I went through one of those existential phases in my early 20s where I decided there couldn’t possibly be any type of spiritual afterlife or divine creative force. I was never one of the lemmings to the sea types and I doubt growing up in a Footloose-type town helped. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to believe in something, it was more that it never made sense that I was given a brain and all sorts of interesting books, music, and people to talk to, and somehow it was all gonna be served up on a nice platter for easy consumption.
So after some muddling in my teens, significant trauma, a lot of alcohol-fueled anger, and a general pissed at the world attitude, I said, “Done.” I decided God was an invention of Man I was not interested in participating in any longer.
My ideas on spirituality and an afterlife changed a few years later for a simple reason: ghosts. Ghost is not quite right, since that conjures up a negative connotation or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Spirits is better, as in the spirits of those who have passed. I had a few experiences with spirits, some of which I didn’t really understand at the time, and most of which were just sort of a playful, “Hey, I’m here,” like the one who would push the quarters back when I started the dryer in the basement of the brownstone Ex2 and I lived in downtown. Sometimes, they spoke to me in my dreams. Sometimes I recognized them, but most times I didn’t. Once, I became one of them in my dream, a man dying in a hospital bed, his hospital room a near-replica of the bedroom we slept in. I could tell by our fearful hands he thought there should have been more time in his life.
I didn’t want to accept the communication, because it simply was something for which there was no rational explanation. And if I could see and feel the communication from these spirits, I certainly could no longer completely discount the concept of an afterlife.
The best part is when someone I know drops by to say hello.
My friend, Tim, was one of the most interesting people I have had the pleasure to know. He was kind and complex, messy and hilarious, and struggled with addiction and health issues. But holy shit, did he have a sense of humor and a genuine ability to connect with people. He was so completely all in when it came to living. In life, he was the type who would talk to anyone. After he died, I knew he would make sure to stop by now and again; he would never let us go too long without thinking about him.
By a strange turn of events, Timmy and I ended up going to the American Idol finale, the year it was Kris Allen versus Adam Lambert. I must admit that I did not watch much of that season, or really any season for that matter, but knew what was going on thanks to co-workers and general media coverage. My auntie gave us two tickets in the 20th row and the buzz was that there would be amazing star performances. I certainly wasn’t going to pass that up, plus a few days in L.A. with Timmy were bound to be fun.
We were not so secretly hoping that Paula Abdul would be falling off her chair loaded. We made a point to visit her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame the day before and say a selfish prayer to that effect.
Ryan Seacrest was even tinier than we imagined. The Idols were brilliant. The whole night was brilliant really. We saw Jason Mraz, Black Eyed Peas, Queen Latifah, Lionel Richie, Cindi Lauper, Rod Stewart, and KISS perform. Now, seeing KISS almost put me over the edge; I was screaming like it was 1979. Then, during the commercial break after KISS, a large banner dropped and covered most of the stage. Tim and I were having a, “Oh my lord, can you believe we just saw KISS” moment and experiencing general bliss, when I saw him. I wouldn’t mistake the skinny man with the big black hair. Brian May walked on stage. I started pounding on the arm of the man sitting next to me and said something about just seeing Brian Fucking May. Lambert killed “We Are The Champions” with Queen. There’s no replacing Freddie, but he was pretty damned great.
Our section of the audience was a little pocket of gay men. Of course, the tween female demographic was the majority of the studio audience, but we managed to fit in the gay haven. Perfect for oh so many reasons...
But the point of this part of the story is that Kris Allen won that night. In the gay enclave we heard plenty of, “Oh the little kids just get on every phone in the house and vote as many times as they can.” Tim’s take? “They are both really talented so it didn’t really matter who won. Now, IS there an open bar at the after party?”
I’m giggling a little just thinking about this since we ended up meeting a bunch of the Idols, having great food and drink, and dancing the night away. Since the show started at five and the party at seven, we managed to do midnight IHOP and get to the airport by five the next morning.
It was a crazy whirlwind, three-day trip that I’ll never forget.
Timmy passed away in early 2012 and I do miss that crazy man. I miss him stopping in the restaurant where I worked for a late dinner and a glass or three of wine. Even if I was cut for the night and ready to hit the door, I stayed to wait on him and catch up.
And as things go on for the living, I did think of him from time to time, when something made me laugh or I heard a certain song. I wore the hideous pink John Deere cap he gave me when I ran the Twin Cities Marathon.
One Wednesday shift in November of 2012 I was at work, just having a normal weeknight at the restaurant. There was an event at the performing arts center up the block and hunters in town, so it was fairly busy. I got a table of four twenty-something guys, who looked like artists of some sort, writers or musicians or whatever. They were just genuinely nice people.
Earlier that week I had been thinking about Ex1’s grandma, who used to tell me “Faith, love, and hope were the greatest.” I agreed with her statement but also thought that “grace” should be on the list. So I had been thinking about grace and about times in my life when I felt like I was in a state of grace. Grace was also my maternal grandmother’s name and she was a woman who believed in faith, love, hope, and grace.
Timmy loved my Grandma Grace.
While I was answering a couple of menu questions for the four top of the artist guys, I noticed one of them had several tattoos. Clearly on the outside of his right arm was a permanent “GRACE.”
He knew I was looking at him oddly, so I had to tell them about faith, love, hope, and grace. They understood. They didn’t look at me weirdly or question the connection, they thought it was cool and agreed that grace fits right in the mix. Dude also had turtle tattoos like mine, so I couldn’t help but wonder if he was my long, lost brother.
One of my co-workers asked if the guys at the table were my friends, she said they “Look like guys you’d be friends with.” Since they were cool, I took that as a compliment and relayed the story when I was back at the table. They thought that was funny, but none of them jumped in to say exactly what they did for a living. Now I was curious, though, were they credit card hippies, traveling the country on mom and dad?
I overheard something about “You should do a song with him.” They were musicians. Cat’s outta the bag. I just hoped to grab a name off and credit card and then do a Google search later. God bless technology. I figured any group of musicians that humble and nice was worth checking out. Maybe throw them a download off iTunes if they were any good. How do artists get anywhere if we don’t support them, right?
So when the meals were eaten and the checks split up, I went over to the computer to run the credit cards. And when I looked down at the cards, I felt like a chump and then had a great laugh.
Timmy, you crafty little shit. I know you and Gracie got a kick out of this one. XXXOOO