With Andrew gone, it’s time to pick up the slack he’s left behind.

by Czeslaw Milosz

—When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add up,
What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.

—And if there is no lining to the world?
If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
Make no sense following each other?
And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?

—Even if that is so, there will remain
A word wakened by lips that perish,
A tireless messenger who runs and runs
Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
And calls out, protests, screams.


Andrew was barely in his forties, an acting father of three, a husband, a lover, and, as he would say, “all of the things”! Essential to at least three of my neighborhood’s core communities, he was a precious friend I never imagined doing without. He fell suddenly, an aneurysm or a stroke, the sort of death that unfurls its red flag without warning. I could list facts: his love of pirate clothing, his irrepressible fever for wordplay, his drawings, his games, the entire shelf of books on Rome that served as the incubator for a project that will never blossom from its imaginary blueprint seed. None of it will properly convey who he was, what sort of life he created to inhabit and to share, so the narrative that I have decided upon is to declare him the laughing buddha, the zen creature without public ego who didn’t give in to the idea that we should care what strangers think of us. Monks in saffron robes suffer on mountain tops while he found illumination in the way dice moved over a table, the way foam wrapped sticks bounced off other foam wrapped sticks, and a thousand other nerdy occupations I have never really understood but didn’t need to in order to appreciate him and his glee. We bonded over shiny things, science, dancing, and the regular delights of mangled days. All of that, years of it, but I cannot convey the map of his nation’s borders. He was smart and he was good and we miss him. Everything else is set dressing.

It doesn’t seem so long ago since I last ran into him on Commercial Drive, floppy hat, massive cloak, somewhere probably a drum. The man wore tutus and face-paint as commonly as other people wear socks. He was easy to spot. Was, not is. I write that word and lose my courage. It doesn’t seem long because it wasn’t, yet it will never happen again.

I offered to take his picture before he was cremated, something for the family, something for us, an image to represent the man we all loved. I didn’t even think about it, it was as natural as offering my hand to someone sitting on the ground, and his widow said yes and thank you and we agreed. This left me standing by his coffin at the crematorium two hours before the service, my friend Jay acting as a driver and a voice activated light stand, kit in hand and a bag full of expensive lenses I had never used before.

Though it was surreal, I was fine until I bumped the coffin, reflexively apologizing to his cold face, and when I touched him, brushing hair to cover some of the bruising that the make-up didn’t cover. Excepting those moments, I had a skill set to wield, he could have been made of spring flowers, a still life empty of residual heat. He has too obviously absent, an unmanned puppet, only a former body of work, still bones, still skin. An object encased in love and lighting problems to solve.

Fast forward, I stood with his family, perhaps the only one present who wasn’t tied to him through marriage or blood, the last of the last, in the final moments before he was taken away and sublimated into shimmering air molecules and carbon. Tillie couldn’t be there, but AJ read out a note from her, a prayer for the living who stood in a circle around Andrew’s abandoned body. I watched everyone, I watched and I ached and part of me died, and I made my own strident promises: May we remember this and resolve not to let it go. May we forever refuse to stand still.

Required Reading: Neil Gaiman’s Tribute to Ray Bradbury

Today’s required reading is The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury, by Neil Gaiman, an incredible and moving excerpt from an upcoming Bradbury tribute anthology, Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, which comes out July 10th. You can also hear him read it on Amanda’s SoundCloud account or read his blog posts on the matter here and here, which are also beautiful.

Ray Bradbury died on June 5th at the age of 91 as Venus was transiting the sun, mythic to the end. May his words reverberate through history forever.

Here Neil Gaiman explains the background of his perfect eulogy, originally written as a birthday present to the author (may we all be so lucky to receive such a gift):

I wanted to write about Ray Bradbury. I wanted to write about him in the way that he wrote about Poe in “Usher II” — a way that drove me to Poe.

