October 20, 2017

This Game's in the Refrigerator

Chick Hearn

As I'm sure I've mentioned on too many occasions, Amir was a committed L.A. Lakers fan beginning from the age of about 8 or 9. He loved Magic and Kareem and Worthy and he reveled in the mid-80s Lakers/Celtics rivalry. Of course, every Lakers fan loved the team's inimitable play-by-play announcer, Chick Hearn (who purportedly coined such terms as "slam dunk" and "air ball").

In 1986, someone produced this fantastic mix of memorable "Chickisms" and interjections over an unfussy, out-of-the-box drum-machine beat. The "Rap-Around" got some airplay on local radio and, of course, Amir and his young buddies went fucking apeshit for it (including Mike Kelly, who reminded me of the song's existence just a few months ago):

Chick Hearn, "Rap-Around" (YouTube)

Amir adored Chick's colorful language and phrasing, just like my father loved Yogi Berra's. I loved hearing them laugh from the TV room while watching a game; joining them occasionally, I'd snicker right along with them when Chick threw out gems such as "The mustard's off the hot dog." Owing to my minimal interest in the sport itself, I found the witty wordplay of announcers like Chick to be the most enjoyable part of listening to a game.

As a young kid, Amir filled notebooks meticulously with pages of sports statistics and scores. He collected baseball cards and preserved them carefully and lovingly in plastic sleeves filling scores of three-ring binders, which he cherished. As a teenager and into his 20s, he wrote fairly extensively and wittily about sports, particularly basketball and baseball. I often encouraged him to parlay his extraordinary perceptiveness, cleverness and natural wordsmithing talent into becoming a sports writer. He could have been so fucking great, infusing sharp humor and wit into observations derived from his bottomless knowledge of and love for sports (a la the fabulous Frank Deford, whose greatness in my eyes comes from the fact that I enjoyed his sports commentary tremendously in spite of my possessing almost no knowledge of or interest in the subject matter).

An aside: in writing this post, I came across this Chick Hearn quote, uttered at the point in a game when it became clear the Lakers were en route to victory: "This game's in the refrigerator: The door's closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard and the Jell-o's jiggling." I don't remember having heard the phrase before, but I'm sure Amir had, as its influence was clear in his writing style. Plus, I'd bet he got a huge fucking kick out of it and that makes me smile even now.


October 12, 2017

He Liked the Sweet

The magical Stefan Leikin does not use Facebook and was not aware of this blog until a few days ago. He has since shared with me and Yael this remembrance of some "special nights" with Amir (circa 1994, when Amir was 18):
A bottle of Captain Morgan.
Spinning records (starting with Nirvana)
Playing chess in his room for hours
The debates we had were so much fun. He swore by Nirvana. I leaned toward Pearl Jam. And the debates continued. But we always had the Beastie Boys as our common ground. That was until the discussion switched to which Beatles album was the best. He really loved "Revolver."  
No one knew about those nights. We were the only two left in Chatsworth. We spent a lot of time together. Those were good nights. We spent hours listening to records. Chess was the excuse to listen to more. Neither one of us was very good at the game but it didn't matter. Hanging out was the important factor.
And it was always Captain Morgan. It was gross, but he liked the sweet.
Fuck. How is it possible I never knew my brother liked rum? He was never much of a drinker, though he enjoyed the occasional beer or glass of wine and sometimes indulged in Maker's Mark (with or without Coke). And I knew he enjoyed chess and played occasionally with my father but I never knew he played it with his friends.

You see? This is exactly the purpose behind my reaching out to friends to contribute stories and memories to this blog. Nearly three years since my beautiful, brilliant brother left us, I continue to learn about him, to discover who he was and the spaces he filled in this world and this life. And I hope that, through memories like these, I will continue to learn about Amir (and learn from him) until my last day.

Thank you so much, Stefan. May you (and all of us) always remember those special times.


September 25, 2017

Magical Cat Armpits

My sweet kitty Melody (1996-2014) was the feline love of my life and the first cat I adopted on my own; with Amir's encouragement, I selected her from a litter of rescued kittens at a shelter in West Hollywood. When I saw her curled silently in a ball in the back corner of a cage full of bouncy, mewling crazies, I knew immediately she was the one. Amir was among the first people I called when I got her home: he knew I was nervous about taking on the responsibility of cat ownership with my busy work and school schedule and he offered gentle reassurance that I'd made a good decision. (One of the best of my life, I can still attest.)

