RIP, my friend. Oliver Griffin 1981-2013

It would be fucking fantastic if my friends would stop dying around me. I have now had to deal with losing a friend twice within a year and almost a year to the day apart. Last year, it was Claire and her beautiful smile. This year, one of my oldest and closest friends, Oliver, took his own life for who the fuck knows why.

Whenever a phone call begins with, “Hey, are you sitting down?” you know it’s not going to go well. This is how the phone call I received yesterday morning began. I received a call from one of my other oldest friends and he informed me that our friend Oliver had taken his life the night before in the darkness of our country’s birthday. It was a jolt to my being. I had known Oliver since I was in 7th or 8th grade. He and I had grown up together as much as Sean, Chris, and I had. While I know Oliver had his share of issues, there was nothing in his life - to me - that would’ve led be to believe he’d end it all.

When I first met Oliver, it was through Sean and his cousin Devin. A group of us went to Citywalk up at Universal Studios because that’s what you did then. You went to eat, people watch, and try to get girl’s numbers. Why? Who knows. None of us were going to do anything overly sexual with the girls so looking back it makes no sense. Perhaps we were just honing our craft. Anyway, this was the first time I’d met Oliver and his other friends. This was also another moment where I was the only non-black guy in the group. That meant I had to go do something to prove I belonged. If I remember, I ended up getting this girl’s number while walking through some store with Oliver and one other guy. It impressed them enough that Oliver still remembered it years later and we’d laugh about it. I always think about the Dave Chappelle skit where says if you see a group of black guys and one white guy, the white guy is the most dangerous guy in the group. You have no idea what he had to do in order to be accepted so you watch out for him more than anyone else. It still makes me laugh.

At the end of the day, Oliver and I ended up being great friends. He liked all of the girls I got serious with from 18-30 and really pushed me to pick one and stick with her. I’m stubborn and never listened but that’s OK, things have worked out well for everyone that had been involved. One of my favorite things about Oliver was listening to him tell me that the girls he dated were better looking than those I did. Sorry bud, but, my worst is still better than your best…it wasn’t even a competition. In fact, one of my worst was about average for you, so… I laugh to this day whenever I think of those conversations. 

His sense of worth on the football field was another great point of entertainment. To hear him tell it, he was Adrian Peterson, Marshall Faulk, and Walter Payton all rolled into one. In reality, he was probably more Blair Thomas and Ki-Jana Carter. In fact, in the one game we actually played in together in high school, he took his one hand-off from me, cut right, slipped, and fumbled the ball. The d-end wasn’t even near him and Oliver said he slipped in mud. Athlete! This is on video in case you think I’m making it up. We busted his balls like all teenagers do and it was all in fun, but, man, the disparity in his stories and reality could be measured in light years. Really, some of my favorite stories in my life include Oliver so that has to tell you something about the guy. We once took him to Mexico where he had one beer and a shot and promptly fell asleep in the booth.

As the years passed in our twenties, Oliver ended up doing a handful of random jobs, including being a trucker. I have a thing for having friends that are the (jokingly) ‘first black guy to…’ and we were all convinced he was the first black trucker in the US. It actually wasn’t a bad gig for him as it paid well and if he’d have stuck with it, he could’ve set himself up nicely with some money. But, he admitted he spent it all on clothes and shoes and when he quit, he was at square one. From there, he meandered more than I wanted him to. We talked all the time about what he was doing. He somehow convinced himself that having a higher education wasn’t necessary to do what he wanted but he never did tell me what that was. I never pushed him to get back to school after that.

He ended up moving to Texas and had a kid, or maybe vice versa, I don’t remember. Bryce was a great little boy. He brought him over to the apartment a few times and Oliver loved the little guy. Well, “little” is relative, the kid was huge. If he doesn’t end up a d-tackle at a D1 school, I’m going to be shocked. Still, I could tell that Oliver had realized there was a purpose for his life at that moment. He genuinely seemed to want to get things completely in order. Kids do that to you. In Texas, he got incredibly ‘Bible-y’ seemingly out of nowhere. It’s funny, I was editing my book just this week and got to the entry where I’d reprinted a multi-email conversation about god and religion and all of it. Of course, he thinks he won the argument, I think I smoked him (I did) but it was all good and all fun. We argued and may have disagreed about things but it was never anything that would’ve jeopardized the friendship.

