Not Fade Away

Those conversations you have with friends where you make plans to get together but don’t quite seal the deal are the worst. Why do we do that? My friend Justin and I had made plans earlier in the year to hang out and get some food at a Kenyan Safari restaurant he was raving about in Georgetown. It sounded great. And, perhaps this is a Seattle thing, but we made all the necessary arrangements—save an actual date and time. In a word, we failed at being friends. This is not uncommon. It happens every day.

Fast forward ten months and I’m sitting at my desk working furiously under a handful of sinister deadlines. Throughout any given day, various people will email me asking for photographs for a magazine article or a blog post—all of my clients do this on a regular basis—it’s part of my job. Sure enough, my longtime pal and client Margaret from 611 Supreme was looking for some photos of our friend and her former bartender, Justin, and she was wondering if I had anything in high resolution for a flyer she was making. She also assumed that I knew what had happened. What happened? Well, it turns out that Justin had just killed himself a few days prior, and she wanted to make a flyer to promote a wake in his honor. I kind of lost it.

After sobbing into my keyboard for hours, I found some photos and sent them off and asked what had happened. Not many details, but she was hosting a wake of her own for Justin at 611 the very next day and I attended and saw all the old crowd and told all the old stories and we all cried quite a bit. It was a bittersweet, sad mess of an affair.

But what about Justin? He was such an amazing person. I sat at his bar for years. I saw him every Friday. It’s absurd to try and actually explain what a warm, honest and beautiful person he was. It’s also odd to say that you truly love somebody that you hadn’t seen in over a year—or only ever saw once a week previously at his workplace. But you couldn’t not love Justin. That’s just how it worked with him. But I’m not going to try to describe how great he was to people who didn’t actually know him—but if you did know him you completely understand. In the end, we had a few dinners together, saw a few live shows together, but mostly it was just hanging out at his bar at 611 that made the difference for me. He was a weekly respite from it all. He was somebody to look forward to.

Here’s my advice to everybody: Stop making those empty plans. Either make the plans or move on. But if you really want to spend time with somebody, do it. There’s only so much time left. Spend it with the people who make a difference in your life. Another thing, if you ever suspect your friends are suffering under the weight of the world, make that effort. Answer that phone call. Drive across town. Do what it takes. And finally, you don’t get to take your own life. As bad as it gets, you just don’t get to do that. As Louis C.K. said once: “It isn’t YOUR life. It’s something you PARTICIPATE in.” I was never quite sure I bought into this idea before, but man, I sure do now. I just wonder what conversation—what notion—could have made all the difference for Justin.

Justin, you were amazing. You were brilliant. You made an impression on every person you met. You mattered. I will miss you more than I could have ever imagined because I couldn’t ever imagine this sad scenario. I guess I always assumed we would eventually set a proper date and get some of that Kenyan Safari food whatever the hell it was. I guess I just waited too damn long. I’m so sorry I did.

See you in the next one brother.