Vicki Briganti – WWJ-TV Writer / Producer / Editor
Say what you want about Facebook. It’s addicting. It’s a time waster. It’s a platform for cyber-stalking ex-boyfriends or girlfriends. Yes, yes, and yes.
On the flipside, Facebook can reunite you with former friends, coworkers, and neighbors. You don’t have to wonder what ever happened to so and so. Go on Facebook and look for them. Hopefully, an old friend becomes a friend again.
This is exactly what’s happened to me on numerous occasions. I’m Facebook friends with seven of the “kids from the ‘70s.” We all lived on the same side of the street on Kolb Avenue in Allen Park during our childhood. I spent Halloween at Boogie Fever in Ferndale with a college friend, Cathy, who found me on Facebook.
Then there’s the best reconnection of all. How do you find someone who lives in another country? Try Facebook. When I lived in Ann Arbor in ‘92, my friend Luigi was taking MBA classes at U-M for four months before he went back to Milan to finish his degree. We met at the Nectarine Ballroom when he approached me and asked, “Can you tell me how it is for a boy to meet a girl?” My dad’s relatives were born in Italy. I’d taken two years of Italian classes and longed to be fluent. He wanted to improve his English. It was a win-win situation, and we became fast friends.
I showed him my favorite places in Michigan. In exchange, I traveled with him in Italy for six weeks in the fall of ‘93. We toured the entire countryside: from Milan to Florence to Pisa to Rome to Naples to Venice. My Italian has never been great. Without Gigi as my guide, I never would have stopped by a small village called Ripafratta to meet my dad’s cousin, Narcisso. In fact, I might never have gone to Italy at all.
The last time I saw Gigi, we were saying “Arrivederci” at the Malpensa airport. When I came back to America, we wrote letters, talked on the phone occasionally, and sent interesting articles and books to each other in the mail. After several years, we lost touch. I tried to find him a few times, but no luck. Then, he found me on Facebook…15 years later.
Guess who was in America for the first time in 19 years? Gigi. He was in Chicago for a work conference. He contacted me via Facebook, and we arranged for him to come visit me in Royal Oak. We spent two days catching up, conversations in English and Italian. (Oh, okay. Mostly in English.) We ate dinner at the Rugby Grille in Birmingham, and now he can tell his friends in Italy he saw Laurence Fishburne and Martin Landau. We also went to Ann Arbor so he could, as he wrote to me before he came, “Give a look back to places of one of my happiest period of my life.”
My dad once told me, “Gigi’s from Southern Italy. He’s a little ‘pazzo.’ Don’t be surprised if he shows up someday out of the blue.” Over the years, I wondered if we’d ever meet again. Did it really just happen? As we said our goodbyes, again, I realized we were still college students at heart: a boy and a girl. The circumstances in our lives had changed, but the changes hadn’t changed us much. As Gigi noted, “You are the same. Only a few kilos more.” I don’t know how much a kilo is, but I’m pretty sure it’s five or six ounces.
How appropriate Gigi came to town right before Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for the gifts we’ve given each other: language, food, art and culture. Essentially, he gave me Italy. What a blessing to share such a unique friendship that stood the test of time. It just goes to show you, goodbye is not forever.
I wonder if we’ll reunite in another 18 years? Maybe next time, I’ll get to “give a look back to places of Italy.” In the meantime, we’ll always have Facebook.
Ciao, ragazzo. Stop by anytime you’re in America.
>> More Motor City Musing With Vicki Briganti