June 21, 2007


...kinda horrible, when you think about it.

These two girls sat in front of David K and me in the fifth grade. Periodically, they'd turn in their seats towards us, fists clenched. They'd proceed to punch us in the nuts, gleefully exclaiming 'STONED YA!!!'

David and I pretended to resist their unprovoked attacks - but not too much, lest they stop. We were eleven-year-old geeks relishing in the attentions of these oh-so-fine babes.

It's one of my earliest memories of David and our camaraderie.

That, and going to Lawson’s Store on Saturday afternoons, splurging on a quarter’s worth of penny candy, which was a pretty decent heap of sweet in those days.

The goodies fueled tournaments of Clue in David’s parents’ basement. We were crazy about Clue. We promised we wouldn't cheat and I don't think either of us ever did.
Miss Scarlett in the Conservatory with the Lead Pipe!

It was on the sidewalk outside David’s house one summer evening that my gang and I agreed we were gonna be bad boys from then on in. We excitedly promised one another we'd start drinking booze and smoking pot and having fun like the rocko-coolie kids.

And holy moley - the marathon philosophical discussions we'd have, late at night, in playgrounds or on street corners. Even as a teenager, David yearned for the meaning of life and what was right and true.

I hadn't thought of him for ages until last week. Perusing my high school alumni website, the words stung like a splash of ammonia to the eyes: 'David K passed away December 12, 2006, after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer'.

Oh no. Not David K. Poor, poor David. Too young. No way. David is the first of my high school group to die. No. No. No.

We’d not been in touch since the early ‘80s. There’d been no falling out, just a falling away.

In the latter years of our friendship, David and his family converted to Mormonism. Religion didn’t interfere with the camaraderie though. David was a buddy first, before everything else, or so it seemed to the rest of us.

But his life moved in a different direction. He was called to France on his Mission. We stayed in touch, at least for a little while.

I did a little digging a few days ago and I found the semi-serious missives he'd written me in his teeny-weeny script over 25 years ago. David liked to make fun of himself, mindful of the reputation of his fellow followers. In April of '81, he sent a mini-glossary of Parisian Missionary terms:

Bats [BATZ]: Slang for a tenant building. Derived from the French noun 'batiment', meaning building. These are what Missionaries 'prey on'. Hahaha…yech!

Four-story-walk-ups [FOR-STORI-WAK-OPS]: Post-war buildings which seem to have been designed with the intent of discouraging would-be 'door-to-doorers'. Though shunned by salesmen, these buildings – notorious for their odors – are fair game for Missionaries.

Weirdos [WIR-DOZ]: Admittedly a relative term, these people seem to like disco and leather. Some seem to be extra-terrestrial. Theory has it that, though most are obviously affected by the phases of the moon, they are in fact something called 'avant-gard'. Many are from the 'Left Bank'.

I don’t remember if I'd ever told David I was gay. Probably not - I wasn’t yet living the life back then, not fully anyway. But maybe he surmised it and was having some fun with that last definition. I'll never know and I don't care. Sometimes it’s not about sexual identity. Sometimes it’s just plain old friendship.

After his two years abroad, David returned and I heard he ended up in the American midwest with an Asian wife. By that time I was on my own sort of mission and had pretty much lost interest in my gang of yesteryear.

Now he's gone. Me and my battered balls will never again meet up with David K and his. Sigh. I still can’t believe it's true.


Mateo In San Diego said...

I very much liked the piece you wrote... particularly the opening, in the way that it gently unfolded a whimsical tale of happy days of yore... and then, just when you thought there was gonna be more wistful rememberance - bang. He's gone. Pancreatic cancer. That's it.

I enjoyed how you walked us thru that experience - it felt like we were there with you, just casuallly reading a high school web site one minute, then smacked with the shock of learning what had happened... leaving you with a heavy, terrible reason to go thru all your old memories... your old stories... I... think everyone who reads it can't help but suddenly receive a shock of their own... wondering, too, now whatever happened to MY friends? So in that way I think it is an especially, perhaps selfishly, effective piece. Makes one wonder for their own histories...

