Shall we invoke the gods? It seems impolite not to, perhaps even reckless. These are gods we’re dealing with, after all, and it’s best to keep them happy. No, that’s not right. It’s best not to get their attention at all. What they claim as their due, pay them. The Hindus appeal to Ganesh when they begin anew, but we will invocate, because it is a Latin word and Latin is the language of Western Magic.
Let us discuss death, and what precedes it.
Jesse Brown died on July 1st, 2019. He was 39, and from California. His mother wrote to me. Jesse was a fan, apparently, and would read posts aloud to her. He was a drummer, she tells me. and had been to over 100 Phish shows. He wrote a novel. He went to UC Santa Barbara, which made him a Gaucho. These are all the facts I have.
39 is a hell of a run for a couch. Well outside of expectation. A couch that makes it 39 years is assuredly a special sofa.
Dog wouldn’t make it to 39, and neither would a cat. Horse could do it, and definitely a donkey. Donkeys are too dumb to die. A 39-year old elephant is middle-aged; 39-year-old tortoises barely have to shave yet.
Car’s an antique. Castle’s still brand-new. Takes a mountain a century just to blink its eyes. A mountain can’t even register 39 years.
It’s not old enough for a man.
I don’t know much. Generally and on this occasion: I do not know much. Jesse’s mom didn’t tell me about his kids and wife, so maybe he didn’t have kids and a wife. Lots of people don’t have kids and a wife. She didn’t mention any Olympic medals, so maybe he didn’t have any of those, either. Statistically, Jesse was far more likely to have had kids and a wife than an Olympic medal–even a Bronze–but again: my information is scant. It’s not an obituary. I don’t write obituaries; I’m not in the union.
The living can no more imagine dying than fish can flying. You’ll know it when you get there. Just go straight ahead, or turn right, or left, or stay where you are; you can’t miss it. Death’s like Wall Drug, but without the free water.
Did you bowl, Jesse Brown? Did you mind the communal footwear, or was it a kink you never told anyone about? Did you ever think about joining the service? How long did your veganism last? What was your favorite Phish cover? Ever try turducken? Were you frightened by thunder? Did you take Spanish or French? Could you draw all the Lagrange points on a map? Did you get a tugger on a ski-lift? Can one be redeemed through faith alone, or is deed required? Did you avoid the clap? Still have your teddy bear? Where were you on the night of the 21st? If a train leaves Chicago at noon, who the fuck still takes trains? What was the first movie you remember seeing? Do you believe in rockyroll, and that music might in fact save your mortal soul? Jesse Brown, can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Squirrels get along just fine, it seems to me, without the mental scaffolding necessary to understand death. They don’t know they’re gonna die, and you can’t teach ’em. And yet they scamper and obsess over nuts and show no deficit. Danger. They understand danger. Not death, and look at squirrels: happy as clams. Clams don’t know they’re gonna die, either, but they’re not happy about it. Clams don’t have emotions like that.
But we’re special. We’re so smart. We can see the future, if vaguely. Lucky us.
This is him. The drummer. This is Jesse.
Jesse was in bands all his life. This one was called Bear’s Belly. They’re playing Bobby’s place, the Sweetwater, in this shot.
I disagree with this band’s bass player as much as I do with Dead & Company’s: one shouldn’t take the stage in flippity-flops. Hard shoes like a grown-up are preferred, but–if one must–a strappy sandal can be substituted. Or barefoot. Literally anything other than flippity-flops.
Neither close observation nor strenuous research reveal Jesse’s choice in footwear.
You’re born, and then you die. It always happens in that order. You can have your cake before your steak, but the sequence absolutely has to be birth, then death, and just one time around.
In between, you sleep and shit and dick around on the internet. There is intermittent humping. A handful of truly excellent parties. You’ll lock yourself out of your house at least once. Mental breakdown or two. Trip to Canada.
“Each human is different,” the Novice said. “We are all unique.”
“I did not know that,” answered the Master.
“Look at our fingerprints,” the Novice said. “Not two alike on the whole planet.”
“Sure,” answered the Master. “But they’re mostly the same, y’know?”
Farewell, my friend I never met, whom I will never meet. No more pain, not for you. No more long dark Tuesdays of the soul. Bullshit you went so young. I’d lodge a complaint, if I knew where the lodge was. Farewell, Jesse Brown, who was 39 and a drummer and a writer and liked my dick jokes so much he read ’em to his mom. Farewell.