Mel was extremely attached to me and could be fickle and aloof when it came to accepting love or attention from other people. But she tolerated Amir. When he'd visit and approach her with a toy, her wee kitty brain thought "Playmate!" as opposed to "Get the fuck away from me." Amir's former girlfriend once referred to him as the "Cat Whisperer" and the moniker was truly fitting. He had a gentle, easy way with animals in general--and cats specifically--that was sweet and heartwarming. All of our family pets adored him.

Said former girlfriend once sent me an email with the subject line: "Amir has magical cat armpits," along with this photo of him with their newly adopted bundle of energy, Milo. She noted that, while Milo was affectionate with her as well, he would cuddle up and sleep only with Amir.

In that email, she also mentioned that "All cats love to sleep inside his arm," which was true of Neko as well, even in the presence of other people who threatened to disrupt the undivided attention lavished on her by her master/slave. (This is a cat we're talking about.)

Befitting and necessary of cat owners, Amir also had a great sense of humor regarding his feline housemates. He derived a lot of joy and amusement from their hijinks and he often sent hilarious emails updating me on their various exploits and adventures, often with photos. One excerpt:
"The cats have increased their activity level to the occasional chase game at 3AM, followed by 17 hours of napping and intermittent grooming. I would say they are useless pieces of shit if they weren't so damned cute. Neko also takes pride in her ability to puke on the bedspread twice a week. She clearly has body image issues."
I'm missing my favorite cat whisperer today, as always.

August 24, 2017

The Cutest Girl Scout

A few weeks ago, I received this message via Facebook from a childhood friend of Amir's:
I don't think we ever met. I was a friend of Amir's from elemetary and jr. high school. If truth be told, he was my first crush.
I was visiting my parents this past weekend and we were watching old home movies that my parents had digitized. One was of the Germain St. School Halloween carnival. There was a scene of me (dressed as a witch) waiting in line for a game with Amir who was dressed as a Girl Scout. I must admit this brought on a brief desire to cyberstalk him. I was certain that he would be a professor somewhere or an author in a corduroy blazer with suede elbows.
I am so sorry to find him gone. Your tribute blog is beautiful and I'm not sure if this will bring you any comfort, but today there is another person in the world who is saddened by his loss and remembers him fondly.
My heart jumped a bit as soon as I saw Amir's name in her message. This is nothing new. I smiled at the memory of Amir in the Girl Scout uniform--he was 8 or 9 at the time, blond and smirking and cheeky and cuter than any other Girl Scout around.

I shared the message with my sibling-loss support group and I found one friend's reaction particularly interesting: she felt that such messages can sometimes cause more pain than comfort. I disagreed, saying I'm always happy to hear from anyone who remembers my brother, whether in a good light or not. It crushes my heart to pieces to think that my parents and Yael and I are the only ones thinking of him and remembering him every day.

My friends and I ended up having an interesting discussion on the issue of receiving messages such as this. Like me, others said they found such messages comforting and, like me, they wished they would receive them more often. I long to hear that Amir made an impact on people; that they were affected by him in some way. I long to connect with people who miss Amir and who keep his memory alive in their minds, as I do every day.

I thanked the sender for reaching out, telling her how much it means to us to hear from people who have fond memories of Amir. I never tire of hearing stories about him, talking about him, remembering him. That's the whole fucking point of this blog.

June 19, 2017

Three of Us

There is an enormous difference between "two of us" and "three of us." When it comes to siblings and, in particular, to me and mine, the difference is painfully significant. I cannot overstate this.

October 1980
I love my sister with every ounce of my soul. She is the closest person to me in every way. That does not make it any less devastating nor easy to accept that it is just the two of us now. When we were three, we were a solid front: one more than our two parents or two grandparents. We were a team, united against any obstacles that tumbled into our path. We each had two siblings to confide in, to collaborate with, to seek advice from. Or just to laugh with over how ridiculous our lives and the world at large really are. There were three of us who grew up in our house, three of us who remembered the particulars of our unique upbringing, three of us who could help each other fill in the blanks of our childhood memories, divergent or not.

Now I find time spent with my sister to be more significant, more important, more special than ever. I mark her words carefully and put them in a special place. I try to imprint her voice, her smile, her eyes, her thoughts, in my memory more vigilantly. I could do so physically somehow, I would.

