I spent six months researching, writing and illustrating the state of redevelopment in downtown Henderson for Vegas Seven. Now the story can be told.
Posts Tagged ‘Personal’
I have an uneasy relationship with death. As one of those godless, science-and-facts people, I embrace the circle of life and recognize that I am merely a collection of organic material functioning at a high level that will nonetheless return to the earth from which I came some day. That I can rationalize and accept, but on the flip-side, I really love life. I love being alive. I quite enjoy the engagement of my mind and body and my place in the eternal timeline of existence. So, I’m not really a big fan, philosophically speaking, of death as a concept. When I blink out, I blink out, and the mere thought of that really makes me uncomfortable. I’m not OK with it.
This weekend, I attended the funeral of a friend who I hadn’t seen or really talked to much at all in the last 20 years. Stacey was, unarguably, my best friend during my sophomore year of high school. She was one of the first people to befriend me as a new student at Bonanza High School (my family had just moved back to Las Vegas after about a year-and-a-half in Pennsylvania), and it was through her that I met almost every other friend that year, as well as a few girlfriends and, indirectly through geography, my brother from another mother Jason (then known only as Jason Blackhair, not to confuse him with Jason Blondhair, who both lived in the same apartment complex).
Stacey and the whole gang that comprised kids living both at Summerhill Pointe and Canyon Lake apartments near the Lakes neighborhood of Las Vegas became the cast in the movie of my life at the time. We all shared the same adventures and experiences, whether it was playing softball in the empty lot next to Summerhill Pointe, spotting Corey Feldman during a trip to the Wet ‘n’ Wild water park, or getting drunk on New Year’s Eve at Stacey’s apartment — a place where we all spent a lot of time, her mom, dad and two brothers adopting us all as honorary family members.
By my junior year, however, my interests had started to diversify and my attentions wandered. I was working full-time, meeting new people through that job, and getting exposed to a whole different side (literally) of Las Vegas thanks to Jason and the new friends I’d gotten to know through him. This new crowd was mostly older or attending other schools, made up of a lot of punks and goths and sexually diverse kids, and for the most part, the old gang up at the Lakes was, well, not really gelling with these new factions in my life. Both the girl I dated steadily for most of my sophomore and junior years (Teresa) and Stacey (along with many others) ended up transferring to a new high school the next year, essentially putting the final nail in the coffin of our friendship at the time.
I went many years without seeing or talking to most of those people, including Stacey. But as we all know too well, the advent of sites such as MySpace and Facebook changed the way we connect/reconnect with the people in our lives. Stacey joined Facebook a few years ago, but she didn’t really use it. It was only through trading messages with Teresa that I learned Stacey’s entire family — first, her younger brother, Pete, then her older brother, Paul, then both her parents — all died within a few years. Stacey — who had three children of her own — was also dealing with her own poor health (she always had really bad asthma) and a divorce on top of it. It was again through Facebook last December when another mutual friend from the old ‘hood let me know that Stacey was in the hospital with advanced lung disease, failing organs, and likely would not make it much longer, and strongly suggested I should see her before it was too late.
I heard a story on NPR a few weeks ago about the negative effect of these digital connections we make. How they’re extending people’s grief both by exposing them longer to the active digital memory of a lost loved one, but also by exposing a greater number of people to those who pass to whom we’d normally not still be connected. The latter was happening to me first-hand. I hadn’t thought about Stacey or her family much at all in the last two decades, except for running across a photo while cleaning out files. We hadn’t talked — not even via social network. And yet, here was the reality: My once-best friend was on her death bed, and suddenly the past was present and had to be dealt with.
Slightly lower on my discomfort list, but definitely in the top 10, are hospitals. I mean, I know most people don’t like hospitals, but for me, it’s even weirder, because there have been so very few times in my life I’ve been in one, aside from a few births and (sadly) a few deaths. I’ve personally only gone to a hospital for my own health needs ONCE, and it was Boulder City Hospital, so it was more like a medical center. I know it makes the person you’re coming to see feel better or whatever, but to me, hospitals are a place you go to have a service provided. A behind-closed-doors kind of place. I wouldn’t want anyone to visit me at home when I’m sick; why would I want to do that in a hospital?