Still, as he went deeper into it all, we just grew apart. Whenever we hung out, it was like we’d been hanging out the week before, nothing had changed. But, I hadn’t actually talked to him for a year or so when I’d heard the news yesterday. Last time I had, he seemed to be doing fine and living in Fontana. He and his baby’s mom weren’t together (they hadn’t been) but he was seeing Bryce often and raising him as best he could. Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you what he was doing with himself. Part of it is me just not bothering to call him. I guess I haven’t learned my lesson and do not fully realize that everyone is not going to be there day after day just because they have been so far.

I’m not here to canonize the guy or rewrite his story to make him flawless. He was flawed and had problems just as we all do. In the end, he was a good man who did what he could. He always had our back as friends. He genuinely loved his son. I have no idea what drove him to put a gun in his mouth as fireworks went off all around him in Texas the other night and nobody ever will. It’s a reminder that no matter what someone may tell you in person, whatever asinine pointlessness they post on social sites, you have absolutely no idea what is going on in a person’s head. You never, ever will either. I’m not going to speculate about why he did what he did because I’ll just end up writing some fictional narrative that I end up believing is the truth when it likely isn’t. In the end, Bryce is the one that is going to suffer more than anyone else. He’s not a child growing up without a father and with a mother that wasn’t very prepared to have him in the first place. I can only hope that there is someone there to fill in the void left by Oliver’s absence.

Oliver, you’re a total dick for doing this, but perhaps if I’d reached out more recently, something could’ve turned out differently. Maybe you felt abandoned by your friends. Maybe the pressure of life was just too much. I don’t know. I do know that I’ll miss you, that I’ll remember you fondly for as long as my memory doesn’t fail me because you were a good dude and you always had my back, as well as Sean and Chris’. I’m not going to be too sad about this all. I choose to celebrate people when they’re gone and that’s not going to change now. I hope that whatever was bothering you is doing so no longer and that you’re no longer in any pain. And, hey, you can haunt me now and tell me which one of us were right about the whole god thing! 

RIP, brother. 

For Grandma…

Five years ago I sat in this very Starbucks on a Saturday morning lamenting the loss of my grandfather, Hugo. Today I’m sitting in the same place, thinking about how I just lost my grandmother, Phyllis, as well. My cousin called me this morning while I was at work but I could not pick right up since I was on a call with a client. Her voicemail had all of the makings of a call I didn’t want to return - short, to the point, no greetings or anything friendly.


Sure enough, it was exactly what I had thought. Grandma passed away last night in her sleep and now she had joined my grandpa wherever they may be. Truth is, she had wanted to go for some time now. She missed my grandpa tremendously and had, more than once, wondered why she was still here when all she wanted to do was be with him. It always made me tear up when she said that because the thought of losing them both was just too much. They basically raised me and were certainly more “parental” than my mother was.

I really do not have anything but good memories of my grandma. She was always nice and never really got mad at me. Sure, when I was a kid she made me go grab my own switch off the tree for punishment (see, you can punish your kids without repercussion, Parents Who Refuse to Discipline Their Mongrels), but, whatever. I probably deserved it so why complain? I guess the one bad memory I do have, actually, is when I made her cry when I was in middle school. She was giving me a haircut and whatever she did was not up to my lofty standards so I got mad and yelled at her. She got upset and took off into the house, crying as she did. At the time I do not think that I cared or realized what I’d done. Looking back, it was obviously completely selfish and a completely dickheaded move. She was trying her best and doing what she could for me and I was a spoiled little prick about it. I never did apologize but I think in the grand scheme, it did not seem to bother her much afterward. She never brought it up again so hopefully that was the case.

