Reports of My Death...
“It just hit me. We have April Fool’s Day coming up and no one has written an article.”
“What do you think we should write?”
“I thought about doing one about Prince Harry Himmel being a black market baby — either you bought him that way or you’re selling him… it’s really coming together.”
“How about I off you? Yeah, I’m gonna kill you off!”
“Better check with Dana, first.”
As David is a truly brilliant writer when inspired, the piece on my death posted on Sunday, April 1, 2018 was so damn close to the vest, if you weren’t like Dan Izzo (who commented that the phrase “he shit his pants” was used too often for him to believe it) or naturally skeptical of anything we might post on that day, it might have hooked you for a moment.
In fact, I fielded quite a number of text messages, phone calls and emails during the day from people who seemed genuinely distressed by the idea of my demise. Some, when they realized it was a holiday prank, were also pretty upset. Rebecca Langguth received a number of messages from people who thought the joke made me a douche bag and wanted to punch me in the face.
In the quick retrospect, I have a few thoughts before I get to deeper reflections:
If you were upset, I’m sorry. I will say that, in our current age of narcissistic expectation, that while it feels that every joke is at your expense, this article was never about you or your grief about someone else you lost. In no way, shape or form was the prank designed to mock you. It felt far more like a very realistic piece roasting the possible shitting of my pants.
It was a bit surprising that so many (or so few, depending on the color of your glasses) cared enough to, you know, care. Even for those who cared enough to be pissed at David and I. As I responded to my good friend, Lorna White, who wrote “Fuck you,” “I love you, too.” All both funny and rather moving in a I Had No Idea These People Gave A Shit way.
But to limit my reaction to the naval-gaze of how big a deal my death might be, the experience (and some of my more interesting and less comfortable reactions) would be wasted if I only focused on me.
That afternoon I went to Bob Fall’s production of Enemy of the People at Goodman with Joe Janes. Joe has been ridiculously busy as have I for the past six months or so, and we haven’t had a whole lot of time to hang out. I miss him. I was thrilled to grab some lunch and see a play (even if it was an Ibsen adaptation — which was quite good, btw.)
As I rode the Blue Line to meet with Joe, it popped into my head how I might feel if I found out Joe had died that previous Thursday. How I hadn’t seen this man I love so much for any quality time and how awful and empty I would feel had he passed without my having a chance for one more good laugh or the quick man-hug we do when we part ways.
I thought about how I’d feel if Himmel or Mike Vinopal or Todd Gutner croaked and I found out about it online. Or Rebecca or Bob Fisher or Scott Whitehair or David Fink. Or Faith Salie or Bill Kurtis or John Semel. Or any number of people whom I have great affection for or out and out cherish in my life.
It goes without mentioning how Howl At The Moon and Tear My Hair From My Head anguished I’d be should someone from my family or my wife died but in the indelible “This Is Water” way of the David Foster Wallace commencement speech I commemorated on my right inner wrist, there are so many people surrounding me whom I would feel a deep loss should they leave without saying goodbye.
I’m in Cancun, Mexico with Dana as you read this. Which means I can’t grab you for coffee or a sandwich right now. Because I’m lounging in the sand with the most most wonderful human being in the known universe.
That said, when we get back, expect an invitation to spend some time. In person. Like humans are supposed to do.
Because if I had read about your death this week, it would be fucking awful. If I found out it was a joke, I’d laugh because if you can’t laugh at death, death becomes an unbearable possibility that is likewise inevitable. I would, however, grieve. So instead of focusing on the grief I will endure later, let’s give ourselves more reasons to care.