December 13, 2016

Darth Vader Piñata

Missing Amir's wit and wisdom today as I do every day, I wanted to share a few more glimpses into his exceptional mind.

This is from an email in February 2007, after he visited me in SF and we made one of the few bar bets I won over the years:
"I owe you five bucks because 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' was indeed performed by Frankie Valli, not Johnnny Mathis - I guess all that Rita Moreno and whiskey clouded my judgment at the Owl Tree bar.

I ran into about 300 rabid Lakers fans at the Oakland BART depot. L.A. stomped Golden State's ass at Oracle Arena, and I got to witness the hi jinx of drunken dipshits in outdated Kobe Bryant jerseys storming the train. Luckily, I didn't get shot at and got to the airport in time to witness two young lovers get in a MASSIVE fight at the security check-in. I chuckled to myself, gave thanks for my independence, and prepared for what would be a turbulent flight. It's snowing like a motherfuck in Reno, and the descent into the blizzard nearly caused me to puke up my cashews. We made it, though I made my neighbor uncomfortable by reading that addicting 9-11 book you gave me as we lurched about in the clouds."
And, from September 2010, just before I visited him in Portland:
"I feel like an asshole for leaving you an answering machine message filled with insensitive jokes. If I had a nickel for every time I put my foot in my mouth, I'd be filthy stinkin' rich. Mostly I was just hoping to make you smile.

Trivia is Tuesday night at 7:00. Again, I remind you that you are expected to help us win. Don't bother coming all the way out here if you can't tell me the minimum I.Q. for Mensa entry, the smallest Great Lake, and Valerie Harper's boyfriend's name on 'Rhoda.' Last time, the first prize was a Darth Vader piñata. I sulked the whole way home."


December 4, 2016

"I can't beat it..."

For as long as I can remember, I have lived very much inside my own head, deep in thought, constantly poring over ideas and feelings and insights without talking to another soul for hours (or even days) on end. Only one other person in my life shared this tendency toward living inwardly and that was Amir. He and I often talked about the good and bad points of living in one's own mind, being too cerebral and introverted, overthinking our feelings and intentions to an unhealthy extent.

Yesterday, during a long walk around Prospect Park on a cold, gorgeous day, I thought, "My brain must be tired of me." Then I considered how amused Amir would be by that idea and... here we go again... I longed to share it with him.

How has it been two years since I spoke to my darling brother? The days and weeks and months seem to drag on, when they are not flying by. That's the thing about grief: it fucks with time in a fascinating and utterly confounding way. It feels like yesterday that I last saw or spoke to Amir and sometimes it feels like it's been far longer than two years. I am completely gobsmacked by how often I reach for the phone to call or text him, even after 24 months of not being able to do that. I do this even MORE often with Jason, sometimes even stopping short of calling out to him from another room before being punched in the chest by the reality that I'm alone and he won't answer. Jason's absence from my life is intensely physical. Grief begets physical and emotional longing of an intensity that I never expected to feel in my life.

What else is there that fucks with the mind and heart like grief does? Nothing. There is pain, both physical and emotional, that most every human faces in his or her life. There is sadness and longing and disappointment and confusion and anguish. But none of it wreaks havoc on the mind and heart like deep grief does. None of it transforms who you are as a person down to your very core and uproots everything you once felt about life, love, longing and loss.

Last night, I saw the movie Manchester by the Sea, starring Casey Affleck as a young man who loses his brother while also suffering the aftermath of an earlier, horrific tragedy in his life. I don't remember the last time I was so moved by a film and a performance. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I managed to hold it together in the theatre (I've gotten pretty fucking good at not crying in public), but its poignancy affected me deeply.

Affleck's character's grief and pain are so crushing that you can see it physically in his eyes, his face and his body language before the film even reveals the magnitude of the loss he's endured. At one point, speaking of his grief, he repeats the line: "I can't beat it." Fucking hell, do I know that feeling. I don't think I've ever seen an actor convey the numbness, anger, misery and longing of grief in such a compelling and thoroughly authentic way. Give this brilliant actor an Oscar. Now.

You want a glimpse of what profound grief looks like? See this movie. And bring tissues.