It took me some time to write this.
My mind is like one of your scratched records — hazy by being overloved. I’ve kept jumping back to think of you.
You always looked good in black.
A New York style for a Florida world. I remember the first time we talked. I mean REALLY talked. We drove your Triumph down to the waterfront in the fall. Sitting in a bar in Annapolis eating lobster rolls and pretending not to notice how late it was getting. Getting drunk and swapping stories.
We talked about our (current) shitty relationships and our (past) good ones. You told me about John.
Few of us are lucky enough to meet the person who saves us.
You told me how you ran away from yourself. How the punk kid in Berlin made some fun bad decisions, running with a bad crowd, which compelled you escape to the furthest place from Satellite Beach you could find.
The Pacific Northwest seemed to sooth your soul. There’s quiet up there among the trees. You found art and the artists that came attached. And one in particular made life feel like a masterpiece.
I didn’t know John all that well but I remember how he made you smile.
When Grandma was sick, but still well enough to microwave green beans past the point of resembling food, the two of you came to visit. It was a holiday or something — us Jews have so many reasons to celebrate being alive.
He was also sick; rail-thin yet strangely intense, he pulled out a folder of paintings, quick sketches of dancers. The two of you curled up on the couch, your arms wrapped around his neck, snuggled and happy looking through old photos while I watched I Love Lucy reruns sitting on the floor.
There is something to be said about why we love when we still know that life will stop. The brief fleeting light between soft boundless darkness is like phosphene strobes in the black. Fireflies calling to one another.
I was young. I didn’t see the few happy years with John, but I do know that they gave you so much joy and strength. Memory is a funny thing. It is not enough to keep, you must constantly use it. Your memories of John gave you so much strength.
2013 nearly broke the two of us. When people in your life disappear, you start losing parts of yourself; all those memories and stories that can no longer be told drain out like blood from your leaky bucket body.
Jews sit Shiva. It’s a process to tell the stories of the dead. To remember.
So, mostly, sitting in that shack on the waterfront, we swapped stories. Future tall tales and short snippets of past truth. I could always be real with you.
Life is scary. Which is why so many people become monsters. But you, you were a monster fighter. A champion. My champion.
You joined the Charm City rollergirls as the Jewpacabra. You hustled people for pool. I’m pretty sure you even recently guest starred on a hip-hop track. The amount of love and support you gave me for doing my own thing was astounding. You’d introduce me to tons of your friends who could help and always offer: “the minute you’re ready, I’d love to come work with you.”
But most of all you loved cars. Car were solvable problems in a messed up world. They were beautiful fast creatures that needed love and kindness. They were a lot easier than people.
Keeley was your project car, a 1976 Green Triumph TR6. You saw the car when making auto insurance sales and knew you had to have it. Partly it was chalked up to learning the business inside-and-out and part of it was your love of these beautiful intricate machines. You learned the skills needed to make that little engine roar to life again and drove it up and down the spine of America. No matter what, no matter the hardship of losing John, of criss-crossing the US sleeping on couches and in spare rooms, you would not sell that car.
It sat on some gravel in Traverse City, in a driveway in Annapolis, in my parent’s carport in Annandale, in a garage in Merritt Island. Even before your hysterectomy, before you came to stay with my parents, that car was your baby and you treated it with care.
I remember cruising with you, puttering around town in Annapolis, top up because of the icy rain, listening to 90s jams and old school hip hop.
Your musical taste was impeccable, if a bit varied. I found out about Pharcyde, Lauryn Hill, Sunny Day Real Estate, Heatmeiser, Hazel, Unrest, TV on the Radio, Supergrass, Silver Scooter, Delta Spirit, Arches of Loaf, Pinback, The Hold Steady, Casisdead, Texas is the Reason, Rougue Wave, The Figgs and so so many other bands through your recommendations.
The soundtrack to my life now is an echo of the songs you used to dance to around in your bedroom. When we were both in Northern Virginia, there was a day that you cranked your record player and showed me what I was missing from the musical world. Berlin house music, Portland shoegaze, Seattle rap. You left a bunch of records behind in various stacks and piles.
I always thought you’d make a good DJ — you always were the best at finding the unnoticed, looked-over things in life and bringing them to life. It made sense that you took up marketing for the Annapolis Symphony. I’m bummed I didn’t get a chance to see you in action while you were there.
Your mom likes telling a story of when you and Stephanie were kids, still in diapers. She had just put you into the playpen and was doing something else when she heard a crash. She came back to find that you had gotten up on the table and were drawing all over the wall in crayon.
Immediately, she took the crayons away and put you in time-out, and went back to the kitchen. But that didn’t deter you from making art, however possible.
You took your sister’s stinky diaper and drew in poop all over the walls of your room, like the Picasso of shit.
Monica came back into the room to find both you and Stephanie coated head-to-toe in excrement. Needless to say, she was not pleased.
But that’s you. Making art however possible. A defiant hardworking punk who charted your own course across the world. A grease-covered diehard friend who always had a reason to celebrate even in the darkest times.
I loved meeting up with you in San Francisco, New York, DC, Annapolis, Orlando… all over and going on walks or long rides in the car to talk. Any where we met, you always had a new story to tell about some kind of trouble or crazy idea or strange characters you met along the way.
I love you and miss you terribly. Life isn’t the same without you. It has been a few months but anytime I see a classic car, anytime I listen to a new jam, anytime I check out some cool art or have a crazy business idea, I remember you, your light and your love.