I don’t believe bad things come in threes (except when they do)

(…or, Why I Haven’t Answered Your Email Yet.)

1: Leslie

Leslie, with whom I spent almost a decade attached at the hip, nearly died a couple of years ago when a couple of her vertebrae collapsed. She was in the hospital for a long time, and surgeries and months of intravenous antibiotics left her severely immunocompromised. A couple of weeks ago I got a call saying that she contracted an infection which went septic. Her heart valves were infected, her liver and kidneys were in serious trouble, and she was in a coma, on life support.

After a couple of days of her getting worse, I packed a suit, made a few phone calls to people who needed to know, and headed to Ottawa. The first few days were brutal. A lot of sitting around with other friends of hers and talking. A lot of thinking about what the funeral would look like. Much to everyone’s surprise and great relief (including the doctors), things slowly started getting better.

Leslie’s illness (and my visit) also coincided with the Zaphod Beeblebrox 20th anniversary week, which means that I filled in for Leslie as a guest DJ for the 20th anniversary edition of Industrial Strength Tuesdays. I’ve been part of Tuesdays for about ten of those 20 years, but it was really fucking tough to be in that booth without Leslie.

All told, I was in Ottawa about a week before I headed back home.

2: Graham

A few days after I got back to Toronto, I got the call that Graham had died. (My bag from Ottawa was still packed, suit untouched.)

I don’t even know how long I’ve known Graham. I met him at the first couple of 2600 meetings I ever went to, which means it was a loooong time ago. Mid to late 90s. We were teenagers. Not only does the cafe we had them at (Cafe Wim) not exist any more, but neither do the next two cafes it moved to after the first one closed.

The meeting I remember most vividly from those early 2600s (aside from the meeting where I was congratulated by Graham and Mike on how my ‘Hack of the Year’ had hit CNN and thinking “CNN. Well, I’m going to jail.”) is when we ran a telephone line from our table at Cafe Wim down to the payphone in the basement. We stripped the payphone wiring with a lighter, got some alligator clips, and one hastily assembled beige box later we were ringing up the payphones at the 2600 meetings happening in California or wherever the fuck it was we called. They couldn’t understand Paul’s accent (“No, I said Canada. CANADA! WE’RE CALLING FROM CANADA! WHERE SANTA LIVES!”) and Graham took the handset and became our ambassador for the rest of the meeting.

But the reason losing Graham is excruciating isn’t because we were hackers. It isn’t because we were going to the same raves as teenagers, or DJing the same raves a few years later. It isn’t because of the roadtrips we took, or the terrible movies we watched, or the fact that we always had each other’s backs when one of us was calling someone out for sexism/racism.

This is why losing Graham is excruciating: When you put all of those things together, when you’ve shared so many important and formative environments, you end up with the rarest of friends — someone who understands you. Not just someone who understands what’s important to you, but someone with an intuitive sense of who you are, someone shaped by the same things that shaped you.

I don’t have much in my experience to compare that feeling to. It’s a bit like how I feel about my siblings. It’s more like when I read about people who have been through a disaster (or a war, or a cult, or…) and they describe the experience of running into someone who has been through the same disaster/war/cult/whatever. They’re a kind of family, because they understand so much about each other.

Graham was that kind of family. We understood so much about each other. And I’m having a hard time coping with the idea of a world where I don’t share with someone the experiences that Graham and I shared.

3: Jairus and Joshua

I don’t believe bad things come in threes. Still, I said to Audra when I got back from Graham’s funeral that even though I didn’t believe bad things came in threes, I was still anxious, I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

A couple of days later, it did:

Please consider this your notice to Terminate the Tenancy at the End of the Term for Landlord’s Own Use as per the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act. Once you vacate the premises, we will be renovating the property and moving in after the work is complete.

Now I get that it may seem weird for me to post about having to move in the same category as people dying and almost dying, but if I’m going to be honest here, I actually find moving more stressful than people dying and/or almost dying. I’m not being hyperbolic, either. I can’t deal with things that threaten the security of my living situation. All of my life’s most-stressful-events involve my living situation being threatened. (I was going to add an exception for ‘being kidnapped as a child’ before I realized I should probably pencil that in under ‘security of living situation’ anyway.)