I remember lobbying her for a Super Nintendo in the 7th grade and explaining just why I had to have one! Fairly certain there were some charts and graphs involved showing how I was doing my chores and getting good grades in school. Turns out, she had bought on for me already and was going to give it to me at Christmas. My lobbying was happening in July. Well, when I woke up the next morning, there was a nice new Super Nintendo waiting for me in the dining room.

At one point in my adult life, she also kept me out of jail, so that was nice of her as well. She jumped in at the last minute to cover the cost of me essentially getting caught for check fraud and it was not a cheap bailout. My grandparents also bought my first and second cars for me. At the same time, they also paid off my credit card debt though I did not ask for it. Naturally, I decided to screw myself over more and use them again the last few years, but, that is my fault and doing.I never understood why they offered that up and I felt terrible taking the money. Nobody in my family knows either and I aim to keep it that way, really. So, shhh, Tumblr! :) 

I think my favorite memory is of us singing together down on The Property in Murrieta. Grandma and Grandpa owned 7 acres of land down in that area that they’d initially planned on retiring to. Since there was so much space, they had planted dozens of fruit and citrus trees. We had to drive down there every few weeks in order to water them and clean the place up. Grandpa would take a chair up on one of the hills and pick of ground squirrels with his .22 as well. We spent numerous Easter weekends down there and I always found the most well-hidden eggs and baskets. 

During the weekends when we went down, we would walk up to the trees to water, Grandma and I. We would sit in the shade of the tangelo trees on concrete benches my Grandpa made at the shop singing together.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. So please don’t take my sunshine away.

I cannot believe I still remember the words to that… 

Just thinking about that song, let alone saying the words, has made me tear up for the last few years now. Writing that down brought me to the verge of tears and, boy, is it hard to hold this all in so that the hipsters here do not silently judge me…

Now, I am left to my own devices without my grandparents. Grandma deteriorated quickly this year. Her mind becoming less sharp as she had less to do. My mother lived in the house, but, they did not speak. My mom would just lay in her room watching television all day while my poor grandmother - who could hardly move around due to her heart and lung problems - just sat in the living room day after day. No one to talk to. Nothing to read since her eyesight had likely gone almost completely at this point. She probably just sat there all day, eyes closed, wondering where the love of her life was and why he had to leave. I imagine she is better off now though, to be honest. She was not living any kind of life recently. In fact, she probably deteriorated the way she did because my mother refused to display any sense of decency and bury their past as her mother wasted away in front of her. A mind left with no stimulation falls apart quickly.

The worst part was that I did not make it up there the last couple years nor did I speak with her in the last month or so. Each time I called, my mother just said she was asleep. I never made a trip because I never took the time despite going to plenty of other places for the weekend. That means I am batting 1000 when it comes to not seeing my grandparents before they die. I did not go see Grandpa because I could not bring myself to see him in the state he was. Plus, he said he would probably be gone by the time I got there anyway so do not bother. He was always funny and witty even to the end. Grandma, on the other hand, I just did not visit. Subconsciously, I probably did not go for the same reasons. I did not want to see my poor, withered away grandma, I want to remember her as she was.

Well, death and all its finality has surfaced once more and there is nothing to do other than move forward. The world spins, people walk by and nothing has changed. I have to decide how I will interact with my family, if at all. This will certainly spiral into some kind of shit show and remind me of all the reasons I do not speak to most of these people.


I will miss my Grandma tremendously. I will miss talking to her each week and constantly playing along with her asking how my job in Beverly Hills is going since she could never remember where exactly I worked. How she would procrastinate every morning while getting ready for work and then how she would suddenly transform into a bat out of hell to get dressed in the last 30 minutes! I will remember how much she loved me and how far out of her way she went for me so many times in my life when I did not really deserve it. Most of all, I will just remember her for all of the good she brought to me and how she helped shape me as a person, for better or worse.

RIP Phyllis Bracci

a dream

You were in a dream of mine. I don’t remember all of the details, but, I remember enough.

