Sunday, May 12, 2019

I miss you, Chad.

It's nine o'clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There's an old man sitting next to me
Makin' love to his tonic and gin
I would have come across Piano Man at some point growing up and learning the modern classics. But, it wasn't just anywhere this happened, I heard this tune time and again at Chad Ferrand's house on Tolmas Dr. He had, like I would later, Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II two disc CD set. Disc 1 track 1, Piano Man, the maestro's nickname sake. We would listen to Piano Man repeatedly, run it in the background and play the afternoon away. The Entertainer, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Only the Good Die Young, the whole lot. We were playing 80s and early 90s classic PC games like Defender of the Crown and Scorched Earth.
He says, "Son, can you play me a memory
I'm not really sure how it goes
But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man's clothes"
I will always recall my childhood coarseness asking once why Chad had a need for such fancy basketball shoes. Chad wanted to keep up with the latest trends like all of us, but unlike the rest of us Chad could not use his shoes for their intended sport; he was unable to walk. Chad was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). His life was exceptional in so many ways. He was extremely fortunate to be surrounded by patient and skilled physicians; they tended to his many health needs from his first breath to his last.
Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us feelin' alright
I am a shitty friend. Chad and I grew apart. Principally this was because I left New Orleans to attend high school out of state, and progressively as time went on we thought of one another less frequently and saw each other even less often. This is not unexpected among adolescents it would be the exception really across vast distances and prolonged periods to maintain all childhood friendships. No, I am a shitty friend because Chad ultimately succumbed to his condition in his early twenties, and I did not stop and take the time to honor and properly remember him. His loving sisters and mother reached out to me when they were putting together a memorial book in his honor. I said, yes! I will write something remembering Chad, and I did not. All natural childhood distance separation aside, this was different, this was final. I responded affirmatively and acted neglectfully. This was no childhood coarseness, this was not properly honoring the deceased, my friend.
Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he's quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there's someplace that he'd rather be
He says, "Bill, I believe this is killing me"
As the smile ran away from his face
"Well I'm sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place"
In graduate school I struck up a fast friendship with Rachel Mintz. Rachel introduced herself with the same intense direct focus I would come to cherish in every interaction. She was a New Yorker. Unlike the Piano Man, who is an avid Mets fan, Rachel was pin stripes through and through. She exuded a love for the city and was always in a New York State of Mind. Rachel knew how to entertain and was always up for hosting a smashing 4th of July or gather a small group for fight night.
Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he's talkin' with Davy, who's still in the Navy
And probably will be for life
Rachel was always game for gathering. She had a joyous aura about her. She was always involved and progressing with something whether her art, a non-profit she advised, or work with the city. I was shocked to hear she passed away recently; cancer stole so many good years ahead right out from under her. I have a history of cancer in my family, and I have seen the not so young taken in their sixties and seventies, ok, perhaps, but forties? FUCK CANCER. That is a scourge I will be very glad to witness humanity get one over on. I have a profound respect for the beauty and complexity of nature, and mother nature is a brilliant executioner. Had Rachel seen that coming she would have been at the front lines working against it because she was just such a spirit, brilliant, impassioned and ceaseless.
And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinkin' alone
Another friend recently noted that she's twenty plus weeks into cancer treatment, and another still has been fighting it while simultaneously precariously balancing the challenges with other conditions.

I have been sending them my thoughts and wishes for expedient recoveries. These people, my people, are important to me, and they are not going to go stolen unbeknownst to me or drinkin' alone.
Sing us a song you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we're all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright
Many of the nights where I cuddle with Willa we will sing a song or three. I print out the lyrics to songs I know and love from different times, and Piano Man is high on the nostalgia list. She loves it; she sings the chorus. It's one of the tracks she knows best of the growing songs corpus we sing. And, with her enthusiasm and our practice the song takes on a new life for me. Such is the gift of masterpieces and being passed down through the generations.
It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see
To forget about life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, "Man, what are you doin' here?"
I am a shit for not having written to honor Chad before now. His friendship and our camaraderie growing up left many indelible marks. I am so grateful he introduced me to Piano Man. I am so glad we had so many wonderful times together in life, and I wish him peace and comfort in his passing.
Sing us a song you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we're all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright
Attribution: Piano Man lyrics | Songwriters: Billy Joel | © Universal Music Publishing Group

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