So now we’re looking for somewhere new to live.

Postscript

I don’t want to write an entry that is all doom and gloom, so I’ll end with this:

Every day this week, I have eaten my lunch outside in the sun, reading. Spring is here.

Dear Maman

Louise Bourgeois has left us.

Louise Bourgeois, the French-born American artist who gained fame only late in a long career, when her psychologically charged abstract sculptures, drawings and prints had a galvanizing effect on younger artists, particularly women, died on Monday at the Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. She was 98.

We owe her the only worthwhile public sculpture in the city. I always hoped she might gift us with another.

(Photo by Geekstalt)

07/14/1978 – 03/02/2006

Squid

You will find me if you want me in the garden
unless it’s pouring down with rain
You will find me if you want me in the garden
unless it’s pouring down with rain
You will find me if you want me in the garden
unless it’s pouring down with rain
You will find me if you want me in the garden
unless it’s pouring down with rain
You will find me waiting for spring and summer
You will find me waiting for the fall
You will find me waiting for the apples to ripen
You will find me waiting for them to fall
You will find me by the banks of all four rivers
You will find me at the spring of conciousness
You will find me if you want me in the garden
unless it’s pouring down with rain
You will find me if you want me in the garden
unless it’s pouring down with rain
You will find me if you want me in the garden
unless it’s pouring down with rain
You will find me if you want me in the garden
unless it’s pouring down with rain

If I am not me, then who the hell am I?

A moment to remember screenwriting legend Dan O’Bannon, who left us yesterday:

Dan O’Bannon, one of the scriptwriters behind such seminal SF flicks as Alien and Total Recall, has passed away in Los Angeles following a bout of ill-health, at the age of 63.

O’Bannon was a lifelong SF enthusiast, and got his first experience of filmmaking when he worked as writer, editor and special effects producer on John Carpenter’s brilliant, cynical debut Dark Star. O’Bannon and Carpenter had studied together at USC prior to the film’s 1974 release.

He went on to do special effects work on the first Star Wars film and was involved in the early stages of comic writer Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unsuccessful attempt to bring Dune to the big screen in the mid-‘70s. But it was when he began to concentrate on writing over production and effects that his career really took off. O’Bannon is credited with writing the original screenplay for Alien (alongside Ronald Shusett), and his influence on that film extended to bringing into the fold a certain Swiss artist called H.R. Geiger, who had also been involved in the failed Dune project.

O’Bannon’s other hits included the gloriously OTT Schwarzenegger vehicle Total Recall, an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by the O’Bannon-Shusett partnership. He was also involved in a number of cult classics, including Lifeforce, Heavy Metal, and Screamers, while his Moebius-illustrated comic The Long Tomorrow was the inspiration for the art style of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

O’Bannon changed the face of science-fiction (and horror, inventing ‘fast’ zombies in his 1986 directorial debut Return Of The Living Dead), and I’ve been hoping for years that he’d make a return to the big screen (possibly with the perpetually-delayed Silvaticus 3015) to show all these modern ‘sci-fi’ writers what’s what.

A public memorial for Mr. O’Bannon will be held sometime in the next few weeks at my apartment in the form of a movie marathon. Interested parties please reply within.

Proposed topic for tonight’s dinner

Norman Borlaug, “the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself,” has died at age 95. On the staff of the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico, Borlaug “developed a “miracle wheat” that tripled grain output and moved the country to self-sufficiency. Dr. Borlaug then took his high-yield, disease-resistant wheat to Pakistan and India, averting the mass famine and starvation that had been widely predicted.

Yet, despite his achievement, and being one of only five people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, Borlaug was hardly a household name: a 1997 Atlantic profile described him as the “forgotten benefactor of humanity.

(Post by NotMyselfRightNow, via MeFi.)

Shakespearian hero, drowner, drinker, last link to Camelot

Reading the coverage of Ted Kennedy’s death over the last couple of days, I was struck by two things: how much more human Mulroney’s comments are than the terrible statement given by Harper (especially compared to how Harper eulogized Reagan), and how much the surviving male Kennedys look like JFK.

Kennedy Children

Patrick Kennedy looks just like his uncle John’s portrait.

JFK official portrait

(Post title appropriated from Jeffrey Zeldman.)