Gone in an instant

31
May
2010

I sit here writing this in a bit of a shock. A longtime friend of mine is dead. He died in one of those silly, could happen to anyone, sort of ways. He and his partner Shaan were riding bikes home from the pub in London. They bumped into each other, and Andrew fell and hit his head on the curb. And he died. It happened three weeks ago, about a week after we had last spoken.

I first met Andrew back in Paris, in the office of an architect who I was working for briefly. Andrew had, similar to me, moved to Paris to look for work as an architect. I was living in a tiny apartment near the Bastille, and I couldn’t afford it. Andrew was looking for a place to live, and we became roommates. Later we would move into a larger apartment in the hills of Montmartre, sharing with our friend Karin. There were so many nights we hit the town, played around, danced, got drunk and then stumbled home on foot, back up the rue St Denis, past all the whores and hush of late night/early morning Paris. It would take us an hour or two to make the walk, but it had a kind of glorious quality to it, and we shared many confidences along the way.

About the time I was leaving Paris, Andrew was teaching at the Bauhaus and moving into film production. Andrew was Canadian and moved back to Toronto not long after that and we lost touch with each other.  I saw him once or twice in the next few years, briefly running into him in Toronto, where I was visiting a mutual friend. I think that must have been 1999 or so. It is funny how the years can pass and how easy it is to lose touch with people, especially if you are as mobile as we were.

That was nearly the end of our association, not out of any ill will, just time and distance and circumstances having made us ever more invisible to each other, out of sight and out of mind. Years passed.

And then, for no good reason I can think of, I had an urge to reconnect with Andrew in early January, 2008. I had been reading an article about that very architect in whose office we had met, and my curiosity was piqued. This being the age of facebook, it was a cinch to do a search and voila. There was a profile, not showing much info, but I had a feeling it was Andrew and sent him a message.

We reconnected over Skype, and had several video chats, getting caught up on each other’s lives. The years that had passed seemed to bring us much closer together, and to have given us a greater connection and affinity than we had in the past. We talked about flying to see each other in person one day soon. It was always one day soon. Perhaps I would fly to Toronto, or later to London where Andrew moved with his partner. Perhaps he would come to visit me in Mexico, or later New York. We continued to video conference and chat often, and even though we hadn’t been in the same place physically in many years, I counted Andrew as a good friend. I knew this would be the year we saw each other.

I hadn’t spoken to Andrew in about 3 or 4 weeks, and I had only noticed that he hadn’t been on Skype. And with a lot of work on my plate recently, I hadn’t really thought much of it.

And then a few hours ago, I see that I received a chat message from Andrew, except that it wasn’t from Andrew. It was from Shaan, his partner. He said, “Do you know what has happened? Has anyone contacted you?” I had a slight sense of dread as I answered the call. I listened dumbstruck as Shaan recounted to me how Andrew had died in his arms. I felt kind of sick and confused. I was completely befuddled and had no idea what to say.

I don’t know Shaan except for the occasional hello when he would pass behind Andrew’s camera while we were chatting. I didn’t know what to say at all, or how to say it to him. I had only spoken a handful of words with him, and all of them over the internet. I felt really inadequate and bumbling. I hastily wrote down his contact info and apologized for not being able to talk. I thanked him for telling me and hung up the phone.

And for the past few hours I have been in a kind of sad daze. I find it hard to believe I will never speak to my friend ever again. I want to know so much more, wish I had been able to share in his memorial. I have sent messages to some old friends in Paris from that time. I feel the greatest need to talk it over with them. I feel like I need to get to know Shaan as well and to try to come to terms with this. I can only imagine the hell he must be going through, picking through all the pieces of their shared life.

It is funny that one of the things that Andrew and I spoke of often since reconnecting was about the fragility of life, and how it could all be gone the next moment. He was interested in my mid life crisis and traveling of the past few years and was very sympathetic and encouraging. I tried to offer support for some of the professional frustrations he was encountering in London. And even if we didn’t speak every day, it was nice to know that I had a friend in Andrew, and that he was out there somewhere. I’m really going to miss that feeling.

Taxi ride home

31
May
2010

It was a pretty damn nice day yesterday.  Beautiful weather, a bbq in a lovely courtyard down in the Village, a walk back home and finally out dancing at a place that had amazing energy, a fantastic and diverse crowd, and music you really wanted to move to. It didn’t hurt that I was with friends old and new, the laughter coming quickly and easily. I think settling into life in a particular place, and feeling your place in it, happens in stages. And the feeling of rightness of place just comes into focus in bits and pieces. In the cab on the way home last night, with my window rolled down and the definite summer breeze hitting my face, it felt right to be here in this city. It felt like home.

Get over yourselves already

29
May
2010

This morning I noticed the top headline on the NY Times site was “As ‘Don’t Ask’ Fades, Military Faces Thorny Practical Issues“.

Jesus Christ, give me a break.

