The death of a good, sometimes foolish, friend

This is my first post in over six months. I don't always see the point of hurling one's words into the void. But I was reminded of one of the reasons for livejournal posting recently for a very sad reason.

I've spent the last four days rereading, in my spare time, the e-mails of my friend Charles Horecker, who died last Friday. I didn't bother to listen to the details from his brother, who phoned me Saturday night to give me the news. (I see now that the squib in the local newspaper is now on-line too, however): he was driving alone, not particularly late at night, when his car didn't make a curve and did a couple of turns on the way into a ditch. Although he was planning to relocate to St. Louis, it took place in southern Illinois, where he had just spent the last two years helping out his aged grandfather (90) and his grandfather's girlfriend (65, but she had been recuperating from recent surgeries).

Charles lived an amazing life in his eight and a half years since his graduation from the University of Chicago in 2001, apparently not always on the side of the law, and if he "never amounted to anything," that probably suited him just fine. It satisfies some bitter ironical side of me that if he should have had to die young --I'm pretty sure he'd just turned thirty-- it should not have been in the squalor of Chicago's South Side, where he returned in 2003 after dropping out of Classics grad school at Yale and where he did some dangerous things in order to make money; nor was it in his two long sojourns to Asia (financed in part by ridiculous stints of on-line poker play), which included being on hand for the big tsunami of 2005 although it also involved two stints of teaching computers and English in Beijing (a city he hated passionately) as well as a few semiserious and unsuccessful attempts to sneak into Tibet; nor from all the STDs he was constantly threatening to acquire; but rather it was from a typical drunk (presumably) driving accident in the hinterlands of the Midwest, at the tail-end of a just angelic stint being cook, chauffeur, and handyman for his grandfather, sending me e-mails about the huge garden he'd planted and harvested, and working in the labs of SIU-Carbondale so that he would be able to take science classes on the cheap.

I told him once that the only time that I could be sure that he was taking care of himself was when I heard he was taking care of someone else, an absurd facet of his character for a man who never married and had no children that he was sure about. But he kept one of our mutual friends from dying of substance abuse in Asia at the end of 2004, he then cleaned up in order to escort his mother and one of his nephews in a long trip through Asia in 2005, and then again with his mother on a second long trip, and his last visit to me in Oberlin, just two months ago, came after he decided that his grandfather's health problems had evolved in such a way that he couldn't help him any longer although the girlfriend could. (Typically, he left his grandfather on bad terms --Charles wasn't the only person I know who picks fights when he feels the need to separate from someone.) So I'm not surprised he died alone in a car at a time when he wasn't taking care of anyone, but no doubt the sad, tragic way that Charles died could have happened on any weekend in Illinois.

Charles was disdainful of the culture of self-exposure in fora mediated by (in the last analysis) corporations, so he deliberately left almost no trail on the Internet, astonishing for someone of his generation. And so it is with a small feeling of betrayal that I post this here, deliberately in case some idle ex-girlfriend or ex-friend (he alienated almost everyone he was ever friends with, except me; presumably because I'm older, possibly because of a low self-esteem thing: he never said anything to me meaner than the things I say about myself) decides to google-stalk him to see how he's doing. I can imagine all sorts of the people he'd met in his life asking themselves, "Gee, I wonder if Charles is dead yet." Well, now they know.

I visited him once in Chicago in July of 2003 and he visited me three times in Oberlin over the last five years, and each time I said goodbye to him I figured there was a pretty good chance I would never see him again. Well, this time I was right, and I know I'll miss him for a long time.

Wit should not be heard, but overheard

 I do so hate it when my friends catch me in a contradiction.

In her comment to what is, until I post this one, my only post on LJ, my no longer autopseudonymous friend Ellen points out that I regularly send e-mails to one friend, but cc the e-mail to three or four others.  If I just blogged these comments, she argues, I would leave a permanent trace of my thoughts and opinions, rather like the diary of Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest, whose entries are the simple thoughts of a young girl, and as such are destined for publication.

So true, or at any rate, quite true enough.  It is one of my favorite rhetorical tricks, and therefore I am sure it is bad for my character, to talk to a person about a second person, in that second person's presence, and of course the only way to do that in cyberspace is to cc that person.  Naturally under those circumstances you're not really trash talking that person --usually you are trying to praise them in faux mockery-- but then again, that suits me:  I really like my friends, and if I do want to vent about them I don't really want it to get back to them.  (Like Kathy Griffin, I was brought up properly, I only talk trash about people behind their backs.)

But as a result I think I have been honing a style of address that is sort of like the Wordsworthian ideal of feigning to ignore the audience, while one is caught up with lyric spiritus or imagination or what have you; only in a social mode, in which I feign to ignore one part of an audience while carrying on a conversation with another part.  This is still not the truly anonymous addressee of conventional fiction; however, all the time in real life real people end up reading mixed messages although they themselves were not conceived of as part of the mix. (As a gringo Latin Americanist, I do this almost rigorously:  by most criteria, almost no Latin American writers write for People Like Me.)  

Enough.  Now I have to go read the article in today's New York times about why well over 90% of the internet's bloggers have given up on the project.

I guess I don't believe in open-ended communication

 A certain friend of mine --let's call her "Ellen"-- has just reminded me that I have an LJ account, but have posted nothing on it.  She also reminds me that I write eloquent, fulsome postcards to her and to friends, and she seems to think that LJ and postcards are equivalent.  

Alas, I beg to differ.  I have been known to talk a lot --the prerogative of a college professor-- and to forget the specifics of the audience I am talking to.  Why, just a few hours ago I was at a birthday party of a friend --a birthday party that prevented me from attending the party of another friend, let's call her "Delia"-- and held court for far too long about things I did not know, as well as the plot, thematics, and mood of Toni Morrison's most recent novel, which I did.  

Perhaps "Ellen" does not realize this, but I actually am quite conscious of my audience when i write postcards; and there is something soothing but also energizing about the finality of the white pasteboard lower-right-hand corner.  

But I feel as though I at least owe "Ellen" an explanation, and I thank her for reminding me what my Live Journal name is --since I had, indeed forgotten it.  

Not believing in open-ended communication makes it hard to write either fiction or non-fiction.