ConstantCommentary® Vol. XIII, No. 197, Dec. 31, 2012

So Sue Me . . .

by Mike Jasper

Mayans ripped my flesh

What the fuck, I'm still alive? I thought the Mayans told us we'd be finished with this shit by Dec. 21, even though I almost died myself July 24th.

But that's a story for another time.

Let's talk about those who actually died. I spent Dec. 22, 2012 reading the obits because they were hilarious. Just a truckload of people died Dec. 21, and for them the Mayans were true to their word. The world ended. For them.

But not for you and me. Shit. I guess I should have written more this year. Guess I shouldn't have sold so many guitars. Guess I shouldn't have had all that unprotected sex.

Just kidding. I always have unprotected sex. What am I supposed to do, lick pussy with a trash bag over my head?

Whatever. I'm still alive while others didn't make the cut. My uncle died in January of 2012 at age 102, six days short of his 103rd birthday. What the hell, anything past 100 is like a walk-off home run. Uncle Jim clearly won the game of life.

I had an ex-girlfriend who lost her dad and her oldest brother in 2012. No way to spin that positively, as they both died too young it seemed to me.

And my best friend died Dec. 11th, on his ex-wife's birthday oddly enough. But that makes sense—Frank was always giving that evil bitch what she wanted.

Yep, good old death always gets my creative juices flowing. But the death of a best friend? Hell, that's a fast ball down the middle to a writer (yeah, I'm sticking with the baseball analogies).

It's New Year's Eve, officially now, because I cracked my first beer. Tonight's a perfect night to write an obit. Besides, I did the majority of the writing Dec. 26th, and god knows I'm gonna get drunk anyway.

I'll just do it in private like the motherfuckin' gentleman I am.

Remembering Frank Graham

Frank Graham was my best friend, even though we didn't meet until we were both in our 30s. He was also my AA sponsor, even though we both started drinking again.

He died, I lived, who knows?

Frank married my ex-girlfriend, Laura J, his third wife, and the person he called his best friend. I introduced them and could see sparks fly from the moment they met, which was fine with me because Laura and I were fanning embers long grown cold.

It all worked out, amicably. Frank saw a way in and I saw a way out. It was like the old joke:  "My best friend married my girlfriend. Sure gonna miss that guy."

Don't get me wrong. We both stayed in touch, it was just harder to do, since Laura pretty much wanted me out of her life. Can't blame her—who wants an ex hangin' around. But Frank was my best friend and despite her objections, that was that. We kept our friendship alive in a series of phone calls.

When Frank decided to get out of publishing after he realized the job became all about firing people rather than improving newspapers, he called me up. When Frank decided to just become a beat reporter at a local newspaper, The Telegraph, in North Platte Nebraska, he called me up. And when Frank decided to start  a newspaper called The Bulletin in that same Nebraskan town, he called me up yet again.

In every life-changing moment I was consulted, even when he went into the pasta sauce business with Henry Hill, the real-life protagonist from Goodfellas.

"You were the first one I called when I decided to do this," Frank said. To which I replied, "Why? Because you want me to get whacked by the Mafia too?"

I was Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote, Boswell to his Johnson, and don't worry—Frank wouldn't get these literary references either. Let's just say I was Cheech to Frank's Chong, and yes, we were both Baby Boomers. Yeah, we were old. Most of all, we were friends.

When Frank and Laura decided to move to Oregon so she could pursue a career as a pharmacist, he told me didn't really want to leave North Platte, but he wanted Laura to pursue her dreams, so off they went.

When they separated and divorced soon after they got there, Frank told me, "I lost my best friend."

"I know how it feels," I told him honestly, but I think he thought I was talking about Laura. I wasn't.

Anyway, Frank moved back to North Platte to work at The Bulletin. He bought a house, took his old job covering the cops and the courts, walked his three dogs at the dog park daily, but it just wasn't the same. There was an emptiness in Nebraska.

Frank called me on a brisk autumn day in 2011 and told me he was moving to Texas to be close to his kids. Laura might have been his best friend, but Luke, Sarah and Katy were the loves of his life.

He moved to Llano, Texas after landing a job there as editor-in-chief for the Llano County Journal and the Burnett Bulletin. Frank always wanted to be the editor of a small-town newspaper where the courtroom was the bustling center of the town square, and I do believe he got his wish.

The last time I saw Frank was in Llano during the weekend of the arts festival there. We drove to all the art venues, ate BBQ, drank vodka, played with his three dogs, swapped stories (some of them true), and generally over-indulged in life as usual.

He also tricked me into playing a free live set at a bar in Llano—a bar that just happened to have an acoustic guitar and a PA on stage. I was a little ticked off at first about working for free, but looking back I'm sure glad I got to play "Kid Off The Farm" for him for the last time.

I wrote that song about Frank and the words go like this:
   You moved to my town
   You've taken my girl
   Well don't say I didn't warn ya.
   You're putting me down
   You act like all of those clowns
   I thought I left in California
   When I told you, "Get a life," I didn't mean mine
   You could be doing better, but I guess you're doing fine.
   And I know you, you would never do me no harm
   You can't help it, you're just a Kid Off The Farm.

   When looking at you, I get deja vu
   It's like watchin' The Last Picture Show
   Or reading Lonesome Dove, it's the Texan in you
   You're always fixin' to go
   Hope I don't come off bitter and depressed
   But I saw the life you left behind, and I truly was impressed
   The middle class still holds a certain charm
   Yeah, but how would you know? You're just a Kid Off the Farm.

   If your world caves in, sooner or later
   You'll come runnin' on back to me
   And I'll be there for you, 'cause that's what we do
   Man, you were always there for me
   And I'll sit you down, tell you everything you're doing wrong.
   And if that doesn't work out, I'll make you listen to this song.
   'Cause you know me, I would never do you no harm
   'Cause I'm just like you, I'm just a Kid Off The Farm.

Frank Graham smoke, drank, cussed, laughed, lied like a lawyer, and dreamed like a poet. Most of all, he made everyone who ever met him smile a little broader, laugh a little louder, and feel a little better about being alive in this lonely grey world.

Sure gonna miss that guy.

Mike Jasper
Dec. 26th, 2012

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STANDARD DISCLAIMER: This column aims to be funny. If you can read anything else into it, you're on your own.

© 2012 by Mike Jasper, All Rights Reserved. ConstantCommentary® is published whenever Mike Jasper feels like it. All material is the responsibility of the author.