Friday, November 06, 2009

For scads of reasons, it feels inconceivable TJ...

...died a month ago today. He was due at my place 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 6th; we were going to go to Sherman's Town Hall reading for War Dances together. As I've written about previously, TJ always gave me his itinerary, designated his estimated arrival time home and the time at which I should "officially" worry, and always emailed me, "Home safe!" when he first got in the door. The official worry time for this trip wasn't until late Wednesday afternoon, October 7th.

Of course, we didn't know that by this juncture, he was already dead. His death wasn't confirmed until Saturday October 10th, when his closest climbing friend, Tim, found his body. By 6:00 p.m. on October 10th, before the search and rescue effort had been announced as a recovery effort, KING, KIRO, and KOMO had already pestered me and others for an on-camera interview. I, like most of us, deferred to the family's wishes and declined. (I would have done so of my own volition, but anyway.) All three affiliates were unable to get confirmation as to TJ's status from the Chelan County Sheriff's Office and they found this incredibly irksome, as if their story was in no way connected to a man's life. TJ and I had discussed this possible, god-forbid scenario many times and what would happen if I got the call should the worst occur. Instead of waiting, I got the Chelan County Sherrif's office #s from TJ's friend, Adrienne M., who was at my place at the time. I got through to Lt. Agnew from the Chelan County Sheriff's Office who is one of the most scurrilous and unprofessional individuals with whom I've dealt under any circumstances. After I asked three brief questions, she terminated our conversation with, "This is really a matter for the Coroner's Office now."

The above picture is one of my favorites of TJ and me. The two of us are clowning around with the giant metal bunny sculpture in my living room last December after our annual Christmas gift exchange, a tradition we started in 1992. His gift to me last year was the same as the year before: a trip to Manhattan to meet with one of the two agents who are interested in my novel. I would like to note, too, that when it briefly looked like I wouldn't have the cash for my current place, he offered me ten grand so the deal wouldn't fall through. I declined, of course, and it turned out I was able to purchase my condo. (Obviously.) And when I had shingles this summer and he did my grocery shopping and picked up my prescriptions? Despite my (loud) protestations, he refused to accept reimbursement. (As the weeks went on and I remained shingled, as it were, finally he caved, mostly to shut me up.) Also, when I was incredibly ill and broke between 2001 to 2004, including wheelchair bound again for a time? He refused to let me pay for coffee, movies, or meals. So, this "frugality" that was referred to many times at his memorial? Bullshit. My best friend and on-again/off-again boyfriend since 1988 was not frugal.


Adrienne M said...

Frugal in the sense that you could always ask him who had the best deal on cheese in town this week and he had the coupon, yes.

He has always been someone who chose to put his money where his heart is, and chose to live modestly because that's where his priorities lay.

So he was frugal, but that had nothing to do with his generosity.

I'm really glad we weren't alone when we got the confirmation.

Litsa Dremousis: said...


Hey, lady. Hope you're doing as well as possible right now. Thanks for weighing in.

I hear your larger point. And sure, TJ was the master at finding the best deal on grapes. But "frugal", essentially, is a euphemism for "cheap" and we both know he was generous to a fault, which is why I find it disconcerting it was mentioned no fewer than four times.

Yet, somehow, in two and a half hours, no mention was made of his staggering intellect and his voracious, all-consuming love of books. In 21 years I never saw him once w/out a book and, as you know, he could hold forth in depth and breadth on a myriad of topics. Plus, while the letters he wrote home from Australia 20+ years ago were a touching example of how "TJ started off wanting to be a writer", another apt inclusion might have been the fact he'd resumed writing and had recently completed a revision on an essay on how he began climbing in earnest after the bear attack and it was through climbing he felt he healed. At least one hard copy existed among his effects b/c I had just recently returned it to him before he died.

And while, yes, he did do a number of shows w/ ReAct, it would have been great to have heard about his 2007 featured role in Arthur Miller's adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Enemy of the People w/ Strawberry Theater Workshop, one of the very best and best-reviewed theater companies in the city. Or his well-received role in the estimable Book-It Theater's adaptation of Sweet Thursday by TJ's beloved John Steinbeck.

We both know TJ was silly as all fucking hell and I'm glad that was underscored, but his erudition and boundless creative gifts, i.e. his non-biking life at sea level, received short shrift.

Litsa Dremousis: said...

Plus, circling back to the "frugality" point: TJ's planned two-year worldwide trip that was alluded to? He'd had that in his sights at least as far back as November 2007, when he and I first discussed it. And, again, agreeing w/ you, he did live modestly. But he maintained a smart and diversified stock portfolio from at least the age of 24, when he first told me about it. A person can cut all the coupons he chooses, but to travel as ceaselessly as TJ did, more than mere saving is called for. He was an astute and incredibly well-informed investor.

Adrienne M said...

I agree that not enough of that brilliant serious complicated goofball of a man was revealed at the service. I also think you and I are very fortunate to have known so many of the different facets of what made him such a gift. Not all in the room were as blessed. I think it may have been easier in the short time available preparing the service to focus on the quirkier aspects of his life that were immediately available to a larger audience. I have some more thoughts, but we can have that discussion over lunch when my stupid cold goes away.

God, I was so glad when he FINALLY started talking about a really long trip again. There had been the shorter 1-2-3 month mumblings here and there for years and when it switched over to the savings plan for an actual long trip I was so happy for him. So delighted to see that long gleam in his eye again. One of the things that just kills me is that he didn't get to actually climb Denali, after wanting it for close to a decade. Knowing that he won't be there to meet me when I finally get to our 7th continent...well. It's difficult, and my timeline for that one will get pushed back out 5+ years again, because I have a lot less motivation to go if I won't be meeting him there and my own travel priorities are different.

I know he found my "work insane crazy hours for 3 years" strategy of funding my 6-18 month travels to be a loopy approach because his slow steady (and frugal in the honest sense) accumulations would buy him more time to enjoy his life in the everyday whereas I just burned out time after time. His way was definitely the harder, more disciplined route. But it was quite refreshing to not be the only 25 year old I knew with an investment portfolio (however modest) and I always respected his investing strategy. I remember talking with him about setting up education funds for C's kids all those years ago.

Intellectually I've accepted it, but my heart and soul are pretending either he or I are off on another long trip; the problem is that I've started to hit the point where I'd make the first post restante pickup and I'm afraid to because I know this time there won't be a letter I can touch.

Litsa Dremousis: said...

Hey again, A.

There's a lot here you and I agree on. Namely that, more than anything, the world would be a much better place if TJ were still in it. And we both very much wanted to see him achieve every single one of his dreams on his terms. And definitely: his face lit up whenever he spoke of Denali or the two year trek.

Re the memorial, I think we also agree that those who climbed and rode w/ him did fine jobs illuminating TJ and that they spoke quite beautifully from the heart. And more importantly, they remain true heroes--though they would never refer to themselves as such--for taking to the mountains immediately to try and bring TJ home alive.

Re other aspects: I haven't cleaned out my "sent" file in three years, so I have thousands of emails from TJ and others that lead me to different conclusions than yours. (Undoubtedly, I know you must still have a bevy of emails from him, too.) We both know this isn't the forum to discuss it further, so I'll leave it at that.

Cheers, A.