It’s been just over two years since my friend Andy took his own life. He would have been 36. His mom sent an email out to friends and family asking for fond memories or stories about him. Here’s mine…
I grew up loving music. When I was a young boy my dad sat me down in front of his stereo, placed the large headphones on my small head and introduced me to a world that, to this day, I constantly escape to. Music brings me comfort, allows me to feel a full spectrum of emotion and songs serve as bookmarks for nearly all of the important moments of my life. While I’d always wanted to play music, it’s just not something that has ever come naturally to me, but I can tell you if a song is good. Dad used to say I had an ear for music. I don’t know if he was trying to make me feel better or truly believed it, but I believed it and all of the music I listened to on his record player or later on our Panasonic boombox created somewhat of a music monster. As I grew up, my tastes changed and I became more and more obsessed. It started off with jazz, Motown and some rock n roll. Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, The Beatles and Steely Dan were all artists I remember sharing with my dad. Sharing music with my dad didn’t last a very long time as I started skateboarding and listening to the likes of J.F.A., Dead Kennedys, Agnostic Front, Sex Pistols, Agent Orange, Bad Brains and others that spoke to me and how I was feeling about the world. Music said what I could never get out, at least not until I started writing later in life.
I met Andy in high school. He was one of the smartest kids in school, which was fascinating to me. I’d never been a particularly smart kid, not in the way he was smart anyway. I wish I could remember how Jason Voogt, Andy and I came together and started hanging out more. I think it might very well have been my other close friend, Kevin Aaron that brought us together. He was another one of the smart ones and we were both in youth group together. As my friendship with Andy grew, it was clear that he shared a similar passion for music. Truth be told, I was jealous he could play it. At the time it felt like he was closer to the music than I was because he understood it better. I wanted to be that close to the music. All I could tell you is whether a song moved me or not. And what moved me in high school was classic rock – Hendrix, The Who, The Guess Who, Moody Blues, Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and of course The Grateful Dead. Nearly every moment that I can remember with Andy, there was music playing. If memory serves, we even all saw a Dead show or two together. Sharing music together with Andy stands out in my mind as some of the most important and memorable moments of my teenage years. We would sit in my room, close our eyes and listen to the music play. We would drive around in my Jeep or his Mazda listening to 101.1 FM. We’d bring tapes and CDs to play when the radio rotation got too repetitive. And we would sing, smile and laugh as lyrics were forgotten. I can hear us giggling in my head and it really takes me back.
There are so many albums and songs that make me think of Andy, but one album (and artist) in particular is Neil Young’s Harvest Moon recording. It came out the year before we graduated high school and we listened to it a lot. I don’t know Neil Young any better than you do, but in my imagination of who he is and bits and pieces I’ve gathered from stories, books and films Andy reminds me of him. I’m not totally clear on why that is but there it is. It likely has something to do with nature, American Indians, lyrics of protest and change and his storytelling ability. It just feels like Andy.
One of the things that I always loved most about Andy was his sensitivity. He was one of the first true friends I had as teenager by whom I never felt judged. He always welcomed me as an equal and all of the things that made me different, most notably that I wasn’t in his AP classes just didn’t matter. We shared deep, philosophical discussions all through high school into our adult years after I had moved away to Los Angeles. A lot of those discussions were about life and all of its meaning, complications and mysteries. He always picked my brain about music too. The sensitivity that bonded Andy and I allowed us to go long periods of time without speaking to one another. I don’t think it was for lack of wanting to. THese things just happen. I didn’t speak to Andy much the last few years of his life. The last time I saw him was March 18, 2005 and we had a great time together. While I really miss Andy, sometimes quite intensely, I have incredible memories of him and feel like he lives on through me.