Once upon a time, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I signed a note to grundoon with the last lines of this song, Track Seven of Dar Williams' album The Green World (Razor & Tie Music, 2000):
...I act like I have faith, and like that faith never ends,
But I really just have friends.
I was on a trip to the Bay Area to meet a friend I hadn't seen for years except in letters, old-school pen-pal style. It was a butterfly soup time for me — I was out of work, living in a new town where I basically didn't know anybody except Jongleur, and we were not too slowly going broke on account of my aforementioned unemployment, burning through savings and his grad student stipend. To make things even more awkward, the meeting I built the trip around was sort of fraught for me, as the previous summer I had reunited with a formerly-close friend I'd also only kept in touch with by writing, only to have a falling out/misunderstanding that basically alienated me from him forever (just to give you an idea of how tortured and melodramatic things can get in my all-or-nothing drama queen head). So I was scared that something similar would happen with Chieko. Fortunately, it didn't, and many other good things happened besides. The same summer of the Epic Falling Out of Doom, you see, I'd had pretty terrific luck meeting up with noders and in some cases finding lodgings with them, as Peter and I traveled around Europe. So as I made travel plans a few months later, I reached out to some other Internet friends in the Bay Area, most of whom I'd met maybe once or twice, at nodermeets in 2002... and once again I was rewarded with warm welcomes. (Yes, there is a lesson here, and one I should act on more often, but I digress.) Anyway, grundoon was one of the people who put me up on that trip, and then as now I welled up with tears just thinking about how lucky I felt to be the recipient of such friendship, kindness, and generosity. So I wrote her a thank you note that's one reason this song will always be associated with her in my mind, and the lines I quoted then, and displayed on my homenode two months afterwards have come to be sort of a mantra for me. No matter how much of a fuckup I feel myself to be, my friends are so awesome that I must be doing something right, even if it's only that I keep hanging out with great people.
"He's a quiet man,"
That's all she said
"He's a thoughtful man, it's just
He likes to keep his thoughts up in his head."
And we finally meet, and she tries to draw him out a bit
She says, "He's writing something.
Hey, now, why don't you talk about it?"
And he doesn't make a sound
He's just staring at his coffee
And I know there's all this beauty, and this greatness she'll defend
But I think it's in my friend.
A teeny tiny digression, and speaking of great people whom I'm happy to hang out with and call my friends, wertperch was one of the noders who put Jongleur and me up in the summer of 2002. My homenode actually thanked him for "a lovely weekend in Nottingham" for literally over a year after that trip. So maybe that was why grundoon asked us about him when they first started courting, or maybe we spontaneously volunteered our experience in some instant message or Chatterbox conversation or whatever — in any case, I do remember giving him a strong endorsement, and also teasing grundy as their flirting got more serious and eventually turned into meetings and more (hee hee, holy mother of understatements, Batman!) Good times. Anyway, this first verse of the song is dedicated to wertperch, because there is all this beauty and greatness in you, good sir; grundoon saw it and so do all your friends, even or maybe even especially those who knew you before The Awesome Age of Team Grundperch (Wertoon?)
I have a friend in a bright and distant town
She's found a common balance
Where you do your work, and you do your love
And they pay you, and praise your many talents
Well, I'm passing through, and we know we won't sleep
She laughs, puts up the tea
She says, "You know, I think
Every part of me."
And the water starts to boil
And if I had a camera
Showing all the light we give,
And showing where the light extends,
I'd give it to my friends.
Now, that latter verse is the other reason I always think of grundoon when I hear this song: she will always be my "friend in a bright and distant town" to me — Davis and California being exactly such places, especially compared to Eugene when I was still living in oft-cold-and-dark Oregon. One of the first times grundy came to visit me and Jongleur in Eugene, she was having a miserable time at a job she later quit before going to work at Caltrans. There, as far as I could tell, they did pay her and praise her many talents — just like she so richly deserved, as I would tell her every time I heard her express incredulity at her salary and/or benefits. Which is yet another reason I get so angry to think of cancer eating her away from inside. My brilliant, beautiful friend grundoon, someone I so looked up to for her success in finding work that she'd trained to do, and which paid her richly for helping build things that made the world a better place? How dare anything ever bring her low? Tears again, more now.
Sometimes I see myself fine
Sometimes I need a witness
And I like the whole truth, but
There are nights I only need forgiveness
Sometimes they say, "I don't know who you are,
But let me walk with you some"
And I say, "I am alone, that's all
You can't save me from all the wrong I've done."
But they're waiting just the same
With their flashlights and their semaphores
And I act like I have faith, and like that faith never ends,
But I really just have friends.
And but so once upon a time I started writing a novel in which a character had the (super)power to really see people, but I never quite decided what that meant:
- seeing the best in people whether they are at their best or not?
- seeing people as they want to be seen, as well as exactly how they are?
- seeing people exactly as they are and embracing them as-is just for whatever good they contain?
The point was, I was writing about a person who could find the good in anyone, no matter how deeply it was buried, intentionally or not. I mention this because the last verse of "My Friends" is all about seeing and being seen (of course; that's what the whole song is about, even according to Dar herself
), but also because I am still writing about grundoon
. I always felt like she didn't just see the best in me, she brought it out. And I think maybe that is what I miss most painfully for having lost her: the sheer stupendously badass magic so powerful it gave me faith in my own greatness, even — or maybe especially — when I was more inclined to believe I had none.
/me misses grundoon something fierce, you betcha.
All quoted lyrics from Dar Williams' The Green World, 2000. Reproduced without permission, but I definitely owe Dar a fan letter with built-in "permission to quote" request. Meanwhile, I count 282 quoted words of lyrics, so I'm cool with the "no more than 1/4 of the writeup" policy, yay!
Update, 11 April 2012, server time 22:54: CST Approved, because I am old-school (old-fashioned?) like that.
Update, 16 May 2013: You know who else gave me a place to stay on the trip that inspired me to write grundoon that thank you note? Ouroboros. And now that memory is that much more bittersweet. Dammit.