Everyone's Best Friend
A long time ago in a place known as my burgeoning field of dreams, I had an idea for a screenplay about a young Jewish banker-type from New York who gets sent to Montana on a land deal that he cannot close and, instead, falls in love with the farmer's daughter. Back then I had a day job in the city that I could not quit, but I needed to write this screenplay. Enter The Barn!
Larry was busy building his sandwich empire at Jerry's, based out of his first shop in Wheaton. Barn and I were close -- high school was still near enough in our rearview mirrors that the words 'best friends' still rang with meaning. I Amtrak-ed down to Maryland for the weekend and shared my dilemma with a true entrepreneur, this being back when startups involved hard work and someone actually making something: in Larry's case, heroes with special sauce (schmo as he called it). I spent the afternoon on "the line" with The Barn, making sandwiches, helping out in the shop, watching his staff who simply loved him work their butts off, and having the time of my life.
At the end of the weekend, as I was dejectedly getting ready to return to the dreary reality of my day job in NYC, Larry pulled out a thick envelope. I asked, "What's this?"
"Just stick it in your bag, fill out everything, and pay me back someday. There's a check inside."
No haggling. No negotiations. No worries. Larry made me an employee of his company and advanced me enough seed money to quit my day job. I vanished to the windswept winter coast of Rockport, MA to write the screenplay MONTANA. Six months later I optioned the rights to an Oscar-winning production company in L.A. and my creative writing career began in earnest. I paid Larry back every penny. I have been a professional writer ever since. MONTANA made me several years worth of income and it even had Kevin Kline attached at one point. Sadly, it never made it to the big screen. And I never got to make my Oscar acceptance speech, thanking The Barn for making one very special dream of mine come true.
My high school friends who are reading this will know why I called this piece "Everyone's Best Friend." And even those who didn't know The Barn, surely will remember someone from their teenaged past who was, well, everyone's best friend.
A lot of us lost touch with The Barn over the years. He lived his own life: rich, colorful, successful at times, hard as hell at times. But he lived. Oh my god, Barn lived. For all the tears shed at his loss, Barn leaves every last person who ever met him with a smile. He was larger than life. He was...The Barn. And if you ever were graced by that smile of his, or felt his strong hand on your back, you will never forget him. He was a force we will carry forever.