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.



Faultlines: James Acord

James Acord is dead.

I thought of him while sitting on the Sonoma town square.  No reason in particular, really, but I thought I’d look him up.

He committed suicide on January 8th of this year.

Acord was the subject of one of those 60 page New Yorker profiles way back a lot of years ago.  He was a sculptor who ultimately completed only a handful of works:  Monstrance for a Grey Horse, a few reliquaries, and a large portfolio of fine drawings of seedpods and nests and the like.

And yet the breadth of his mind and spirit were immense.  He was at heart an alchemist who sought to transmute base unstable material into, well, something safe and eternal, into something else.  He wanted to build a container to hold the sacrament of our age – nuclear material – and he dedicated decades of his life to the planning and carving of the Monstrance.

He spawned in me my affection for Barre granite – the hardest, most inert rock on earth.  And he gave me faith to at least contemplate the big idea – the vastness of time or the true nature of materials.  For years I’ve had a manila folder with his name on it containing information about him and his works.

I looked him up for some reason in Seattle back in 2001.  He had just returned from a teaching gig in London.  He felt gentle and doe-eyed and a bit forlorn and a bit suspicious, wondering why I wanted to talk with him.  He talked about the bus system and he needed some rides around town, I think.  Something about him felt off – he was living in Pioneer SQuare and he couldn’t quite hold his thoughts together and I realized something had happened to him between the carving of the Monstrance and now.  It was as if the power of those things he was working with was too strong, and in the face of it, unlike that Barre granite, his consciousness had begun to shatter.

Ultimately he lost the strength to carry on.  How strange to think of those hard crystals chiseled by his calloused hands, the malignant grin of the horses skull, of how it will remain yet, carrying forward for thousands of years into time a small vessel of highly radioactive uranium.  One day it will be opened by nature or by beast.  And that transformed material into this world will once again be released.


Best Friends

Morning coffee and croissant off of Grant street. The city awakening. I’m feeling sad, though. Sad at excess. A little sad at wherever I am in my life.

I look down at the pavement. And I think of the guy.

Last month my friend Patrick was walking to work in San Francisco and he passed some commotion and an area cordoned off with police tape. A little bit earlier a guy had jumped from a building and his body was lying on the pavement.

He had committed the irrevocable act.

He had arrived at a moment where he felt sad / devalued / alone / ill – enough so that he no longer wanted to be alive.

Since arriving in San Francisco I’ve considered him most days. I never knew him. But by killing himself he’s given me a costly gift. Even worse, it probably pales to what he gave the world when he was alive.

What would he think to know that after his death, a complete stranger would continue to carry his shadow forward into life? And by implication, what of me is carried by him?

Sometimes we can count even a stranger as a friend.