We went to the memorial service for my friend, Jason, last Saturday. It was held at the DeGrazia Mission, which, despite it's name, is more of an art gallery than anything. To my relief, there were no clergy present. But too much talk of him being in a "better place" for my liking. I can't really fault people taking what comfort they can from loss.

As for me, I would take it as a kindness if, when my time comes, those I leave behind would forego all that silliness. Given a choice, I prefer a hard truth over a comforting fable.

It is a hard thing to know that the only immortality we get, is in the memories of those we leave behind. It behooves us to make sure those memories are good ones. But even those memories only last a couple of generations, if you're lucky.

We live our lives on the crest of a wave, crashing through time, until eventually we end up as a single drop, among the countless others, in that great sea of Those Who Came Before.

For instance, this morning on YouTube, I was watching some very early films. Street scenes from Edwardian England, taken around 1900. As I watched, I realized that even the youngest of those pictured were gone now. I found myself curious about them. How they lived their lives, and what became of them. Life is precious. They deserved remembrance. I felt myself grieving a little. Not only over their lives and deaths, but over their anonymity.

But as I continued to watch, I would catch a glimpse of...something. A smile, a gesture, a resemblance, a gait. Something that reminded me of someone I know today.

And I thought that perhaps we weren't so separate and anonymous, after all.


One week ago today, my friend, Jason, was murdered.  Last Wednesday morning, paramedics were called with a report of a man slumped over in his car.  They found my friend, badly beaten, perhaps shot. His car was parked in a nice, middle class neighborhood. Aside from the obvious, there were no other signs of foul play. He was 30 years old. He was also a nice guy.  So much so, that I have trouble imagining a situation in which he could anger someone enough to kill him.  When I first moved to Tucson, I barely knew anyone. I'd only known Jason for a couple of days.  But without hesitation, he offered to help me move into my apartment.  My second floor apartment.  As I write this, I'm wearing shoes that he gave me.  He was that kind of guy.

In situations like this, most people struggle to find sense in what is inherently senseless.  While it's happening, violence is a base, mindless thing. It's only later that people try to rationalize and justify.  What was it? Money? Gang initiation? Road rage? These questions are useless.

When you strip it all away, one person will harm another for no other reason than that circumstance, or in some cases, authority, have given them an opportunity to do so.

That's it. No thought. Just predatory instinct.

When I think of this, my sense of loss is increased tenfold.  It's not only the loss of my friend, but of all the potential he held.

And for me, the world is smaller and diminished.

Such a Nice Young Man

A couple of days ago, a young man came into the store and up to my register.  He wanted a pack of cigarettes, but was a little short (I let him slide).  We got to talking, and he explained that he had all but quit smoking, and rarely bought cigarettes anymore.  He further explained that his girlfriend only let him do so when there was enough accumulated pocket change lying around the house.

Then he asked, "Have you got a copy of the (Tucson) Weekly?"
I indicated where they were.  He went and grabbed one, brought it back, and started scanning the pages.

"Ah, there I am.", he said.  He had the page open to the Weekly's 2012 Election Guide, which gave some background on the various candidate running for office.  Then he turned to me, stuck out his hand, and said, "Hi, I'm Brandon Patrick. I'm running for State Representative."

I glanced down at the paper, and was privately relieved to see he was a Democrat.  He went back to reading, then said,
"Ouch, wish they hadn't included that little gem."

I asked him to explain.  He pointed to the paper and said, "Last year, I worked as an aide to Paul Cunningham."

I couldn't help but laugh.  Paul Cunningham is a city councilman who got into hot water on a recent trip to San Diego by drinking too much, and making some inappropriate comments to some female colleagues.  It's the sort of boorishness that the male of the species engages in at least once during his life.  They usually get past this type of silliness while they're fairly young - a process that is usually helped along by a poke in the snout, and a stern talking-to by an older friend or relative.

We spoke a little more, then he took his leave.

When I got home that night, I did a little online research, and was appropriately impressed. But I think what impressed me more was that, when talking to him, he was honest without that slight hesitation that most politicians have when considering how that honesty might affect them politically.  There was also none of that using-a-lot-of-words-to-say-nothing thing that seems to be a prerequisite for politicians.

So, if I were allowed to do so, I'd vote for him.  He's well-spoken, honest, has a firm grasp of the issues, and some good ideas.

And, if nothing else, there something endearing about a politician that occasionally has to scrounge for change like the rest of us.