I have been reading a bit of Dostoevsky lately, and was loitering among the dusty shelves the local Half-Price Books after work last night. Crime And Punishment, Notes From the Underground and The Brothers Karamazov have long been on my list to get read. Well, I’m getting thru the Brothers Karamazov, and Woody Allen is right. Fyodor Dostoevsky is the absolutely fabulous shit. It’s the ultimate novel about Life and Death, Faith and Denial, Suffering and Enjoyment. You know, all about The Human Condition. There are certain passages in that book that just takes me there. That’s why I was lingering over at the used bookstore, looking for some used books to whet my appetite. All they had was a thick, ponderous biography of the last ten years of Dostoevsky’s life and a couple of copies of The Gambler. Not what I was looking for, really. So I picked up another book on my list, Thomas Pynchon’s, The Crying of Lot 49.
By the time I had checked out, I noticed that I was hungry. There was a Pizza Hut across the parking lot. As I was passing thru the door of the Pizza Hut, my cell phone rang. It was Geraldine.
“Darryl? Did you hear about Brian Casey? A friend called me from Mexico and she read it online that Brian passed away last night.”
There was a moment before I responded. “Brian Casey?” Brian played trombone in the rocksteady-ska band, The Delroys with Geraldine, her husband, Ed and myself that we formed back in 1998. Brian was a local musical celebrity, playing in swing bands, jazz bands, avant-garde and pop. “You’re kidding. Geraldine, what the fuck?” Brian Casey? A very talented and a prolific and respected composer, and a very sweet guy. I had a bit of a rep as a bandleader of being pretty mouthy and bossy at times, but I can’t remember ever giving Brian any shit. Ever. He played his parts the way they were meant to be played, and I guess I took his reliability for granted.
“I don’t know how it happened, but I just read it in today’s obituary.” Geraldine sounded upset. I felt nothing at first. Recalling this scene later while I was trying to get to sleep, I chalked it up to shock. It just didn’t seem real to me. He was only 36.
It was strange hearing Geraldine relate the news of Brian’s passing, because just the night before, I was passing the building where Geraldine, Ed, Brian and I had our first publicity photo shoot ten years ago, almost to the day. The photo studio had changed hands many times and now it is a floral shop. “Times change,” I said to myself as I passed by. “Times change.”
Geraldine, Ed and I decided to attend Brian’s wake tonight. I considered whether doing something like this would feed other’s (or my own) consciousness system. But I went, anyway. I wanted to be there and maybe meet some old friends I haven’t seen in a while. It would also be cool to test my own reactions.
Geraldine and Ed were there by the time I arrived. I met Brian’s family and told them how much I enjoyed playing with him. I met some old band mates and some musicians like I thought I would. We exchanged stories. Geraldine produced a flyer and a copy of the band photo with Brian. I remarked to Geraldine, “We took that photo 10 years ago.” We had just started playing around town and would be offered a recording contract by Moon Records three days before the label went under. Such was our luck in those days.
Then after about a half hour of trading stories and meeting people, we left. As I walked out with Gerrie and Ed, I wondered to myself what Brian might be going thru in the “dimensions.” What went thru his mind as he breathed his last breath? Did all that he identified as himself just disappear into the abyss? I sighed. The night was warm and breezeless. Still and quiet, save for a low-flying helicopter landing on the Grant Hospital roof overhead.
As Geraldine climbed into her car, she laughed and said, “We should record that old Desmond Dekker song, “Rude Boy Train.” “Zippy-dippy-doo-wee, zippy-zippy doo-wee. Ha ha ha.” It was a song we played with Brian. He loved it.
“Yeah, maybe we could work on it Saturday before I go to work,” I said. They drove off. I walked across the parking lot to my truck. I got in and drove off.
The late Lithuanian poet, Czeslaw Milosz once wrote, “The death of a man is like the fall of a small nation.” I say it’s more like the death of a universe. And yet, Brian still exists. Though may he not live in my mind as the separation of memory.