Sunday, February 03, 2008

Goodbye

I’ve been finding myself alone here at 4:00AM at the kitchen table too often lately, unable to sleep past this hour, plagued with dreams good and evil, mind roaming, thoughts too full, likewise my bladder, that demon organ that is the vehicle of my waking in the first place. And once up I’m up. It won’t be for another five or six hours that the fatigue will come over me sufficiently to send me back to bed in the middle of the morning for another two hours of sleep.

It’s been days since I’ve written anything. The combination of loosing a friend and an upcoming performance have double-teamed to keep me just tense enough to avoid the keyboard. But I am nevertheless going to open this page and begin, and my thoughts, tangled as they are, are about Chris.

Chris wasn’t much older than me and he was in far better physical shape than I will ever know again, yet he is gone and it shakes me. Last night I was looking at recent photos of him and his family and there he was smiling back at the world. I know that smile so well and could sense his eagerness to be out and about in the world, taking on some physical challenge or another, a mountain or a river or a strenuous hike. Or maybe a new song he had just written or a play he was working on or some dish he was going to make that night with something fresh from the garden plot he had built in the backyard of the house he shared with his wife and young son, his second son, a singer and player and teller of tales like his father.

Yesterday in Santa Monica his friends and family came together to say goodbye to Chris Allport, to attest to a life well-lived, to honor him, mourn him and revel in his wake, a legacy of vigor and passion and engagement. They will all have a story or two or ten, because he was that kind of man. You could spend an afternoon with him, just one, and come away with a memorable experience. He always had a musical instrument with him, even on holiday he would carry a small guitar that could snuggle into a backpack and sparkle the night with a tune. And there he would be, standing there as if the whole world was listening, even if it was just the two of you. Few moments were tossed aside; nothing worth his time was done half-heartedly.

There were mornings in Maine with tussled hair and now-white stubble of beard shading his face, and that look in his eyes that spoke from the boy in him that he never abandoned, “today we are setting out on an adventure that will take us somewhere strange and wonderful.”

So we would set off in our kayaks down rivers through forests or upon the deep, frigid waters of some rocky Bay. He would lead, which was his way, and I would do my best to keep up with him, it was your best that you needed to bring with you when you went out with Chris, his passion was contagious. As the sun went down the kitchen would hum with his preparations, his strong frame moving about the room, filling it and then the table with something dug or plucked from nature, something with a story, something he had brought back with him that allowed the rest of us to feast on the experience. And that night before the fire, we would sing and strum and make some sort of sound, something that defied the void for an hour or more. And that was an average day, just one slice from a life that was lived at full-speed.

This morning I’ll say goodbye as well, but I know it won’t be the last goodbye. Every time I set out on the water at dawn, or pull myself up a hill or stare down the side of some mountaintop I’ll send my thoughts a little higher, and wish him well, wherever he is, wherever that energy resides and count myself lucky to have known him.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Carol said...

I'm so sorry. He sounds like a wonderful man.

5:48 AM  
Blogger Rositta said...

I think we are all lucky if we can know someone like Chris. It is rare and when they leave us we miss them and are sad. You are lucky to have known him...ciao

7:27 PM  
Blogger Ralph said...

After listening to your music, I'm surprised that you would doubt yourself. This is the benefit concert on February 7? The audience will be warm and receptive. Believe it, Richard.

The death of your friend is a concern I understand well. My brother-in-law died recently, not long after his son perished in the Sunni Triangle. Both victims of this dismal war, because his cancer, I believe, resulted from grief. This tragedy left my dear sister alone, without husband and without her only child. Like a tree stripped of leaves on a barren hillside.

I have had more than a few black hours in which I've tried to come to terms with this cruel twist of fate. There's no easy answer. The usual clichés about death don't satisfy and generalizations about a higher power are vaporous.

I think it comes down to will. You have to will life and spite death by willing life. You can't wait for some external force to liberate you from your grief. What has happened has happened. There's no other answer to that but to accept it and move on. Surely your friend would want you to be happy, to love your family, to affirm your life. That would be the best way of paying homage to him.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Bob Dylan said...

I posted some thoughts on friendship today, and then came here, and your thoughts sort of meld with what I posted. You don't just have a visual image of your friend, but a much deeper image of who he was and how he touched your life.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Daisy said...

i'm terribly sorry for your loss, and moved at how touchingly you honor his memory by sharing your stories of him with us. it is eveident how much he enriched your life. RIP.

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Richard,

I grieve with you. I read your blog from time to time, because I have found Germany and the experience here more beautiful and difficult than I thought it would be - and your writing always makes me have a little more faith.

When the day comes that I pass, as that day inevitably will, I only hope that someone will remember me like you remember Chris.

I wish I could be there to hear you on February 7. It is the day I celebrate the New Year though, and I will think of you and warmly applaud your song.

Thanks for making my time in Cologne easier.

G.

7:34 PM  
Blogger sandy said...

Richard, evidently, I unintentionally marked this post as already read earlier. Now, reading your post, I cannot express my feelings. I am so sorry, it sounds terrible (tears went down while reading this); I wished I could find any words, preferably in German, without any language barriers...

6:17 AM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Dear All ... Thank you for your comments and good wishes.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Ruby said...

Hey sorry to hear about your friend, I don't think one can fill that huge space he left, but at least you have beautiful memories...

3:07 PM  

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