Thursday, February 28, 2008

Plain Black Shoes

My friend Hank hated February, the cruelest month in many ways, and he died on the last day of it six years ago. It's a day that I can't forget like many others who knew him, and I spent it this year by total accident in the very same place I was six years ago at the time -- in the very same gym, working out. I thought about this fact during the last part of yoga, the part where you go into corpse pose and meditate on what you've just done. Hank used to say it's not the years, it's the mileage, something I understand more with each passing mile. I've lived hard in a hard place, done some real damage in the wake of much pain, and even so, wouldn't change anything. On the day that Hank died, I lost a cross with diamonds on it that I wore around my neck for a little while -- it fell off into a snowdrift never to return. And so another part of my life started, the part without Hank.

Hank's sweet mother Donna gave me some of his things this year. I wear the t-shirts, play the dvd, but I'm not sure what to do with his shoes, perhaps the most poignant reminder of him. I bought him those shoes for a job interview here in the Motor City which he didn't get. Still, we had a good time what with running around preparing for said event, eating lots of substandard food, and watching the Guyana Tragedy. He didn't wear the shoes that much -- they were plain black shoes, serviceable, but nothing more, nowhere near as special as the wearer. So I'm left pondering what Hank might have wanted done with them as they are now back in the place they started. There's a folk art project downtown called the Heidelburg which has loads of shoes, purses, stuffed animals, and everything else you can imagine glued to houses, attached to trees -- the entire thing covers a whole city block. Hank loved cities and crazy-ass shit, and this place fits the bill. I think when winter thaws and this horrible month ends, I shall take them there and let the artist who created it do what he will with them. I want them to stay in Detroit forever, want them to enjoy all the seasons, the mild summers, the hideous winters. They deserve it all, the beautiful, the sublime, the years, the mileage.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I have lost you, my brother
and your death has ended the spring season
of my happiness, our house is buried
with you and buried the laughter
that you taught me. There are no
thoughts of love nor of poems
in my head since you died." Catullus

Cocktail Hour
Drinking essay suggestion:

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday!


Cheri said...

A very nostalgic day, indeed. It was his fate, in those shoes, that he didn't get the job here in Detroit. But who knows what might have been in store for him if he had.

Glad you're feeling better. Except this hateful month has an extra day.

Tim said...

Hank had a great friend in you Michelle. You've paid him a wonderful tribute through the stories you've written about him on here. Most people only wish they shared something as special as what you two did. My thoughts are with you today.
Take care!

Anonymous said...

Sam Bernstein said: I hope he didn't die because of a hospital's negligence in repairing a broken leg. If he did, I hope his family sued them to hell.

Lana Gramlich said...

I'm good at the corpse pose. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

This is a nice tribute. I think your plan for the shoes is an excellent one.

the walking man said...

Personally i wouldn't give them to Tyree Guyton, where they would just become another pair of shoes in the project and have no direct meaning to anyone but you when you occasionally stop by and see them.

My first though is you could have a leather repair shop sew the together and put a handle on them, then when someone did something very unHanklike you could give them the boot.

But by reading of your abiding love of this friend, you know he now belongs to all of us and so in a way he did get his place in Detroit.



Whitenoise said...

It's wonderful that you're keeping Hank's spirit alive through your blog. As someone else said above, you were a great friend for him to have.