Facebook is an interesting phenomenon. People from the past suddenly materialize. Names and faces you haven’t thought about in forever… requesting friendships and sending messages, with little notes, just like back in grade school. “Will you be my friend? Check one: Yes. No.”
This week I learned that a good friend of mine from high school, Dave Ross, died from cancer of the esophagus. Two years ago. That’s the downside to the magic of all this social networking; your first college girlfriend who you haven’t heard from in nearly two decades tells you that the person who introduced you to each other gets to be the one to tell you the bad news.
Dave was a poster child for ADHD before any of us even knew such a thing existed. He wasn’t put on medication, he wasn’t sequestered into “special needs” classrooms, he just bounded around the room and everyone learned to accommodate.
Dave was passionate about anything he approached. When he caught the filmmaking bug in high school he had more zeal about it than me, the self-proclaimed filmmaker of our crowd, and he drove me to make some of my best work. We’d eat fast food in his beat up Plymouth Duster past midnight listening to Midnight Tracks and talking about girls and philosophy and the philosophy of girls.
He was the ultimate sports fan, bringing hockey sticks to basketball games in order to intimidate referees (and everyone else for that matter), a tradition he carried with him into his college days at UC Berkeley where he was a known fixture in the stands. He once brought a tape recorder to a high school game and narrated the play-by-play for the entire game for his own amusement. Afterward he interviewed fans leaving the gym with what became a hallmark question:
“In your opinion, was it Culver’s victory or Torrence’s defeat that lead to the final outcome of this game?”
It was also at one of these games that we noticed a great player on the opposing team who was making shot after shot during warm-ups but was not allowed off the bench. Dave thought this was unfair. He looked up the player’s number in the program — R. Yamashiro — and began chanting his name. Pretty soon he had us all singing to the tune of On, Wisconsin!:
Only three feet tall!
Yamashiro, he’s our hero
He plays basketball!
Yamashiro, not a zero
What was that you say?
Hooray for Russel K!
We had no idea what his real name was, but from that moment on we kept rooting for Russel K. Yamashiro to be put into the game, so much so that we became a distraction to the other team and won the game. At least that’s how we liked to remember it happening.
Dave and I also liked to play with slogans, poems, and quotes, adding and changing them as a challenge, a sort of call-and-response to see who could make the other laugh. On one occasion Dave began with a few word of Robert Frost and I responded. We had a good start with the first two stanzas and then stumbled. Secretly I went back and finished the poem and submitted it to our school’s poetry journal as a joke under the name Robert Yamashiro Frost, where to my surprise it was selected and published. I loved the look on Dave’s face, followed by the convulsive fit of laughter that was also Dave’s trademark, when he first saw it in print. I finished it for Dave, partially wrote it with him, and can’t think of a better way to honor his memory two years after the fact. I think he would have approved.
I make no apology for the juvenile nature of the humor, or the distasteful imagery. We were teenage boys, this was who we were.
Killing Off My Horse on a Snowy Evening
I know these things, these things I know –
My house is in the village, though
You will not see me stopping here
To watch a dog make yellow snow.
The little horse must think it queer
To see Van Gogh cut off his ear
Beyond these woods, upon the lake
I throw my horse off of the pier
He gives his harness bells a shake
We bash his head in with a rake
The only other sound a-peep:
The drowning horse who’s still awake
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
Yet I still have my quota to keep
And horses to kill before I sleep
Horses to kill before I sleep.
There’s probably some more conventional poetry over at Author Amok, where the Poetry Friday round up is this week.