kevin. It was more than me and Kevin of course. It was about everyone I've ever known but it stopped with Kevin Smith.
Kevin Smith is a dear, dear friend. His is best and most solid friendship I've ever formed in my life. When we were in New York that weekend we were also neighbors in St. Pete. Back in St. Pete, Kevin taught me more than I think he'll ever know. Among many other things, he taught me how to live a life without shame and he taught me how to laugh. Kevin's willingness to share a cup of coffee and fresh cinnamon rolls taught me how to be a neighbor. His legendary rice and beans taught me how to be welcome guest.
Through our various highs and lows he's always been there to bring me back to earth when I'm flying too high and he's always been around to catch me when I crash and burn. I'd never be in the position I am today without his constant challenges and encouragement. More than anybody else, Kevin equipped me for the things I have in front of me now.
In the last seven years, New York's become what I like to call my home away from home away from home and Kevin's moved on to greener pastures in New Orleans. But every time I find myself on Madison Avenue I find myself thinking about Kevin Smith and that weekend way back when and I thank him for the role he's played in my life.
Kevin, not to be a cliche, but because I know you, I have been changed for the better and for good.