Plus — and this is self-damning — my own personal discomfort with death is entirely rational; that is, I don’t really have an emotional reaction to it, at least not an apparently sympathetic one. I’m a guy who’s full of hope and joy, and I feel pain and fear and all that stuff, but I’m not really good at relating to other people when it comes to sadness. I guess I’m just not good at empathy, really; sympathy I can at least muster up.
Anyway, I wrestled with the decision to go see Stacey in the hospital. I was told she was barely conscious, and when she was, she wasn’t lucid. I didn’t see the point in being there “for her” if she wasn’t aware I was there. But I ultimately decided no matter what, the “right” thing to do was to go see her. And all of my worst assumptions were true. Stacey was drugged up and unable to speak due to breathing tubes. Even if she was aware of who was this person entering her tiny ICU room, she was too far out of it to even write a message on a board. And worst, Stacey didn’t look like Stacey. It wasn’t just the sort-of “this person gained weight/went bald/got a sex change” cognitive dissonance you typically expect from seeing someone for the first time in 20 years. Stacey was barely recognizable as a human being at that point. She was a mass of flesh held together by wires and tubes, a shocking and sad sight that, honestly, I think does no service to my or anyone else’s memory of the vibrant, joyful person she once was.
Stacey never got better. She finally passed on April 19. Stacey Dyane (Brown) Schenck was 36. She is survived by her three children, Carissa, Cody, and Cannon.
I’ve been meaning to share this story for a while, but didn’t really have an impetus until I recently posted some related Homemade Comics on the subject. So a lot of this is culled from a few posts over there, but I know nobody reads words on Tumblr, so it should be fresh to most of you.
When I was about 13 (maybe going into 14 a bit), I worked as a stock boy at the 7-Eleven around the corner from my family’s apartment in Bensalem, Penn. My job was relatively straightforward: stock and straighten shelves, refill soda and Slurpee machines, restock the refrigerator, and sweep and mop when necessary. I think I also occasionally changed out the pretzels and hot dogs, experience that would serve me well in high school while running the concession stand at a movie theater. Working there in the summer was awesome, as hanging out in the cooler during hot, muggy days definitely beat being outside. In the winter, though, it could be brutal just to do things like taking out the trash. But for the most part, I loved it. It was easy, it earned me play money (which I presumably spent on comics and trips to the mall; I sure as hell didn’t save it), but the best part of the experience had nothing to do with the job itself.
See, the 7-Eleven gig afforded me first dibs on things like comics and magazines. I’d literally be the person to help unpack the new periodicals when they came in, so I kinda treated the Sev (as I like to call it) as my own personal comic book store. In addition, this was about the time the 1989 Batman movie came out, so there were a lot of inexpensive Batman toys coming in there (Do convenience stores in other states still carry toys? Because here in Nevada, they sure don’t.) — you know, cheap stuff like plastic detective tools, stickers, etc.
When there were things I wanted, I’d put them in a paper bag and hold them under the cashier counter until payday, at which point, one of the managers would ring me up for my stash, mark it “paid,” and at the end of my shift, I’d take the stuff home. It was like having a pull box at a comic shop. All good, right? Well, yeah, until I finally quit the job there (not sure why, I guess it just ran its course), and on what was probably my last day, I walked out with a bag full of stuff marked “paid,” as I often did, except … I didn’t pay for it.
I don’t know why I did that. I gamed the system. I took the trust of these nice people who employed me (and they were great to work for), and kinda threw it in their face (although they had no idea, until now maybe?). OK, to be fair, this was penny-ante stuff, maybe $30 worth of comics and toys. But it was super lame of me to do, and though I’m not proud of it, I can at least admit it now while chalking it up to stupid things we do as kids.