I do the same with my parents as they age, but without the benefit of seeing them through my brother's eyes as well, I feel as though something in my own perception is missing. I so long for his singular observations on our family dynamic. Yael and I had a long talk recently about our parents and what lies ahead for them and for us as their eventual caretakers. It was helpful and necessary, yet without Amir's input, our discussion feels incomplete. You know when you say, "Great talk. Next, let's discuss it with so-and-so..."? We can't discuss it with Amir regardless of how much we want to and need to. And without him, any decision or thought feels half-baked.

This does not get easier and I know it will get harder as time continues to take Amir further and further away from us. I feel similarly with regard to Jason--I continue to ponder every big decision with him in mind. I seek his voice in everything. He is with me every day, at the forefront, in small ways imperceptible to others but so meaningful to me and who we were together.

For the better part of my life, the two people closest to me absolutely were Yael and Amir. Then, Jason moved into my heart and became my partner. This exceptional trio made up the core of my world, my backbone, my home base. They were my touchstones. Now that two of them are gone, I struggle to move forward in spite of the need and desire to do so. The very core of my life has been shaken, stirred and rocked. I am changed irreversibly. And, though it may surprise people that I still grieve every day for these two remarkable humans, there will never come a day when I don't. Never.

April 7, 2017

Another Birthday

Our Amir should be 41 today. This whole week has been difficult and I wonder if I should just hibernate the first week of April every year? Sigh... I still have so much trouble with the sad fact that it just does not get easier. In fact, at times it feels more difficult and heavy now than it did two years ago. The more time goes by, the longer he's not here, the more lost I feel without him.

Two of his favorite bands released new albums recently (Spoon, a few weeks ago, and The New Pornographers, TODAY) and fuck if he wouldn't love them. He turned me on to Spoon years ago and would be thrilled at how much I like their new album. I'm so shredded that I can't talk to him about it. And he was so crazy about Neko Case and TNP... he'd surely be raving about that album, too.

That's really the thing about grief. Of course, we all feel destroyed that Amir's life was cut short, that he didn't get to accomplish so much of what he wanted to, that he didn't deserve to die. And of course, we all miss him in different ways at various times and constantly. But the hardest part is just the longing to have one more conversation, one more late-night phone marathon, one more hug. The constant longing to simply hear his voice and his laugh. The longing to hear his opinion on something mundane like a movie or album or on something important like what's happening in the world.

A few weeks ago, my family celebrated my cousin Arik's wedding in Mexico. The joy and love and happiness was so full and tangible... we all love Courtenay and were so thrilled to be there together to celebrate their love. And yet, for me, Amir's absence loomed so large and heavy and painful. I hate that my longing for him diminishes every family gathering, but how could it not? He should have been there. He should have been part of the celebration. HE SHOULD BE HERE WITH US NOW. That feeling will NEVER change.

I don't believe in mediums or seances or things of that nature, though I put aside my skepticism when friends or family who are grieving decide to try it. Who am I to tell them I think it's bullshit? If it gives them comfort, I fully support it. Even though I'm skeptical, I must admit I'm curious and I can understand their reasoning--it comes from something I do understand: the overwhelming longing to have some connection with our lost loved ones. What I wouldn't give to tell Amir we all love him and miss him and to hear he's at peace. If I had any real indication that a medium could offer me that, I'd try it. Skepticism goes out the window when grief takes over.

Anyway, I've gone off on several tangents--it's because I haven't written in a while and I'm overflowing with thoughts... I just miss Amir so much. Not only on his birthday but every single fucking day, my thoughts are never far from him for more than minutes at a time.

March 10, 2017

The Greatest Potential

Two weeks ago, during the Oscars ceremony, Viola Davis said this in her acceptance speech: "There's one place where the people with the greatest potential are gathered. And that's the graveyard."

That hit me like a punch to the chest. Indeed, one of the most difficult things about the death of a relatively young person is the lost opportunity to witness that person's true, full potential. This is certainly the case with my darling younger brother--he had so much left to achieve, to prove, to offer the world. He had so much he wanted to show all of us. Sadly, the same is true of my husband, Jason, and countless other young lives lost. What could they have accomplished given more time? What could they have contributed to the world?

