Sometimes something happens that makes you stop, wonder, and possibly pushes you to examine your life. Granted, hopefully there are a good many things that make you wonder, as that’s one of the best things about the planet, the ever abundance of wondrousness, but there are, at times, the big ones that come on up and slap you in the face, or pull your pants down, or just points and gestures wildly. The beginning of December I had one of those moments when I was told a girlfriend of mine had passed away. A friend, living only one year longer on this planet than I have, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer.
I was dumbstruck. I have suffered losses in my life: divorce, miscarriage, suicides of friends, the death of both parents to name a few, and each time something like that happens, reflection accompanies sadness. This was no exception. I heard and nodded and mentioned on how much it sucked…and then I was left alone to myself and my thoughts through the rest of the day. As I was walking the half mile from the train, those thoughts decided it was finally time to start the feeling and I wept the whole way home. This surprised me some as I’m not the weepy type. I contemplated this as well and realized I was not only crying for myself, her husband, her family and friends, but I was also crying because not only was the planet missing out on one fantastic person, but also because my kind had lost one of their own.
My kind? Yes, my kind. The buddy chick. The cool girl that guys want to hang with. The girl that’s typically not fond of ‘girls’. I know that sounds ironic, but there are legion of girls that had, in their past I would guess, had to deal with the mean, cliquish girl that picked on others, made girls feel they weren’t pretty, or skinny, or well dressed, etc. enough. The bitches. A good portion of my female friends are these girls and the early reveal is always, “I like you, you’re pretty cool, and I usually don’t like chicks”. Ms. Susan was one of these gals.
I had met her about five plus years ago. I was shambling through Grant Park in Chicago’s first official zombie walk (don’t get me started on that, but that’s a gripe for another day) with my zombie baby when a zombie couple and their decapitated head lurched beside me. I, as I tend to do from time to time, made a remark and suddenly the head and the baby were smooching on each other. We chittered and twittered and as soon as we found each other, lost ourselves in the pool of rotting flesh that roiled on the field. I was to never see my new friend again…
until about a year later. I had the luck to stumble on some new friends at that time and, as such, was able to accomplish one of my life goals – to be in a full length movie. Now, I guess I wasn’t really that specific in my goalage – the movie was a pretty dang low-budget horror-comedy flick. Not only was I background filler, I also assisted with make-up and prop design. Is my name on IMBD for any of this? Nope, but again, that’s another gripe for another day. On one of my background filler days, we all had to report to the Gold Star Bar on Division Street. This was the first time I ventured into that bar and that street ever for that matter. This neighborhood watering hole was fairly large and dimly lit (as most should be) with an enormous, beautiful, dark wood counter that is shaped almost like a giant question mark. The back housed a pool table and a couple of Formica tables and vinyl chairs for patrons to hunker down near the juke that may, to this day, carry some of the best music any northside bar could hope to have. The owner had granted use of the bar for a scene and we were there for most of the day. During one of the many down times there is during a film shoot I was talking to the owner/bartender. I mentioned that she looked really familiar and almost at the same time we pointed and said zombie march! This was my head-toting zombie friend in the living fleshed-coloured flesh!
I’m not really a drinker all that much anymore, but the Gold Star became my bar bar. Over time I realized it became the bar bar for a great many people: neighborhoodies, hipsters, horror geeks and freaks of all kinds. I would be fitting in the last two categories…as did she of course! She and I, and a number of my/our friends, are a part of Chicago’s horror scene (yes, there is a scene, trust me!). She and I would talk about the places we’ve visited and stayed, and where we would want to check out next. We would laugh loudly and gleefully at the carnage and blood being spewed from the tv set from whatever wrong and weird movies she would put on. Halloween was our Christmas. I still have the Halloween card she sent taped up at work…and being it will be my last, there it will stay.
We also had a mutual love of animals…cats especially, and even more so, our love of black cats. She would hold fund raisers to assist in raising awareness to the issue that black cats were the least desired of all the adoptable felines. She was a lover of the underdog…er, cat, and it was her love of those loved less that perhaps brought in as many people to her bar as the booze did. She made the freaks, geeks, and weirdoes feel accepted and even loved. She made Gold Star their home away from home and she was their wise-cracking, bawdy, shootin’ straight from the hip momma.
The planet has surely lost a little of its light and glimmer with her passing. It’s not laughing as loudly and its smile is a tad dingier…and this is where some of that introspection and life questioning has stemmed from. Firstly, whoa! Someone so bright and full of life and love was struck down suddenly with crap cancer. Being I’m still a kid at heart you never think, hey, I don’t feel so great, perhaps I need to get it checked out right away because it may be dire…until now. I do have a lot of health issues (again, another time), but I usually put ‘go see doctor’ nowhere near the top of my to do list…if it gets put there at all. This has made me realize I need to find a doctor I like and even visit a time or two. That’s the obvious thought that stemmed from such a shocking blow. The other one was: Who am I? Would I be someone that people would remember? Would the world dim a tad if my flame died out? Have I made, at this point in my life, the kind of contributions she’s made to this planet? I would like to think I would be remembered, but the other questions were harder to think about and answer. And honestly, I’m pretty sure in the grand scheme of things I’ve not participated nearly enough toward said planetary grandness. And to this I can only say I will try harder; try harder to make up for those that did so easily but no longer physically can. This is my conclusion and my goal: To try to live more than I have. To love a little harder, to care a little more…and to love and hug as many black cats as I can, starting with my very own.