Where “Friends” can be found

When I was eleven my mother moved her and myself to London in some strange attempt to change her life. I grudgingly agreed to depart from Italy and found myself in the strangest of lands. I spoke basically no word of English and was completely alienated. I was sent to the German school as to have just a little bit of cultural control over the hot mess that was me in an English speaking country. (A similar though less linguistic hot mess happened eight years later when I moved here)
Anyway before moving to London I had through some family friends been exposed to the TV show Friends (no pun intended). I remember seeing an episode or two at the tender age of eight and knowing that every time we went to visit those friends there was that slim and yet incredibly amazing chance that I could see one more. In a way it was messed up how much I desired to see more of that show but I remember the endless excitement and the fear of asking if I could see it. One might wonder why I didn’t just try and see it in some other form the internet you say? Well you know we didn’t really have the internet back then and I was in goddamned Italy, I would probably get laughed at trying to search a TV show at the inexistent public library, laughter probably aided by my chubby eight-year-old persona. But now I was in the land of English speaking public libraries and where Friends had an acclaim beyond the small Roman apartment where I had first encountered it. I remember seeing it once on the small TV in the little rental apartment my mother and I were staying in and I thought: BINGO! So I had a game plan. My plan was to find the first ever ever episode. The one, I thought where they are all in the fountain! You know the opening credits where they all happen to be wearing black and white and frolicking in the fountain? (supposedly washington square park, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM4Djp0jNMc) Anyway I got onto my mother’s incredibly inappropriate mountain bike for the fancy south-west London neighborhood we were living in and went to the public library to rent the VHS (yes, you had to get the single VHS of every episode it required some real dedication not some DVD multiple episode crap).
I sat down in complete excitement for some fountain frolicking. But there was none of that. Not to be said that it wasn’t a genius sit com but I thought the librarian hadn’t understood my overly rehearsed sentence about making sure it was the FIRST episode. I went back to investigate myself. It truly was the first episode. I relinquished my disappointment and got some more Cassettes. Once I ran out of the library ones I sought it out on TV, until one day, BINGO number two! Every morning the half hour before I had to leave for school Friends was playing. My mother had caught up with this odd obsession and let me sit there every morning drinking my hot cocoa and watching one more episode. By this point I think they had been in their ninth season but I had no real conception of this, I wanted more and any I got was just fucking great.
After returning to Italy there was a short hiatus in my obsession but not in my strive to get to see every single episode ever. Finally for my 15th birthday my parents bought me the then still very expensive box set of all the seasons.When it arrived in the mail I was literally poop-in-pants excited and spent 72 continuous hours watching it from beginning to end. It was summer and I was cooped up in my un-air conditioned room sitting on the floor with the continuous heat and shine from the TV. Honestly those might have been some of the best 72 hours of my life. The feeling I had when watching episodes I hadn’t seen before goes beyond euphoria I was excited like somebody had thought of ME when filming these like “Oh, Mati will like this.” And I did. I had bought the DVD of the finale separately just so I could see it beforehand and prepare, but once again I sat down and indulged in 40 minutes of tears and joy. That summer I went to camp in America and I was cool, like really cool, because of those DVDs. I will skip over a moment where one of my DVDs was lost, by a boy whose name I will never, ever forget and if I see his face again I will hurt him because I will never have the familiarity with those eight episodes that I have with the other 228 which is in a way is somewhat unacceptable for me. But I am not insane.
I guess the height of my so-called “addiction” was Sophomore/Junior year of High School. I fell asleep every night watching it. The TV was always running until the DVD was finished and slowly I started using the jokes in every day life. I was referring to little tiny details and thy began being part of my English speech patterns that I was definitely still developing. This was fine until my best friend Chloe, who had a similar history with the show (maybe this is a weird only child thing) would start calling me out. But we had some goddamn amazing laughs about it. Slowly my English was becoming less Courtney-Cox high-strung crazy and Lisa-Kudrow-weird-connotations-y and more my own.
When I chose to move to New York I thought I got it, I know this city I know the people who are supposedly in it, I know it. But hell I knew. I want to make a list of how foreign I was whenI first got here, like really foreign:
I didn’t get starbucks because I didn’t know there could be more then three types of coffee, so ordering there was like an emotional turmoil I wish for nobody
I couldn’t order a sandwich because I was so overwhelmed by choice that I would be stressed out of my mind
I literally didn’t even recognize most of the food at the cafeteria
Going into Bed Bath and Beyond may have been one of the greatest cultural shocks of my life
I had never eaten a taco
But mostly I had no conception of what this culture was. I was so lost in trying to figure out just the basic steps of life, even how to feed myself. But one thing was there my red, over-used, scratched up, one DVD missing boxset. In moments of great panic I would always put one more DVD in knowing that for 21 minutes everything will be all right. And this hasn’t changed. There are always long stretches of time where I can’t go a single day without watching an episode. I used to travel with at least on set of DVDs. If I am sad, depressed, frightened, stressed or panicked I know where to turn. If it is on TV it is one of the few times I am not overwhelmed by the inordinate amount of channels here in America and my choice is made for me. It has become my sense of self, my sense of family. This was the first real ensemble cast, a bit like what I try to do with the theatre. Creating support, creating love and balance. When I watch this show I can momentarily be transported to a New York that only exists in my nostalgia ridden brain. A New York that is easy and fun. But also to a group that is like my family. A family that will never leave me and will always remain a constant. Those DVDs will never change plot, they are a safety net that can’t possibly fail.