Anyway, to this day, when I smell burnt coffee left sitting in a pot on a burner, it instantly takes me back to the Sev, and those innocent times when my biggest decision was whether to have a free hot dog or free pretzel for lunch, and my worst sin was stealing plastic Batman handcuffs and a Quasar comic. Good times.
I originally had a few blog posts planned for this week, full of the usual self-promotional and/or irreverent bullshit I usually sling at you. Then I found out yesterday — as most of us did, through Facebook (this itself a topic to be later addressed) — that Tommy Marth had died early Monday morning, likely by his own hand. At that point, feeling like all the air had been forced out of my gut, I kind of just went offline, aside from dealing with answering other mutual friends’ questions about what happened.
Tommy and I weren’t much more than acquaintances. We’d spent plenty of time in the same rooms, we knew hundreds of the same people (EVERYONE knows Tommy), we’d probably shared a drink or two together; he may have even done sound for my band. Thanks a lot, awesome memory of mine, for not remembering more. But, the thing is, this is the second time a relative peer (Tommy was 33) died this year, but unlike when the dearly missed Doug Frye left this realm just after New Year’s, there was no prepping for this. Doug — like Tommy, a long-time mainstay of the Vegas music scene, both on and behind the stage — had cancer, and even though it accelerated faster than anyone expected, we were all sort-of prepared, you know? But Tommy killing himself? Based on the conversations I’ve had with other acquaintances, it came as a complete and total surprise.
See, Tommy drank in life with a voracity rarely seen. He packed more into 33 years than most people do in twice that time, if ever. I’m not going to repeat his resume here — Mike Prevatt’s solid eulogy on the CityLife website does that more than adequately. But even though he was a few years younger than me, Tommy set an example of how to live one’s life to its fullest, and I admired — and somewhat envied — that. He was well-read, well-traveled, and man, he rocked going prematurely bald like no one else. To think that someone with so much not just behind him but ahead of him would say “fuck it” to it all, well … it’s hard to conceive, and it’s why my initial reaction was “fuck you, Tommy.”
And that’s basically the sentiment echoed by someone who can far better explain why Tommy’s death is such a loss to so many people in general, and to Las Vegas in specific: Joshua Ellis. In a blog post entitled “Dick move,” Josh tells some great stories, gives some personal insight, and does a much better job than I ever could in doing him one proper while telling it like it is. Go read it. Even if you have no idea who Tommy Marth was, go read it.
In the meantime, I do what I can do, and that’s draw a picture. It’s not enough. It won’t bring him back. But it’s all I have.
As I said on Facebook: Tommy, I wish you were alive right now so I could fucking hit you.
I don’t typically get too personal on this here bloggy-blog, as I have enough creepy stalkers out there (all of whom I love and appreciate, of course), but I hear you interwebs people like that sort of “I can identify with this fella because he is human like me” connection, so I’ll oblige:
On Friday, June 26, my brother Joshua and his wife Jennifer welcomed into the world their first child — a bouncing, baby boy named Zachary Benjamin. That means your pal Pj is now AN UNCLE. Woe be to my new (first!) nephew, for I have decreed that he shall be exclusively referred to as Zack Attack! (exclamation point VERY necessary). I warned Josh over dinner a few months ago that, by choosing to name his forthcoming son Zachary, I would be forced to call him Zack Attack!. And not surprisingly, Josh was totally fine with this. He even claimed to have named Zack Attack! after the one-and-only Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. I’m sure he was not serious, but if he was, that instantly elevates him to a level of awesome of which I can only hope to one day attain by naming my first-born “A.C.,” training him in the ways of perms and wrestling, and insisting he call his cousin exclusively by “preppy.”
In case you want to follow the exploits of Zack Attack! further, the baby has a blog somewhere out there in cyberspace (seriously, even unborn children have blogs? ZOMG). Furthermore, you may want to subscribe to Josh’s blog, “404 Error – Failure to Communicate,” in which he writes about wrestling, comic books, music and other stuff in a manner so gregarious it’s overwhelming.