We were walking through some kind of hallway, destination unknown. It was dark, lights were flickering around us as we made our way through the hall, hands intertwined. Eventually we came into a darkened room where a figure was sitting in the corner. After a quick glance we made our way to them. Turns out, it was a guy, about 20 years old, dark hair and pale skin. There was a glow to his skin, something wasn’t quite right but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Unfortunately, this is all blurry and I don’t remember the conversation we all had. All I remember is the end…

“I don’t know what you’re searching for, but, it’s all for nothing. There is nothing out there after this.”

At this point, I figured it out – he had died and come back somehow. We happened to run into him as he got back from whatever other realm he’d been in. He was telling us that this life is all we get, there’s nowhere to turn afterward and nothing to look forward to.

A moment after he said this, we dissolved into the darkness and materialized in a field alone.

That was it. I woke up and tried to remember more, tried to remember the full conversation with the unidentified dead man but couldn’t. I don’t know what any of this means – if anything – but apparently you and I figured out the what happens once we die.

Hi Tumblr.

Please, please make this get reblogged hundreds and hundreds of times? We miss our friend. There’s been more info about the car, so, that’s good. Please, check out the photo and if you or anyone that sees this has information, call the number on there.

Thanks,

Shawn

This. This is what I should’ve written last night, though, that would’ve been impossible since none of this had happened then. 

For Claire.

I noticed the man walking toward me. The candles illuminated your face and made that smile all the brighter. The man continued ambling toward us, his belongings in tow. I glanced at him and saw his weathered face from his days outside in Santa Monica. His beard was scraggly and his eyeglasses were well worn. He walked by us without saying a word or even glancing up.I stood there, staring at each candle. At each photo. The chalk notes scrawled onto the sidewalk. I looked at your photos, frozen in time, realizing that this was all we had left now. These memories captured in time, perfectly framed around your smile and those bright eyes.

Some time later, I noticed the same homeless man walking back towards us. Your other friends and I stopped talking for a sec, long enough for the man to walk up to us and stop. In his hand, he had a flower. He still said nothing, we may not even have been there. He dropped it next to your photo, turned around, and walked away. I couldn’t even gather the strength to say thank you… It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

The first raindrops hit me while I stood there in silence, alone now. I’d finished my note to you and placed it with the rest of the flowers on this makeshift shrine to your life. Next, the thunder rolled in. I saw the first flash of lightning out of the corner of my eye and didn’t believe what I saw. Staring up into the sky I saw more flashes, heard more rumblings. The rain came a bit harder now, extinguishing some of the candles, washing the chalk messages away. Sadly, I realized that those messages will be washed away…just as we all are at some point. All that’s left is the memories held dear by those who loved you. I relit as many candles as I could to keep the flames burning longer…hoping to avoid the finality of it all.

I finally decided to leave around midnight. More of your neighbors came by. One of Sascha’s coworkers too. The 110 was closed so I had to drive through downtown. The parallels of winding my way through this broken part of the city, staring at decaying buildings under shitty lighting and cloudy skies and playing back all of the memories I could think of with you wasn’t lost on me. The memories are there, but, they’re not as clear as they once were. I remember you introducing me to Sascha and seeing how happy y’all were. I remember us sitting at the farmer’s market in Culver City, deciding not to work that day and just getting high. I can remember you encouraging me to smoke with you and your friend on the patio at Trocadero despite cops being parked twenty-five feet away! I remember calling you on Monday to say happy birthday, not knowing what had happened, and reaching your voicemail. I hung up and emailed you instead, still unaware, asking you to please let me know what you were doing for your birthday.

You left your mark on all of us. You will not be forgotten anytime soon. Peace, light, and love, my friend.

Oh, Claire… You will be missed.

You know, you never wake up wondering who out of your friends isn’t going to make it through the day. You never think that someone you grew close to and respected won’t be there day in and day out. But, that’s the thing about life – you have no idea what will happen with each passing minute or day. And, that is the worst.

Last night, on her 30th birthday, my friend Claire was hit and killed by a car as she crossed the street in Santa Monica. She wasn’t jay-walking. She wasn’t dodging cars. She was walking in the crosswalk when someone who’s just shattered countless lives decided that he had somewhere to be that required him not to slow down as he turned the corner on Wilshire.

