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Published by andrewcul2698
An old piece I forgot about.
An old piece I forgot about.

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Published by: andrewcul2698 on Feb 24, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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It was in Pasadena where his family was from. It was a gorgeous day in April and the sunwas out. The breeze was gentle and the scent of spring flowers perfumed the cemetery. The beauty of the day made it just that much more bitter. Los Angeles was not moved by this tragedy.And as everyone stood around it occurred to me that I hadn’t known Nick that well. I wentthrough my catalogue of memories I had of him. I had always thought of him as a strange guywho had an obsession with firearms and explosives, who I would see at parties with a giant jugof port wine. Who sometimes behaved inappropriately and made tasteless jokes with a look of delight on his face. He had dated a girl I dated and we had commiserated over her craziness. Ifelt a fond kinship with him. He had driven my roommate and me to a bar downtown where he bought several rounds of drinks for everyone at the table, knowing he had money and he shouldspend it by being nice to his friends, the people he cared about.He was a little crazy, and we were all a little crazy, being so young in an insane city thatthreatened to swallow us up at any moment. He was a product of Los Angeles, having grown uphere and absorbed its contradictions. He had been going to the Smell downtown to see punk  bands since the age of fourteen. The rest of us were from normal towns and he alwaysrepresented the sheer lunacy of the city around us, which could not be separated from his personality. The city was an intractable part of who he was.I remembered a party at USC that he had been at, carrying around his large jug of cheap port wine from Rite Aid, swaggering drunkenly around and offering it to anyone he saw; Iremembered a party at my house that he had attended dressed as a mariachi, carrying a jar of tequila and swigging it all night.And I remember standing on the grass next to all my friends who knew him, staring at thecoffin. He was in there, lifeless and indifferent. After the staid formalities of the Mass, it was
suddenly, horribly real. It was just his body and the earth below us. No Church was here tocomfort us. He was dead, he was gone, and no part of him was here anymore.The thing I remember the most is his mother, with her new husband, sitting by the coffin,weeping loudly into his arms. Utterly out of her mind with grief, she could not take her eyes off the coffin, staring at her dead son. I walked away at that point because I didn’t want to see itanymore and wanted to compose myself. As the tractors came to lower the coffin his closestfriends came to it to touch the lifeless wood that housed his remnants. The grief then became palpable, a cry of colossal unfairness.Did it make any sense then, or did it ever, that he had been taken from us at the age of twenty-five? From an accident on the set of a movie he was working on, in the props department.The facts did not add up to anything. The grief did not care how the life was erased. It surged inspite of the simple facts of the death. And the tractors lowered him into the soil that beautiful dayin April.And next in my memory is the day I learned what had happened. An equally strange timeto hear of tragedy. I was standing on the porch when Robert came home from an audition. Hestood in the yard and we exchanged pleasantries. I held a beer in one hand. Then he told me."Billy called. I think – I think Nick may have died."It was so simple. And knowing Nick, the crazy way he lived his life, and knowing hisunpredictability, it kind of followed from the events of his life that this
happen. One mustfind a way to make sense of things. It
could have happened 
. So in a way it wasn’t too outrageousor unfair. Because it was always a possibility. That is the sometimes cruel way the mind tries toconnect the varied phenomena it has witnessed, so that it does not go mad with the instability of the world around it.
But that day in the graveyard in Pasadena, I could not find a way to make sense of things.And the only rational thing was the outrage around me. This human, searching, raging impulsewas the only sensible thing I could understand.I will end, not at the ending of his life, but a time before, when he was vibrantly alive, inthe chaos of the living world. It was the Fourth of July, and every year in Echo Park scores of  people show up to celebrate their country in a spirit of dangerous anarchy. Mostly Mexicans,they arrive bearing illegal fireworks by the dozen. We had been drinking at our friend’s housenearby and we walked to the park. It was a war zone. People were running around madly,hooting and shouting, and fireworks were screaming past our ears and exploding in the air.When Nick got to the park he found us and began pulling fireworks out of his backpack. Iremembered that his dad was an explosives expert for the movies and he had continued in thisstrange obsession. His fireworks would be the best and the brightest and the most dangerous. Nick sat by the lake and methodically let loose a series of volleys into the night air. One by one they rose and split apart in a show of careening lights that blazed dangerously as theyfaded. At one point one of his fireworks hit a palm tree in the island in the middle of the lake.The tree caught on fire. A group of Mexicans gathered round him, laughing and shouting inSpanish. Nick had brought the celebration and the madness that the night required. For a momentI felt that this was the appropriate way to celebrate our nation, which had been founded in similar moments of mad joy and independence. Nick walked around the park like Johnny Appleseed, handing out fireworks to strangersand instructing them how to use them. All of his friends stood in awe of this strange young manwho we would never fully understand, but loved completely at that moment.This is how I will remember our friend. And if memories are all we have they will haveto suffice.

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