I mentioned before that I moved to LA with my sister, my brother and a friend. That friend was Pat Lewis. We knew each other from grade school and the neighborhood, but started hanging out together when we were about 12. Around that time I met our mutual friend, Tommy. The three of us would often hang out together, and Tom was a good balance in between Pat and me. One of the reasons I know Pat and I became such good friends was because he had a crazy streak that I loved. He was up for anything and afraid of nothing, and would do anything for me. But he was also really sensitive, a quality that he didn’t show to many people. I remember when I danced in the high school talent show (it was horrible, I’ll expand later ), and at the end of my performance, Pat and a few other guy friends who came to watch me, stood up and started cheering like it was the best dance performance they had ever seen, which eased the pain of how lame I actually was.
Pat and I were friends all through our teen years and later, and a lot of that time was spent laughing, drinking or a combination of both. He was someone I always knew that I might get into trouble with, but I also knew he had my back. There were many times when I would go out with Pat and a group of guys and naturally we’d have to separate so that I wouldn’t “cock block” them. Before we’d go our separate ways, Pat would always say “Cee, if you have any problems, come and get us,” and I knew that if I ever did have a problem, Pat wouldn’t hesitate to kick the crap out of someone for me. Luckily, that never happened. He was just that kind of friend who always looked out for his friends, and I loved him for that. With Pat, I always felt safe and a little bit in danger at the same time.
When I told him that I was moving to LA, I asked him if he wanted to go. Pat didn’t take too long to say yes. I think he just wanted to get out of Upper Darby. I know I did. I loved where I grew up but I had to go somewhere that had more opportunities for what I wanted to do. When I told my parents I wanted to move my mom said, “Why don’t you take your brother and sister with you?” She couldn’t wait to get us the hell out of the house. So, we planned it; Kris, John, Pat and me would take two cars, travel across the country and move to Hollywood!
On the way (we took the southern route),we stopped in Georgia at this guy’s house that I had met the previous year in London. He was in the Army (stationed in London) and we made out one night while I was there. We stayed in touch through letters, actual hand-written letters! When he got stationed in Georgia and I told him we were driving to California and would be traveling through Georgia, he offered for us to stay at his house. It was really nice of him. Plus he wanted to hook up with me. The five of us went to dinner that night and a few hours later, I got a nice little case of food poisoning which included a nice little case of diarrhea. Isn’t that sexy? Luckily, we were leaving the next morning. I was so embarrassed, but in spite of my intestinal difficulty, he gave us a “fuzz buster.” This enabled us to detect when the cops were around so we could speed up our cross country drive when they weren’t. Thanks for that Mike, and sorry about the diarrhea.
Next we stopped in New Orleans where we stayed for two nights and all got sloppy drunk. We had a great time there, even though we were badly hungover, and then continued our drive through Texas, where we stopped in the country’s armpit, El Paso. Don’t ask why we stayed there because we don’t know. Then we made a point of seeing the Grand Canyon, which is quite a breath-taking ditch! We eventually hit California and after about a week or so, the four of us got our first apartment in Hollywood. Kris and I slept in one bedroom on a futon cushion and John and Pat slept in the other bedroom on the floor. We had nothing but our clothes and a boom box, but really, what more do you need?
Pat’s intention was to become an LA cop. I’m sort of glad he didn’t because I hate LA cops, but I think he might have taken the test for it. I can’t remember for sure, but I know he looked into it. All four of us were combing the city looking for jobs and none of us were having an easy time. John and Pat briefly did some construction work, but nothing steady.
After about 4 months and running out of money, Pat decided to leave California and go back home. I was so sad because I knew he might not come back, and even though I understood it because he wasn’t finding a job, I didn’t want him to give up just yet.
He ended up leaving LA but went on to become a cop back home. There wasn’t one time that I talked to him over the phone, or when I went back to Philly for Christmas, that he didn’t tell me how proud he was of me for staying in LA and sticking it out. He was so supportive of me and we remained great friends up until his death in 1994. He was 27.
Until Pat died, I didn’t have anyone really close to me die aside from my grandparents, but I wasn’t old enough for it to have the same kind of impact. He was too young and one of my best friends. I miss his crazy laugh and twisted humor, and I cherish the drive across country we had together. He was a true friend, and those are hard to come by. His family had his funeral at my house, which made me feel good because I know Pat would have wanted that. After all the time he spent carrying kegs of beer up our stairs for our parties, it only made sense that he was there (it’s not like he was carrying kegs up the stairs of the Kelly’s funeral home :)). My dad took care of him personally, and that meant a lot to me.
Many of us have lost a friend too early it’s a different kind of experience. It’s like our “group” was never the same without him. Everyone knew Pat because he was a distinctive person, and as I write this, I can hear him laughing.
I just remembered this; he was in the service for awhile and I hadn’t seen him in a really long time. One day (this was when we were still in Philly), someone rang the doorbell and I went down to answer it. I opened the door a crack to see who it was, and all I saw was an extended arm giving me the middle finger. I immediately opened it, knowing who it was, and I jumped on him because I was so happy to see him. That was Pat.
I still miss him.
If you have a few good friends in your life, then you’re lucky, and don’t forget to tell them how much you love them because you never know how long you’re gonna have them.
Have a great weekend!