However, I didn't like the ending... to me, it felt rushed. But then again, that's just the opinion of one who enjoys long pontifications. As you know, my process in all art and interaction is to whittle things down to subtext - what's this REALLY about? And I guess, well... maybe this story about a childhood friendship that faded away and returned in time only to remind you/us of David/yours/the reader's mortality... I dunno... maybe it could have covered those issues with slightly less subtlety. What did this do to you? I wanted to know... what did this event really do to you? What did it make you think? How did it change you? What's different? I felt it ended just as we would gain what I know to be is great knowledge stemming from his death. But I suppose it can't all be covered.

You want me to keep going? I have more... I liked a lot of other stuff. I especially appreciated the soliloquy at the point of David's death... the part where you took us into your head "Oh no. Poor, poor David" etc... that was all spectacular; because I think everyone who has had anything like that happen, where someone has died whom they were close to and loved in such a human way, they have that EXACT rush of feelings go thru their head. It's that sudden urgency... that dreadful desire to bargain with the fates... that "oh no... this can't be happening" sort of realization... it was very raw and I felt it.

I don't mean to pick it apart, and I hope you don't take it as such, but rather wish only to let you know how seriously I regard your writing, and deem it worthy of real exploration and observation.Not to tear it down - on the contrary, to honor elevate it to real discussion.

With regard to what I felt was the piece's brevity, my complaint that it could be much longer, I recognize that could be the way you do it - leave them before they leave you. But this story wasn't like telling someone a dream you had. More than any of your other blogs, it was less about a specific experience you had that only you could relate to... it covered something we all will face sooner than later, and perhaps many times over. So the wisdom gained or given is entirely useful for anyone reading it. Just... know that what you write is worth the time.. and some stories can go on beyond the bite-sized attention span of most bloggers. Those who get through it will be rewarded with a powerful human tale.

Oh! Something else that was neat and I wanted to make note of was the fact that as soon as the pace and rules of the piece had appeared to be written, you creatively took the reader for a crazy ride into David's own world of words, through the reprinting of his missionary-in-France re-phrasings. That was a good idea to keep the pace a bit more lively, and killed the possibility of this being just another bummer-blog with a downward spiral of an ending. It was sweet, and also served to give him real life by bringing his own words to an entirely new set of eyes. You brought him back to life, in a sense... so it makes anyone who reads it kind of realize, even more, his three-dimensionality as a human being... he becomes so much less an idea on account of this creative direction.

It also was used as the PERFECT seque into the gay issue... which I was keenly watching to see how you were going to be able to smoothly move from the impromptu French dictionary back into your story... and you did it very well... even if it did leave us with a haunting series of questions. Did he know you were gay? Why would he have written about weirdos in leather who like clubs? What was he really saying there?

But you sort've answer these questions yourself. By saying you disappeared on your own quest of identity and spirituality, you too must face the reality that a guy going full-fledged into mormonism and another boy discovering his identity as a gay kid were issues too great for a childhood bond to withstand. In that sense, it is a sad story... and I think, also, one that every gay person who reads it will be able to identify with, citing their own story of a youthful connection not built to withstand the realities of adulthood.

The piece is about so many things... ...that's why it resonates.

So, er, anyway... you wrote a very good piece and I think it will affect people more than you know. It is a pebble that rolls down the psyche of those who read it, collecting on its way a series of memories and old ghosts... old houses and furniture... until the pebble is a massive boulder of long-since-forgotten memories.... and the reader walks away with the feeling that once-inert emotions are again moving through them at the speed of a tumbling ball of rock.

My question is, with regard to writing of the dead in the electronic age - if we are electric, each and all made of electric energy from origins unknown, what does it do to write of the dead, reprint their words and old photogrpah... and send it thru the unimaginable ether of internet caches, routers, space satellites and underground cables? Will it ever get to him, this blog? All the electrical outlets it goes through to reach me, thousands of miles away... and further... up even into the stars... maybe he will read it, in some cosmic capacity.

BigAssBelle said...

well dang, i came in here to tell you how much this post touched me, but mr. mateo pretty much laid it out, so i'll just say that this was poignant and bittersweet and reminds me of my friends who are gone. thank you.

TankMontreal said...

lynette: Thanks heaps for the comments. Your reading my blog flatters me immensely, and that you take the time to comment puts me right over the top *bigtankhug*

p.alan said...

I remember how I felt when the first of 'my gang' died. I know well the feeling of how disbelief still tries to hang on the memory of them still being here. We did have that falling out years ago, even though I still wished him well and thought of him often. So that, coupled with the fact he killed himself, made it even more difficult. Thanks for sharing.