Amir and Jason were both extremely gifted writers. Jason embraced the opportunity to study creative writing at NYU, where he excelled as a standout in his program. He wrote beautiful poems, plays and prose. Amir spent years jotting his clever thoughts in notebooks, always dreaming of writing professionally but never gaining the confidence to pursue it in spite of my encouragement. Both Amir and Jason wrote hilariously witty letters and emails, piles of which I have saved and will cherish for the rest of my life.

But, apart from the love and wisdom they imparted to friends and family and the many laughs they gave us, what undiscovered potential did they take with them when they died? We will never know, a fact that I find incredibly difficult to process and accept.

More on this later...

January 15, 2017

Neko the Hunter

From the time I was about 8 years old, we always had a family pet (or three). The first was a street-smart calico who wandered into our yard not long after we moved to CA from NY. Amir had noticed her first. He began requesting American cheese slices more and more frequently from my mom, who didn't think twice because that kid loved cheese more than oxygen. Eventually, my parents realized he was feeding cheese to the stray cat who'd been hanging around our yard. Thus, she became ours. We named her Brown Kit, or Brownie for short. (I cannot account for our lack of imagination in coming up with a name.)

Later, there was Buba the mutt, who, in spite of the love rained upon her in our house, ran away every chance she got until one day she didn't come back. Then, we got Skylar, our beloved golden retriever, who was such a part of the family for two decades that we still talk about him often and photos of him still line my parents' hallway, 20 years after his death. After Brownie, there was Henry the rockstar cat, who lived fast and died young, and Calvin (aka The Fatbox), our cuddly orange tabby gentleman.

As adults and (mostly) apartment dwellers, Amir and Yael and I all went on to adopt cats of our own. For years, Amir's feline companion was the fickle and finicky Neko, named for one of his favorite singer/songwriters, Neko Case. That cat worshipped Amir and rarely, if ever, let another human near her. The three of us talked often about our cats' antics and personality quirks, including exchanges such as this one between Amir and I:



Postscript: We were very fortunate to find a wonderful new home for Neko with a work colleague of Amir's who was heartbroken by his death. She and her husband had also recently lost their cat. Neko's lovely new owners provided gentle reassurance and waited patiently for her to learn to trust them. They'll never know what peace of mind they gave us, knowing Amir's beloved girl would be well cared for.








January 7, 2017

Scooby Snacks

The other night, I found myself scrolling through old texts on my phone. These made me smile and laugh, recalling Amir's unique humor. I miss our text chats like crazy. What I wouldn't give for another round of pop music minutiae.



New Year... Trying for Happy

Anyone who's lost someone close to them knows how difficult and heartwrenching it is to turn that calendar over to a new year. Another year they won't see or experience. For those of us still mourning, it's another year of grief and loneliness. I'm getting pretty fucking sick of feeling this way, yet I don't want to "get over it." I will never get over it. I have become a fantastic actress (or at least a clown). Most days, no one would detect the sadness and pain I feel. That's not to say I fake being happy--I am lucky to have many genuine moments of happiness, fun and laughter in my life. But the underlying sadness is always there. And I cover it up like a fucking boss. Usually.

December was a wretched month in many ways. A friend and neighbor of mine and Jason's died on New Year's Eve. Another young life lost. Cathy was a bright light around our neighborhood--always smiling, joyful, spreading laughter and warmth. Everyone within 10 blocks knew her face and her smile. She had a wicked sense of humor. I admire her joyful spirit even more knowing her life wasn't all rainbows and I strive to live life as positively as she did. She helped Jason with his business, she and her husband had us over for epic summer nights in their backyard and she tried to be there for me as I struggled to cope.

I will always be sad that we had not talked much since Jason's death. And these terrible things that happen only make me miss Jason more, as I long so badly to talk to him. He would have been so saddened by Cathy's death and would have joined me in lending support to her husband and family.

When you lose someone close to you, you naturally miss their physical presence--their smile, their voice, their laugh, their arms around you. But what I miss even more with Amir and Jason is their insights and ideas and thoughts about everything. I miss talking to them so much I feel I can't stand it sometimes. I am not myself because I cannot share things with them. I often feel like half a person without them in my life.

So, I move into a new year with a heavy weight on my shoulders, but one that lightens with support and love from my friends and family. I remain sad but optimistic. Grieving but positive. I strive to find happiness and purpose, even when both seem unlikely. I truly appreciate what I have and what I'm capable of, even when I dread the thought of a future without Amir and Jason in it. No matter what, I will do whatever I can to make 2017 a happy and productive year.