Eulogy for Friend

Eulogy for Friend
The last time I saw my friend Kevin, was at his wedding in 1997. He was always a late bloomer, (Kevin had been the last of my friends to date), and we were all delighted to see him married for the first time at 44. After years of delay and false starts, his marriage to Diana gave us all the sense that he was finally on his way.

I remember the first time I saw him, entering my second grade class, gangly even then, all arms and legs and elbows akimbo. Years later, those elbows became sharp weapons as we played basketball for hours on end. Son of an Irish-American father and a mother who was the daughter of a Peruvian diplomat, he immediately taught us to chant, ?Long live the Irish-Peruvians!?
Kevin was always quick with words. His wit, as Mercutio said, was ?most sharp sauce.? He used words to make us laugh or to cut us down to size, and as we entered our high school years he became the powerful giver of names. The nicknames he chose for us ? like Z-man, Lulu, Summ-ador, Moinbo, Zip, Pooch, and UD helped to populate our black-and-white world with colorful characters. Even his first car ? a sky-blue-pink VW fastback ? had a nickname: Jezebel, given in recognition of its shameless unreliability. And Kevin became the most interesting figure of us all after he invented the character of Capt. Quixtus Spoon. Captain Spoon was the central figure in a poem that Kevin wrote, and ultimately Kevin became ?Spoon? to us.

Kevin was our resident ?author? and all of us were confident that one day he would become a famous writer. He was also our resident activity director, (his earliest forays into directing); he organized our playtime as he became the informal leader of what he dubbed the ?lsa? (the Landing Sports Association). We had touch-football leagues, softball teams, and stickball tournaments, all held on the grounds of our former elementary school: Landing School. The magnificent home runs of ?Tom-Tom? Dewberry, the rifle arm of Mark ?the Polish-Howitzer? Ledzian, and the defensive play of Jeff ?the Gerbil? Gerbino became the stuff of our local legends.

Spoon wrote about these athletic heroes in a handwritten weekly sports journal he called ?The Swami Predicts? which animated our lunchroom chatter in the high school cafeteria.

Our world, with Capt. Spoon at the helm, was like a constantly unfolding episode of the ?Little Rascals.? It was a world without adults and schedules, where we set up our own fields, organized our own leagues, and made our own rules. There was unrest in the streets as the nation was turning itself inside out over Vietnam and civil rights, but we took refuge in the fantasy of our world of sports and close friends, embellished by the imagination of Capt. Spoon.

When Kevin transferred to Harpur as a sophomore, I was proud to introduce him as ?Capt. Spoon.? We took pleasure in celebrating the absurdity of life by shouting out a dormitory window: ?Life is a parade!? at nine o?clock each evening. He became a fixture on the Harpur track team and a frequent contributor to the Newing News. Spoon the runner was still Spoon the writer. He wrote avidly and soaked up what he could in the writing classes he took. On a rare occasion, Kevin came to me for advice. He was embarrassed about the topic his professor had assigned: write about the time you lost your virginity. Kevin, who was slow to enter the social scene, was mortified by this assignment. I said to him, ?Just remember, you?re a creative writer ? so get creative.? He did.

With the Vietnam War in high gear, and the anti-war movement in full swing, Kevin and I sat together one evening, watching on TV as the draft lottery numbers for our year were drawn. There were 365 numbers ? each linked to a day of the year. The lower your number, the more likely you were to be drafted. This perverse use of your birthday created high drama for 19 year-olds across the country. Kevin drew a very unlucky 23, and I was an equally dismal 22. We were called up on the same day for our ?pre-induction? draft physical, and we spent a very long 12 hours together in Ft. Hamilton at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge, in Brooklyn. The scene could have come straight from Arlo Guthrie?s lyrics as we were herded from room to room with hundreds of other potential draftees, dressed only in our BVD?s, being weighed, poked, measured, questioned, and prodded.

Kevin, whose skinny 5?-11"gangliness had often seemed a detriment, was declared to be underweight at 118 pounds, and my chronic hypertension disqualified me. We sat side by side on the bus ride home, giving thanks for our good fortune, even though both of us were due to be called back a few months later for a new physical. As luck would have it, the draft ended before our next physical occurred.

As seniors in high school, Kevin had introduced me to the girl who lived next door to him, and our romance blossomed quickly. A few years later, when she and I decided to marry, it was only natural that Kevin would be the best man. Although he loved to talk within our circle of friends, he was terribly shy about talking in front of large groups. We wondered aloud about whether he would even show up for the wedding, and if he did, whether he would be able to speak when it was time to give the toast. Would he use his fabled wit and say something funny or inappropriate? Would he be Kevin or would he appear in character as Capt. Spoon? Would he shout out something political (?Keep Ethiopia Ethiopian!? was one of his favorites), or would he say something in Spanish: ?¡No hay papel ijienico en el servicio! Por esso hay tantos insectos!? ? the words he had taught me to say if I was ever accosted by strangers in the subway.

But none of these worries came to pass. A nervous and pale Kevin appeared just in time for the ceremony, sporting crutches (perhaps to hold him up if he felt too wobbly), dressed in a blue blazer and plaid pants ? his own fashion statement. He stood, a bit shaky, when it was time for the toast, and said simply that he wished us happiness, prosperity, and a long life.

The years after college rolled by ? he continued his efforts to establish himself as a writer in graduate school. His first serious relationship, with ?Lulu,? came and went. When I visited him in New York, I always asked about how his writing was going. He would look pained and guilty. ?It?s coming along.? But he wasn?t satisfied with what he was producing. There was some early success with a piece that was published in the New York Times Magazine, and some other small triumphs along the way.

Still, we all sensed that Kevin was going to produce the great American (or Irish-Peruvian) novel, or at least a Pulitzer prize-winning play. In the last ten years, he made the shift toward screenplays and he began directing short movies. As his relationship with Diana bloomed, he became more confident and more polished. His letters were signed Kevin, not Spoon, a kind of signal of finding inner peace as he found himself. His movie, ?Ciao, Marcello!? was shot on a shoestring and well received by those who saw it. When he and Diana made the move to L.A. last fall, to continue their team efforts to write and produce their movies, you had the feeling that they were on a roll, and Kevin knew it. He completed ?The Rouge Shoes? ? a feature length film project that had occupied him for years. He mailed me my copy of the dvd in April, with a note that said, ?Hey Summ, well here it is ? seven years later!?

Life was good. At age fifty, you had the sense that Kevin, the late bloomer, was finally coming into his own, that he was about to emerge as a presence, free of the cocoon which had held him for so long. His creative urges, manic and impulsive in his youth, were still as powerful as ever, but harnessed and purposeful now. He was still high on life, and he seemed as happy as I had ever known him.

When the news came that he had been killed, along with Diana, in the hideous freak car crash in the open-air market in Santa Monica, it was too unreal to comprehend. His humor, which was often irreverent and edgy, would have found his end both tragic and bizarre, exactly the kind of mix he might have included in one of his stories or screenplays. A random moment, caused by the ?conceit of old age,? as one of our friends called it, left nine former people, including my friend and his wife, strewn, like so much produce, on the bloody pavement.

Kevin always had a charming child-like sweetness ? his fifty years seemed more like a beginning than a middle; and he was certainly not ready to be at the end. While this final journey for Captain Spoon came too soon, Kevin and Diana were living their dream ? fulfilling their quest to create stories together. Their story was brief, but a joy to all who knew them.

Life?s parade goes on, but the world is a lesser place without Kevin and his love Diana.

Eulogy for Friend 9.7 of 10 on the basis of 2223 Review.