Monday, November 5, 2012

7. Must Yearn



My dad's best friend Eddie died last week. He fell off his bicycle and hit his head. It happened out of nowhere. He was pretty much my dad's last old friend. Tonse, his best friend from High School, whose real name was Anthony, died in 2009. His kid brother, my uncle Scott, died in 2006. My dad's only 60. He should still have a lot of living friends and I am really sad for him that the people he loves keep dying so young.
 
For years anytime he does something sweet or especially funny, he'll jokingly chide my sister or me, "make sure that goes in the eulogy." It's dark comedy, and it's definitely funny in a very New York way. Let's defang the things we're scared of by embracing them and laughing at them. But with all the death that seems to be hovering around him, something's different. I can't tell if the joke has become more urgent or less funny. Maybe both.

I had last seen Eddie at the shiva call for my Grandfather this summer. I didn't talk to him much, but I was happy to see him smiling and looking well, and I was touched that he had come out to see my father, having assumed they had lost touch, just because I hadn't seen Eddie in years. Chalk it up to the myopic selfishness of youth, I guess. But at Eddie's memorial service, my sister reminded me that Eddie and my dad used to talk on the phone for hours when we were teenagers. And they used to IM together! Think about that, my dad IMing with someone. I guess I just didn't understand until recently that sometimes you reach a point in your life where you prioritize stuff besides hanging out. It makes the hanging out better because it's a more precious commodity.

At the memorial my dad gave this beautiful speech. We joke sometimes, in my family, that if we were back in the old Jewish Europe of Shalom Aleichem, he could've eked out a meager living as an itinerant eulogist. The guy is not the most eloquent in his day to day. Not that he's especially inarticulate, but he's known to make up or misuse words with some frequency. But put him in front of a casket, and this motherfucker can SPEAK.

During his eulogy for Eddie, who he had met in college, he rattled off this stream of consciousness list of things his friend had introduced him to.
...drinking beer, Dylan Thomas, the White Horse Tavern, riding a bicycle, running, The New Yorker, The history of New York, the love of THINGS, Tacos, Taj Mahal, Sonny Rollins..
I paraphrased that. I don't remember exactly what he said. But listening to it I couldn't stop thinking about my friend Jamie Ewing. It would've been hard not to, anyway. I was wearing his old shoes to the funeral.

Today is the four year anniversary of Jamie
's death. He died the night Barack Obama was elected, and I am still mad at him for it. The nerve of that kid. And in the four years since we lost Jamie, I've lost a handful of other friends and acquaintances. Flipping through my box of 7"es is like walking through a graveyard where only people I know are buried. To my friends and my friends' friends: PLEASE stop dying.

The week before Jamie died, I had been listening to his old band's record Stray Dog Town almost every night as I closed the diner. Every night I would close up the place and think about calling him to let him know how much I loved that fucking record, how brilliant I thought he was, see if he wanted to get a beer. And every night that week I went to the bar and started drinking a decided to call Jamie tomorrow. And every tomorrow was the same.

And I regret that, obviously. But instead of fixating on what a dipshit I am or whatever, I make up for it. Every year, just after midnight on November 5th, I call or text a few people I care about who I know may also be feeling that same sense of loss. I do it just as much for myself as I do it for them, maybe moreso.

This is how I ended up texting with Aarong until 1:30 in the morning last night. Among other things, I told him that most of my motivation to Do Stuff is to assuage this lingering sense of guilt I feel for still being alive. After Jamie died I pretty much lost it for a little while, and I think I've almost finished picking up the pieces and reassembling myself.

But everything I've done since I woke up the morning of November 5th, 2008, way earlier than I was accustomed, to a phone call from Kevin Morby, crying at the hospital, has been informed by Jamie's life and Jamie's death.

I always felt slightly competitive with Jamie, though I don't know if he felt it too. It was amicable! But every time he would seek me out to make sure I got a copy of some awesome new record he had put out, or show me a drawing he had made, in my head I'd be saying, "so you think you're better than me, huh?" And it would drive me to try and finally get a zine out, or to try and push whatever shitty band I was in to record or play a show or write a new song.

And now, that he's gone, everything I do is to try and measure up to how much awesome shit I think he would've been doing by now. It's so that if he were to drop into the diner to give me a tape or show up at my house with a 7", I'd have something cool to give him in return.

So thanks for that, Jimbo. I still miss you every day.

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