I was going to read something in an intimate theatre space, very late at night, during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. My wife, Amanda, and I were hosting a midnight show of songs and readings. I promised myself that I would finish it in time to read it to forty people seated on sofas and on cushions on the floor in a tiny, beautiful room that normally contained the Belt Up Theatre Company’s intimate plays.

Very well, it would be a monologue, if I was going to read it.

The inspiration came from forgetting a friend of mine. He died a decade ago. And I went to look in my head for his name, and it was gone. I knew everything else about him — the periodicals he had written for, his favourite brand of bourbon. I could have recited every conversation he and I had ever had, told you what we talked about. I could remember the names of the books he had written.

But his name was gone. And it scared me. I waited for his name to return, promised myself I wouldn’t Google it, would just wait and remember. But nothing came. It was as if there was a hole in the universe the size of my friend. I would walk home at night trying to think of his name, running through names in alphabetical order. “Al? No. Bob? No. Charles? Chris? Not them . . .”

And I thought, What if it were an author? What if it was everything he’d done? What if everyone else had forgotten him too?

I wrote the story by hand. I finished it five minutes before we had to leave the house to go to the theatre. I was a mass of nerves — I’d never read something to an audience straight out of the pen.

When I read it, I finished it with a recital of the whole alphabet.

Then I typed it out and sent it to Ray for his ninety-first birthday.

I was there at his seventieth birthday, in the Natural History Museum in London.

It was, like everything else about the man and his work, unforgettable.

— Neil Gaiman

this parade of lost souls

Yesterday I want you. Waking up early to a clear day. Cold gravel field and a borrowed black toque looking over the skyline like fall was newly invented. Camaraderie carrying cases of mortarshells and wooden triangles. A pyramid scheme delight getting closer to a climactic brawl of shimmering light. Took my pain and chilled it from me. The alcohol hate evaporating in no glare at all. Happy to be standing around, not knowing what to do. Assuming responsibility the way I like best. I spraypainted the wall behind the boxes by accident.

Home was my noon computer. Invent the wheel. Catching up skip=800 page worth it for the glory of planet information. Scintillating click click click. Umbrella showers of mesmeristic data flow. I’m sad my friends are far away. Tear me a new heart, a hole to put you all in. Keep this close.

It was dark when I left again. A deep breath of sodium lamps and the sound of the parade band coursing down the road towards our feet. A gush of far away celebration living without you. Broken song, a thud boom boom, whistle clear run across the street when the little white man says walk. This is the first time in a long time I wasn’t in the parade. Dancing in the front lines, waving to the girls with their fire hula-hoops. I can only assume that Lust, Greed, and Apathy were in their usual spots, harassing the crowd with almighty Wrath. It was strange not to be in costume. Not to drift in convenctive spirals around the harmony altars.

From above there was darkness. Creatures yelling and screaming and the murmur of a hundred throats talking. Watching my bedroom of starlit torches. At the fence twenty feet up, not in black but close, I flapped like a bat in my too-big trenchcoat. No one asked for my pass because I owned the place. I walk like I order you around. Asked to dance by the man I met in morning, I swirled in ballroom, the crowd still growing. Roman candles flaring above us, lighting our messy steps and his so strong stance. Cigarette breath, it’s different because I’m a girl. Rich night experience, like me, this language is detached. Performers curse, you can’t see the show. It’s weary, empty and grand.

I took my own insides out

My flare wouldn’t light, I sat and swore as I scratched it’s lightning eyes out. Light the skulls, with me in not my clothes. Long sleeve suddenly, red jumper heat.

I didn’t light a candlewick for Jon. I lit ten and twenty cascades of whistling light. One. Two. Three. Touch metal to metal, close circuit and DIE. Injection of the saddest joy – exploding into the air, the sky crying with it. Electric tears dripping to earth, I wanted to dance in it. Chemical fire for me, for him, for all of us. I miss you, hanged by your own hand behind your bedroom door. I loved you, you know. If you’d asked me to.