All I had to do was one thing, the right thing, and this post may not exist. But instead something else is gone. And in it’s place we have this.
Last night my friend Johnny Meyering took his life. Before he did so, he changed his Facebook profile picture to an image of the ocean and a warm beach. A line of footprints traces the line of the surf. I would like to think that he wanted to find peace. And that he cared enough that he wanted people to know that.
Twelve of his friends liked the picture. Two posted comments. One said, “Beautiful!” The other asked if he was alright.
The problem is that he’s no longer there to receive it. The line is now disconnected. And no one will be there ever again to pick up.
Every thing in Johnny’s life up until last night could have possibly been fixed. And for some reason he couldn’t see that. And so he did the one thing that in fact could not be taken back.
This morning I looked at his Facebook page, that strange 21st century totem that is all about memory and memorial.
I wanted to Message him to tell him to please stop, to please not do it.
I wanted to Poke him to let him know, hey, someone is out there and cares.
I want to Post on his Wall and tell him to come up and stay with us for a while. I know some kids who are struggling to stay in school. If you just go and sit with them for a little while and help them a little bit with their writing and math, you will immeasurably change the world. And you alone can do it.
But he’s no longer there to receive any of it.
I look at his Friends. I see faces from Seattle and from Japan and San Diego and Chicago. I know a few, but by no means all. But the person who is friends with every one of those people? The one person who bound all those people together into a circle of friends has made himself gone.
I look at his Likes. The movie Gerry, and the movie Samsara, Jazz, and The New Yorker. The Wire, Raymond Chandler, David Sedaris, Art Spiegelman, Taberna 1931, The Bill Evans Trio, Langston Hughes, Paolo Coelho, Huruki Murukami, The Urban Land Army. And more.
This is the filagree that composes a person. There is no one in the world who liked exactly the same things as Johnny. And there never will be.
When the person becomes gone, the Likes and the Friends lose their life as well. The thing that gave rise to the Likes and the Friends has gone away and in turn they have become a dry and intractable husk.
I remember decades ago a crazy Thanksgiving dinner we held in a small walkup apartment in Golden Hills in San Diego. Anna and I weren’t married yet and a good handful of Meyerings were there and Johnny was too. Anna’s high school English teacher came and left and got a DUI. All the rest of us probably could have been in the same boat. And Johnny was there, he had been studying Japanese. He was looking youthful and handsome – he always, for as long as I knew him, looked youthful and handsome. And his manner was funny and dry and he was as gentle and brilliant a person as I’ve ever known.
And that’s the weird part. Even now, on this Memorial Day morning, I can feel him. Which is to say that he had a feeling, a presence that was unique unto him. No one else in this world ever has, nor ever will, feel like Johnny Meyering. The feeling was so special. And so precious. And such a great gift to the world.
But we never recognize it in ourselves. And we fail to understand that it will actually matter when it’s gone.
It’s so wrong. And now nothing will ever bring him back.
That’s what I would tell him.
I’m one of the people in those photos.
I don’t know what to say about this last week so I’ll just tell you about John…
John Meyering was the 1st person I met when I moved to Chicago in the fall of 1992. He forced me into our friendship in a stairwell at Columbia college between Tech 1 film classes. He couldn’t seem to remember my name and choose to call me beatnik. I honestly thought he was making fun of me. Here was this guy who was like “we should hang out beatnik, we should make movies. Come on beatnik let’s break into this abandoned theatre and look around.”
He was cool, he knew all this crazy shit. Underground comix, wild Italian movies oddball pop songs. He introduced me to Tab! (I really miss you Tab) Jack (thank you Jack for sending me this post), Patti, Jim, Steph Carol, Charlie, Mary Ann, Donna, Laura, Tony, the Daves, the captain…so many more.
There was this whole new vernacular….The tards, nugget, the hick, the manor, wallet, Watergate!
John was all or nothing. If you were in, you were all in. He didn’t have any acquaintances.
He shared his loves and hatreds with equal fervor. We watched King of New York, the Omega man, listened to basehead, Frank Sinatra, half Japanese, massive attack, sipped peppermint tea, drank the cheapest beer, crashed on the hardest couches and the dustiest floors. And then a few short years later he moved. He wasn’t here anymore but he called and we stayed friends. The friends and family he left behind in Chicago were now my friends and family too.
He came back often, even moved back for awhile, and over the years we had several dozen new “old times”, nights on Jim’s back porch, at a 2am Atari teenage riot show in a snow storm, Tomb raider marathons at Tab’s. Missing him on two vacations both in Japan & Seattle!
Countless memories..I wish I could remember more now but I never thought I’d have to. Like most summer’s past I knew one day my wife would say “Jim wants to see you” I’d walk next door and there out of blue was John in the kitchen. Slumped over the sink, white t-shirt, khakis doing dishes in the thick Kissinger glasses which meant he just got up and hadn’t put his contacts in yet. We’d dance around the fact neither of us had emailed or called like we’d promised to last summer but after an hour we’d fall back into our friendship and for a few weeks each summer I was 22 again and he’d remember all the lost weekends for me.
Reading over your site I realize I don’t know who you are…it doesn’t matter you were a friend of John’s and that makes you my friend too.
Thanks for being a friend to my friend.
Beatnik = Rick, am I correct? If so, this is James speaking. I hope you’re okay and your post here brought tears to my eyes even though I haven’t met JM in many years. Please contact me privately for further discussion if you like. I would really like to communicate with you! Your friend, James
Thank you, and thanks for your words. The memories are heartbreaking. It would be nice some time to meet.
And in case you would like to talk please email to email@example.com It would be nice to share some memories!
Just to be clear, Johnny had a large family that was very close and caring. I know they tried their best to prevent this from happening.
You’re very right. Johnny was loved by his family and friends. Many people, I’m sure, wish they cold have done something
I want to close my eyes and go back to a simpler time. A time when I could simply pick up the telephone and without a bunch of complicated numbers just dial the seven digits 454-8858 and ask my friend what was going on? Should we get together? Should we go downtown and visit some of his brothers and sisters?
Although I haven’t had the chance to talk with my friend for many years, today I sorely miss him. I feel an emptiness in me today. Maybe over time my many fond memories of my friend will help fill up that emptiness and that is how I will commemorate my friend, by keeping all those wonderful memories alive.
I know him… But not quite well, even if we share a brothers friendship (according to me) he has problems and his family and we his friends unfortunately we could not help him… I wonder about his brother, the one that share the name John and was in the jail… He really bother John so much!
I want to know what you are talking about. Who are you and what is the significance of what you are claiming? Whatever you do, don’t ever dare disrespect my long time friend and if you do, try to at least use proper English…….