I found out a few weeks ago that Eugene passed away. An old neighbor emailed me, knowing how i felt about him. it happened the day after his 94th birthday. i haven't been able to get much info on what happened, other than the fact that he was in the hospital having surgery when it happened, and that he'd also been found at home, unresponsive. i'm sure it was heart related, he had a pacemaker and was having valve problems a few months ago. once again, i'd had it written down to call him, for weeks, but hadn't gotten around to it. brooklyn, and the world, just lost a priceless treasure.
i tried to call his girlfriend Louise, but found that she too was gone. the hospice wouldn't give me any info on her other than that she wasn't there anymore, but a lot of searching online turned up a one liner in a local funeral home's listings, and the date made sense. so did the fact that there were three comments in the memory book, all rather vague but loving, and no record of an actual funeral. no children to mourn her, and no family left. apparently eugene's services were over before anyone heard about them, so i assume it was just the surviving nephew and his wife. they lived on long island, and eugene said several times that they were really too busy and too far away to come help out very much. his only living relatives. i know they were to inherit the house ... the one Eugene's father had bought 80 or so years ago, and that Eugene had lived in for the entire 80 years, minus a couple years away at college.
a friend still living on the street (thank you Kizz) let me know that the cleanout of his place was swift and brutal. that it looked like maybe the reason he showed me several apartments in his building, but not his own, was that it was perhaps packed to the gills with stuff. 80 years of stuff, piled on the lawn and mounding up a dumpster. his precious (and delicious) fig tree cut down and tossed on top. hearing all that gutted me. and made me angry. not that i expected the world, or even his neighbors, to all find him as lovely as i did, but that it just felt like the vultures had come in and picked the place clean. i don't know the details, and can only go on assumptions. it just didn't feel right.
honestly, it's making me glad i left brooklyn when i did. maybe living in PA has changed me more that i realize (and i know it's a lot), but the stuff i read on FB and in the local papers there is contributing to this idea that everything that is being branded is "brooklyn made" is no longer just cool creative stuff, it's "special" stuff. so special you can only get it in the tiniest batches, cooked in the tiniest kitchens, harvested from one 8 foot square plot on a rooftop shaded by the only surviving sorghum oak left from the days of the Lenape. or something like that. /sarcasm
i grew up trained to be special. to see myself as special and "other" and just a bit more worthy or holy than the poor unenlightened friends around me who didn't go to my church. the depth of that poisonous crap has only become clear with age, with some help from the writings of my friend Mike. maybe i'm backlashing against it in an unhealthy way, but it's really started to get to me. i don't have a problem with small batch wonderful stuff, special talents, or special places. it just feels (from my current vantage point) that the special stuff is more important than simple human connection, and the special people are being forgotten way too fast.
yes i'm mourning my friends, my rotten friends, the 4 of them that have passed away since february. they've become symbolic to me, of folks that know how to "sit a spell" and found technology wonderful but not really that important. the porch mattered. the conversations mattered. the time spent conversing, listening, sitting. we used to joke that charles (our old landlord) talked too much, and that it was hard to break away when he got rolling. there were more pressing things to get to. what crap. eugene always used to thank me profusely for stopping by, and i allowed myself to feel some measure of pride that i'd taken the time, or made the time. more crap. it was the least shred of honor i could give to someone older, wiser, and lovelier than i could ever hope to be. ever.
i don't want to worship special. i don't even want to be special, or eat special every night, or think about special things. i want to have deep relationships, time to listen, time to learn, and the joy that comes from connecting, loving, and feeling the deep messy beautiful itchy stuff that is found in the cracks and the broken places. where we all really live. (but like to pretend sometimes we don't.) please, be broken with me. not special alongside me. and call me out on it if i preen my special feathers in your face, forgetting who i am or where i'm from.