I met Claire while I was working on the west side canvassing for Grassroots Campaigns. We grew pretty close over the course of my tenure there and it got to the point where we went out into the streets together each day. I confided in her. Told her what was bothering me about the job and life in general. We’d hit our goals and then walk off somewhere and get high to pass the rest of the day away. The best days were when we worked 3rd Street Promenade – hit the goals early, relax at the beach,  get blazed.

After I was fired, we stayed in touch through Myspace and then, later, Facebook. We didn’t see each other as often but when we did, we made it count. She came to my birthday. I went out that way for drinks. We all made plans to ride bikes down the beach together one Saturday afternoon. She finally got things ended/situated with her abusive ex and met her boyfriend Sascha. The guy was as cool as could be and I thought he was perfect for her the first time I met him. He made her smile that smile of hers like no other time I’d seen in the years I knew her. Oh, that smile… Infectious doesn’t even begin to describe it. Radiant. Beautiful. Lively. Those were it. Ear to ear and all teeth. She may have had the brightest smile of anyone I’ve known and now it’s gone thanks to someone who probably could care less.

I called her yesterday for her birthday. I wasn’t sure which number to use since they weren’t labeled so I used the one that seemed like a cell. She hated her phone and had it off most of the time so even though I had the number, we mostly spoke via IM and email. I got her voicemail and couldn’t figure out what it said so I freaked out and hung up! J I ended up writing her on Facebook and telling her to let me know what she was doing for her birthday so I could come out. Looking back on it, I’d noticed the pictures of her that people were suddenly posting. I think I even caught one of her photo surrounded by flowers and candles. But, I was on my phone and didn’t really make any connection. So, I naively wrote an email that she likely never saw. I never got to speak with her and hear her laugh and her oddly “always high” voice inflection. It was endearing and made her all the more pixieish.

I can’t pretend to know what Sascha is going through. Or, what her family is going through. Parents should never have to bury a child. They should definitely never have to bury one as full of life as she was. I always wonder about the people whose tombstones that have the same born and died dates. It pains me to now know that I can make a personal connection to that. Claire, I miss you. We all do. You were the brightest, happiest person I may have ever met. The world is a darker place now that your smile is no longer shining. I’m sorry this happened to you but I hope you’re at peace and sharing your smile with all that came before you. If you run into Kingyatta, say hi to him for me! Love ya, Claire Bear.

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … What I dread is the isolation. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”
— Maurice Sendak, 1928-2012
wordsarefornerds:

some dogs who sleep At night must dream of bones and I remember your bones in flesh and best in that dark green dress and those high-heeled bright black shoes, you always cursed when you drank, your hair coming down you wanted to explode out of what was holding you: rotten memories of a rotten past, and you finally got out by dying, leaving me with the rotten present; you’ve been dead 28 years yet I remember you better than any of the rest; you were the only one who understood the futility of the arrangement of life; all the others were only displeased with trivial segments, carped nonsensically about nonsense; Jane, you were killed by knowing too much. here’s a drink to your bones that this dog still dreams about. 
  - Eulogy To A Hell Of A Dame, Charles Bukowski

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wordsarefornerds:

some dogs who sleep At night 
must dream of bones 
and I remember your bones 
in flesh 
and best 
in that dark green dress 
and those high-heeled bright 
black shoes, 
you always cursed when you drank, 
your hair coming down you 
wanted to explode out of 
what was holding you: 
rotten memories of a 
rotten 
past, and 
you finally got 
out 
by dying, 
leaving me with the 
rotten 
present; 
you’ve been dead 
28 years 
yet I remember you 
better than any of 
the rest; 
you were the only one 
who understood 
the futility of the 
arrangement of 
life; 
all the others were only 
displeased with 
trivial segments, 
carped 
nonsensically about 
nonsense; 
Jane, you were 
killed by 
knowing too much. 
here’s a drink 
to your bones 
that 
this dog 
still 
dreams about. 

  
- Eulogy To A Hell Of A Dame, Charles Bukowski

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(via bearinwolfsfur-deactivated20120)

Oh, well, I didn’t know that today was his birthday. So, happy birthday, sir.