By Tom Moscato
Our sissy pink Jeep twists, jerks and heaves over the mountainous sun-baked desert terrain. Suddenly, we launch into space. Dropping like a rock, we bounce and screech to a sickening dead stop dangling on the edge of a boulder. Strangling against our seat belts, our bodies sear in the radiating heat from the desert floor below. Scottsdale, Ariz., is the perfect destination for us high school Buffalo frat brothers to celebrate our 70th birthdays risking life and limb for friendship.
I love these guys because we tease gently. We arrive on this trip with plenty of toilet paper. Our host, brother Bob, has arranged housing costing over $150 each per night. During our planning, we persist in asking Bob what we can helpfully bring to the hotel. He finally dryly replies, “Just bring toilet paper.” We unload from our airport limo and stand before our exclusive accommodations with rolls of toilet paper in hand. Silliness adds humor to friendships.
In the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, we study an inflatable bagpipe skin the size of a small duffle bag. We giddily decide that it “obviously” is an enormously inflated chicken skin. Laughing hysterically, we conclude that to play this “chicken-wind instrument” the musician would have to obscenely blow on one of the four appendages protruding from its sides. A chicken? No, city boys, it’s a calf skin. Farmers we aren’t!
Friendship is a musical moment. The museum’s central corridor draws us to a beautiful grand piano just waiting to be caressed by our keyboardist frat brother Jimmy, a California resident. We surround Jimmy as he enters his “zone” and wings a jazzy-bluesy concert mesmerizing one and all.
As kids, guys our age played cowboys and Indians. What’s a trip to cowboy country without a visit to a real Western saloon? We city-slicker brothers enter the packed Cowboy Club saloon expecting a real Western shootout. We order beers and sarsaparilla. Predictably, deceased brothers come to mind.
When we turned 50, brother Bone prepared us for inevitable losses. At that time, he seduced us into a Caribbean sailing trip with promises of pirates, foreign ports, fine restaurants and silly adventures. He sealed the deal by admonishing, “Who knows how many of us will be around at 60?” Carpe diem!
We now celebrate our 70th birthdays having lost several loved brothers. A number of us have survived serious health challenges, and we all have inevitable aches and pains. We support and nurse each other through sickness to death.
In this “tough guy” Western saloon, through laughter and tears, we brazenly sing out the words to the old cowboy tune, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”
Having supportive spouses and partners is essential for camaraderie. On our trip to Arizona, Bob’s wife, Ellen, welcomes us with warmth and grace. Years ago, on our Caribbean birthday adventure, we first realized that having our partners’ backing was a necessity for enduring friendship. On that trip, strangers asked us, “Do your ladies really agree to let you travel without them on these adventures?”
During our 50 years of marriage, my wife, Cary, has generously encouraged and supported our fellowship. Without our wonderful ladies’ cooperation and love, our fraternity never would have endured. Thank you, ladies!
We fly out of Phoenix ending this episode of our 55 years of adventures. We laugh at our shortcomings, smile and shed tears for our losses. We celebrate friendship and brotherhood. Happy trails, brothers, until we venture again!