Thursday, November 5, 2009
I'm forty-six years of age. Most of my friends are either the same age as me, or younger. And while most of us are long past our youth, none of us can be considered "old". Which is why it is such a big shock to learn of the passing of one of my closest friends.
I met Louis in the spring of 1990, when I was hired as a teacher at ECC in Tokyo. It was no surprise that we quickly became friends, seeing as we were the same age, were from the same state, had the same tastes in music, the same bad habits (beer and cigarettes), and the same deep interest in all things Japanese (including girls :)!). Much of my free time in Tokyo was spent in Louis' company - bonding sessions over beer, eating out at izakayas, going to clubs and concerts, making trips outside of the city and just plain hanging out, together and with mutual friends, talking about this, that and the other. Louis had to have been the best conversationalist I have ever met, a result of his intelligence, wit and charm. He was also one of the few people I have ever known with whom it was a pleasure to have an argument. Even his habit of calling me up at one or two o'clock in the morning after he'd had a little too much to drink never got to be annoying. Those chats were always worth giving up an hour or two worth of sleep! And of course there were the times when we helped each other through difficult moments in our personal lives. Louis' advice was something I often sought out, right up to the present day.
When Louis left Japan to return to the States and work on his dream of becoming a writer, life in Tokyo became a little less interesting. I only met him in person on a few occasions afterward. In the early summer of 1998, he put me up for a week at his apartment in Brooklyn (after I had visited Mike Burkat in Boston, a mutual friend who also left us much too soon). Thanks to Louis, I had a great time in New York. Then, in the spring of 2001, it was my turn to host him, when he came to see me in Taiwan. There was also the time in the early fall of 1999 when I visited him at his new place in Campbell. I was driving back to Washington from Indiana at the tail end of the worst personal crisis of my life and made a detour to California to see him. All I can say is that Louis was there for me when I needed him. Despite the physical separation, we never lost touch with each other, thanks to email, Skype and Facebook. I also made sure to call him up and talk to him on the phone whenever I was staying at my parents' place in Washington. It's to my regret now that I didn't get around to driving down to California to visit him on his boat.
It's difficult coming to terms with what has happened. On Saturday, I was passing along birthday wishes via Facebook. On Tuesday, I was stunned to be reading messages of prayers being posted on his Facebook Wall by family and friends, and thinking that when he got out of the hospital, I would give him a ring on Skype and admonish him (gently, of course) to be more careful next time. It wasn't to be, however, as I found out this morning. And now it's hard to believe he's gone. I'm not a religious person, and so I don't believe Louis has gone to a "better place". The best place for him to be is right here with the rest of us, sailing his boat, writing witty postings on Facebook, sending everyone his annual Christmas stories and working on getting his book published. There was still so much more he had to offer to the world.
Life goes on, of course, but the memories of Louis will remain. Right now, I'm thinking of all the things he wrote about his surfing adventures in Hawaii, and what a great trip that must have been for him. He was able to see and experience things that most people will never have the chance of doing. Even in his lowest moments, he always managed a smile while remaining positive.
Thank you for the days, my friend. I'll always love you.