Larry Bunce and Tom Edelstein met Krabby.
It was their first day of seventh grade, and Edelstein returned to introduce himself to Bence at morning assembly at Highland Park Junior High in St. Paul.
“I know who are you,” whined Bunce, having done his reconnaissance.
It turned out that they were trying to meet the same girl.
Neither of them ended up with a girl, but Bunce and Edelstein became best friends.
The one who painted houses together in high school. Those who lived together at the University of Minnesota. Those who vacation together even though they live 1,600 miles apart. And their mothers became, moreover, dear friends.
To celebrate their longtime friendship, Bunce, a urologist from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Edelstein, a realtor from St. Paul, tried to relive their “big song” from high school, Simon and Garfunkel’s 1968 “Old Friends.” .
“Old friends, old friends
We were sitting on a bench in the park, like on the endpaper”
It started 10 years ago when Edelstein underwent heart surgery. “I was blue and sentimental,” he recalled. “And I said, ‘We’re turning 60, we’ve got to start doing something.’
So the old friends, whose birthdays are four days apart, went on a road trip together, and as a nod to Simon & Garfunkel, they posed for a picture sitting on a park bench. In this case, it was a natural bench, a piece of wood above the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park.
Since then, they have “laid” every year, except for one year during the pandemic and another when Edelstein injured his leg the day before the planned trip.
In their search for the right lava, they traveled to the Grand Canyon, the Blue Ridge Mountains and the fjords of Norway, among other places.
They take turns choosing destinations, the old friends explained last month at Edelstein’s real estate office in Highland Park.
“He likes more exotic travel,” Edelstein said of Bunce. “And he’s a really great traveler. Nature really speaks to him.”
The friends document their sightseeing trips on the bench with many photos. Each journey is chronicled in a hardcover book that ranges from 34 to 92 pages.
Their photos on the bench are not selfies. Ever-smiling friends ask strangers to take photos.
“We went into this art gallery in Santa Fe and there was a Native American bench that ran the length of the studio,” Benz said. “We explained everything to the guy who owns the studio, and he’s shooting the panorama [photo]. This bench must have been 15 to 18 feet and it was kind of curved. I was there a year later. The bench is sold.”
During their trip to Zion National Park, the guide helped them find the perfect photo shoot. “That kid led us to that rock in the waters of the Narrows,” Bunce recalled. “And he’s in the water, literally taking pictures of us, and he’s like, ‘This is so unique.’ I’ve never been on a trip.”
The benches are as varied as the terrain, from sitting next to wheels outside a restaurant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to a natural recreation area called Clam Rock in White Pocket, Utah.
Not all trips by old friends are about finding the perfect place to park your derries. They hit bucket list destinations including New Zealand, Banff and Patagonia, with excursions to Buenos Aires, the Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn.
They also meet occasionally for concerts in the States – Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Chicago, Alabama and the Righteous Brothers, etc.
But the friends never went together to see Paul Simon and/or Art Garfunkel, coincidentally two friends from high school. Opportunities to see them perform are limited since Simon stopped touring in 2018 and Garfunkel canceled a European tour this summer due to COVID concerns.
70 years in New York
Bunce and Edelstein are scheduled to travel to New York this month. They want life to imitate the art of Simon & Garfunkel:
You can imagine us in years
Feel free to share a park bench?
How terribly strange it is to be 70
Old friends, memories of the same years
Silently sharing the same fears
Both will turn 70 at the end of August. This time, for a change, they will be joined by Edelstein’s wife, Randi, and Bunce’s partner, Debra Revzen, who produces the yearbooks. They have tickets to “MJ the Musical,” Michael Jackson’s Broadway show, and table reservations at select restaurants. But they did not choose the most important bench.
They are looking at several places. Central Park at 70thousand St. Or up to 59thousand Street Bridge, in honor of S&G “The 59thousand Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).” Or across the street from Simon’s old apartment in Manhattan. They need his advice.
“We’ll ask Paul Simon what the pew is and see what he thinks,” Bunce said with impudence and a prayer. “We want him to understand how influential his lyrics have been to us over many, many years.”
And to see if it’s possible, just maybe, he takes a picture of these two old friends on a park bench.