Imagine Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell applied to left-handedness (or religion for that matter). How silly would it sound to ask about all the “thorny” issues surrounding integrating the lefty into the troops, whether or not they should have separate barracks, what to do about attacks on them, etc, etc. I am so over all the ridiculous hand-wringing over this. Get over it and act like adults. The military (and other institutions) have rules regarding conduct, and anyone of any orientation (left or right-handed) who breaks these rules should be treated in exactly the same way. That applies as much to “unwanted advances” as to “harassment of minorities”, no matter the person in question. There all all kinds of bullshit reasons people may not like the person next to them, from their skin color to their religion (or lack thereof) to their political affiliation to their taste in movies. I am heartened to note that in the younger generations, there is a notable difference in how sexual orientation is perceived, and by that I mean it is less and less perceived as anything other than one more attribute of the person in front of you, like left handedness (which is an orientation), or religion (which is a choice, btw).

The people all up in arms about this are the same ones who were against racial integration of the troops a generation ago. The arguments are the same craven ones as back then. It will be a nicer world when all the old bigots have moved on to that big segregated plantation in the sky.

Feast or famine

27
May
2010

The thing about the life of a freelancer is that one is always chasing new work. And if one if unlucky, also chasing payment for that work. The thing I love about freelancing is I really can set my own schedule, take a walk or watch a movie when I feel like it, visit museums outside of crowded times, etc. Some people are really stressed out by not knowing exactly how much they will make every month. And for them, a salaried position makes a lot of sense. I am not overly worried, most of the time, about the ebbs and flows. I know that I may have nothing today, a lot tomorrow, and nothing again the day after that. Overall though, I find that I am much less stressed than when I was in a big office with lots of staff, pay and projects. And when I look back at the pattern this year, it is pretty uneven. I was pretty dead in Jan and early Feb, swamped through end of March, very light through April and early May, and now swamped again with more work than I can handle. Fortunately for me, I am learning a lot all the time, and really enjoy the work. When I get “stuck” on some project, whether for lack of inspiration or waiting on materials, I move on to another and often find the problems are easier to fix when returning to the first one. And often the techniques I am learning on one project fit nicely with the needs of another. And now that my little head-clearing break is over, back to work.

The View from here

19
May
2010

My friends Brian and Adam (or, if you prefer, the couple known as BrAdam) had extra tickets to what I thought was a taping of “The View“, and invited me along. I say “what I thought was” because I was slightly nervous to discover that the show is live every day except Friday.  I arrived at the studio on the (somewhat) upper west side at about 8:30 this morning and met my friends in line. When I got there Brian showed me the letter he had received about attending the show as a member of the studio audience and I was surprised by how detailed it was. Not having received the memo beforehand, I quickly realized I was all kinds of out of compliance (I was not wearing bright colors for example), but fortunately they let me in anyway. Once inside the security, we stood in the lobby for about an hour waiting to take the elevator up to the studio, somehow both excited and bored at the same time. Our boredom was fortunately alleviated somewhat by examining the mostly New Jersey crowd that had come to see the show. In particular there was a 60-something woman with a scary orange-leather tan and matching orange and yellow skintight outfit, accessorized with huge orange string art/dreamcatcher earrings. We loved listening to her talk in her heavy bronx accent, saying things like “I wooda got dawna uh cawfee, but ya know how picky she is, and if I gawt anything wrawng, ya know dere wood be hell to pay…HELL…TO…PAY.” After that we speculated on the sexual orientation of the very few men in attendance and concluded that we were somewhat unique. Once inside and in our seats we were instructed on proper crowd etiquette, such as when to clap and how loud, how not to look at the camera, what our enthusiasm level should be, etc. The first part of the show had the panel discussing stars behaving badly and such, and then there was a “surprise” visit by some of the cast members from “Modern Family” to promote the season finale this evening. I love that show, so it was cool to see them, even if they said nothing particularly of interest. Next up was Will Forte from “SNL“, who I quite like, followed by someone from the show “Lost” that I never watch and couldn’t be bothered about. All in all it was a fun thing to do, and interesting to see how they put together a live show such as this. I was also surprised that the audience was not larger (less than 200 people). Having had the foresight to Tivo the show, when I got home I watched and saw that we made it on camera several times (I posted a crappy video clip here in case you are interested).

Famous and forgotten

11
May
2010

There was a large group of us in some sort of resort or shelter in a big city that was very dense with buildings like New York, but more futuristic. We were listening to some live program on the radio and kept commenting about what they were leaving out. We kept saying, “That’s not Hollywood, what is wrong with them?” We were all famous somehow, and two of our group went down to the place where the show was being broadcast, and sort of muscled their way into it and onto the air. When they were on the air they went through the archives in that building, reading off names over the radio of things they pulled out of the boxes at the station. Most of these things were people’s names. They then came back to the shelter where we were, only now we were outdoors in the city, looking up over a long bridge to a massive tower on axis at the end. It was nighttime and all the buildings were lit up, and it was snowing but not cold or windy at all. It was an incredibly beautiful scene, but also quite stylized and old looking, like an artist’s idea of what the future would look like from the vantage point of 1930. We kept saying to each other “Now that’s Hollywood,” as we looked around the city, satisfied that some names had been correctly read on the radio.

4 days

4
May
2010

All in all, this short trip to LA has been really great. I reconnected with a bunch of old friends, visited some old haunts, ran into some people that had wronged me in the past and felt nothing but transcendence and happiness, ate fairly well, won a work contract with a new LA client, met with a New York client, snogged with a handsome guy, actually enjoyed driving a car through a bunch of familiar places, went on a hike in Topanga Canyon, and felt grateful.

Not bad for 4 days.