“Between a beginningless beginning and an endless end, each of us is a bridge rhythm in time. A dam, a dance, a narrowing mountain snow melt before it is allowed to quicken and continue. A conversational music, an echoing bench with old men laughing and talking.” — Coleman Banks, Rumi Bridge to the Soul
Just after moving into our apartment, when Jordy was still away at band camp, a friend of mine from high school, Chris MacKay, was in a car accident that left him paralyzed.
I met Chris when he was in PECI’s (Prince Edward Collegiate Institute) production of Grease and I was doing tech. Or it was in music class where we sat next to each other and were constantly getting in trouble. I’m really not sure which came first, the musical or the music class.
Chris was also the voice of the plant in the school musical the following year, Little Shop of Horrors. I was on sound with George Vaughan, who went on to do, and still does, Saturday Night Blues Review, on 91X/CJLX. One of the highlights of Little Shop, for those who watched it night after night, was waiting to see what ad-lib Chris was going insert into the show. The line, “No shit, Sherlock.”, may have been in the film version, but it wasn’t supposed to be in the high school production. Chris sneaked it into the final show, for all our amusement. Well, the students’ amusement, anyway.
He later enrolled in UBC (University of British Columbia) for film. At his going away party, I told him I was going to be in BC, for my brother’s wedding, and he told me I should stop in for a visit and stay with him for a few days.
“Sure,” I said.
I arranged my plans around it.
We toured Vancouver, and UBC campus, talking about films, music, telling stories and storytelling. We were about the same height seated, but we were walking most of the time. Chris was at least 6’4”, and it took me a bit to get used to constantly looking up to someone while having a conversation. At 6’ myself, it wasn’t something I was accustomed to. It actually gave me a sore neck and I drank to ease the discomfort. That is my story, and I am sticking to it.
Chris introduced me to Pearl Jam, Ten (still on of my favourite albums) that had just come out. I introduced him to Frank Zappa, Sheik Yerbouti, that I had just discovered. Chris did a pretty good imitation of Frank Zappa after that.
So much happened in that week, so many stories and new experiences.
On the last night another friend from high school, Melissa MacDonald, arrived, giving us yet another reason to celebrate.
Chris and I drank Mezcal and ate the worms—a first for Chris. Then the three of us headed to a bar that played grunge and alternative music. Vancouver was being heavily influenced by the Seattle scene. I knew little about the Seattle scene aside from what Chris taught me. I was really into it by the time I left.
On the way back from the bar, in the middle of a park in Vancouver, we looked up and saw some clouds.
“Remember the cloud-busting scene in, The Fisher King?” I said, to Chris.
“Yep,” he said.
And then, without another word spoken, we both . . .
Actually, that’s not a story that needs to be told in detail. And Missy most likely has a clearer recollection than I do, her being in a clearer state of mind, and remaining an observer. Though, I’m sure she’d prefer not to recall it in any vivid detail.
I flew out the next morning.
A Mezcal hangover while flying isn’t fun. Though, my vomit did taste of lemons, which kept my breath fresh, anyway.
Last time Chris and I had a proper chat was before the accident when he was living back in The County, in a straw house. A literal straw house, not the metaphorical kind. He built it with the help of family and friends. As his brother Jeremy put it, “It was epic, like an old Amish barn raising, but with way more booze.”
Chris and I talked films, as usual. We talked about Lavender, since it had been written by then.
“How did you decide on which story to choose to focus on?” he asked, always having so many of his own.
I can’t recall my answer.
I think I was supposed to send Lavender to him, to read, but, never got around to it. It’s funny, Chris and I would drift together, have a hell of a good time, and then drift apart. Then, when we next saw each other, we’d pick up from right where we left off.
We were in touch, again, years later, through facebook. We chatted about getting together, but it didn’t get any further than that. I wish I’d made more of an effort. I guess we never really comprehend just how time sensitive life is.
I always reckoned Chris would be one of the guys I had a drink with when Lavender got made, if he didn’t have a film made first, in which case that’s what we would have celebrated—mind you, we always seemed to find some reason to celebrate, with each meeting being a reunion. We’d drift back together, talk about the film, the process, and then move onto all the other crap we talked about.
Chris died in 2013. A few weeks before Roger. I think of them both often.
I wish I had something else to say here. Something beautiful, something poetic, something meaningful. But sometimes life just sucks. You wish you could go back and do things differently, or simply have a chance to say thank you to people who aren’t there anymore to hear it. So we write about them, or tell stories about them, so for a little while we’re back in their company. Such is the power of words.
I hope that the stories do more than merely conjure, but rather build a bridge that allow those who have crossed to come back to us. Or, perhaps, it’s us that go to where all those who have passed before us are waiting and telling stories, of the living, until our eventual, and inevitable, arrival. Until then, I guess, we’re all just drifting.
Now, with the permission of Chris’ sister Jennifer, who was, coincidentally, in my dorm at Humber College; and his brother, Jeremy, who joined Chris and I on our last meeting after our long conversation at the straw house, is Chris performing, Angel From Montgomery by John Prine. He was a multitalented man.
I miss you, Chris. You continue to be an inspiration. And, even if you’re not here to hear it, or maybe if you are, thanks for everything.