Jim Carroll wrote a song that was popular in the ’80s called “People Who Died” … this is Jeff Reese’s version of that same concept, reflecting back on friends who have passed.
These are reflections, half-truths, and exaggerations about real friends who impacted me. Also included are some actual facts. (Picture someone in a cinder block office typing this on a phone alternately laughing and crying and you get where it’s from.)
Stimy … probably the guy who shaped my taste in music more than anyone. My sophomore year I moved back to San Diego from Durango, Colorado (a beautiful town that I didn’t fit into at all). Everyone from California was either a surfer or “a fag”, and I didn’t look like a surfer so I took abuse regularly. Stimy was one of the first people I met. I was definitely a new wave kid at the time and we bonded over a love of music. He was sober having been put into rehab by his parents in junior high for what was probably at the time fairly minor issues. He was in a band called Sub Society and convinced me to go to one of their shows they were playing. The lineup was 7 Seconds, Bad Religion, Pitchfork, and Sub Society, if I recall correctly. Seeing Stimy play music in front of a crowd really made me think it was possible. That show also is where I met John Reis for the first time and, as most of you know, he’s a musical hero.
Stimy and I used to regularly drive to Encinitas and go record store shopping at Lou’s Records and Off The Record, eat Mexican food at Juanitas, and drink tons of coffee at the Pannikin Cafe … so much coffee that one day a manager sat at our table and handed us job applications and said, “You guys may as well work here.” Those years are some of my “best of times” that people talk about. Really an amazing place to work. Great coworkers who have continued to be great friends. I served Charles Bukowski coffee, almost got in a fistfight with Pauly Shore, and Stimy met Frank Black (who would later produce and sing on an Inch album).
Stimy, Matt Page, and I went to an ALL show at a bar in San Diego and, being underage, we were unable to get in. Bill Stevenson asked us if we wanted to go get some coffee and we went to a donut shop next to the club. We sat and talked with Bill for about an hour where he told Matt to find an all-ages venue and they’d play for whatever money could be generated. During the show, we were at the back door yelling and banging on it in between songs and Bug (roadie for ALL) opened the door and we all ran in … Stimy was the only one of us who didn’t get caught.
We also had an addiction to Jolt Cola, not the easiest thing to find at the time, so one night Stimy, Mike Paprocki, and I squeezed into my dad’s RX-7 and cruised up the coast on a quest for Jolt. After at least a pound of shitty Mexican candy later, we were sitting in a Denny’s at sunrise with severe cases of sleep deprivation and decided to form a band. Naming a band was a nightmare at that time. Without the internet, you’d agree on a name and check record stores to see if it was taken. That night, we’d decided on Sugar, but it was quickly discovered that Bob Mould had just formed his band … then, Tool … a show with Tool, Neurosis, and the Rollins Band killed that. We finally agreed on Grinch. Mike and I did screen-printing and made a few hundred Grinch stickers, and then we discovered there was already a band with that name too, so the “Gr” was cut off and Inch was born. I wasn’t in the band when they later recorded with Frank Black because my girlfriend at the time was pregnant.
Inch went on to sign to Seed Records and have just enough success to keep Stimy plugging along. After he turned 21, he started drinking again, and this time it took. He also at some point had issues with hard drugs and we’d fade in and out of touch. One day he knocked on my door convinced there were people out to kill him and asked to sleep on my couch, I had no option but to send him away because my son was living with me and I couldn’t have a drug addict staying in my home. It really hurt to do. I later found out that he was probably right to think someone wanted him dead; he did really dumb shit when using.
Shortly after that, he moved to Texas to live with his dad. He followed his usual pattern of doing really well, keeping sober, then having a setback and falling hard. He ended up in jail in Texas and called me saying he was moving back to San Diego. We knew that was probably a bad idea at the time so I arranged for him to come to Fort Collins and stay with Jon Snodgrass. Not too long after that, I couldn’t handle San Diego anymore and moved also.
There were stretches where Stimy did really well in Fort Collins. He was the kindest, sweetest person when he wasn’t using, but when he was he was out of control, he would do whatever it took to get high. He burned a lot of bridges and got a couple DUIs. Eventually he was back on track and working at Woody’s Pizza. Staying sober and seeming happy. Then one day the beast got the best of him and he slipped hard. He ended up moving to Reno to live with his mom and stepfather. We kept in touch online and via phone. He visited San Diego and reconnected with an ex of his who was in recovery and they decided to move in together. He called me excited about the next phase in his life and really sounded good.
My life at the time was pretty much falling apart, I was losing my home to foreclosure, my ten-year relationship had ended, and I was dating a girl who turned out to be a real piece of work. I had negotiated a deal with my mortgage company where I’d vacate the house, clean it, and hand over the keys by January 1st and I’d receive $5,000. As I was in the process of moving, I received a phone call, Stimy was found dead by his mom in his room. I immediately thought he had fallen off the wagon again and killed himself … I still carry some guilt for jumping to that conclusion, he had died of a heart attack (probably related to his former usage, but he was sober at the time) … I ended up walking away from the money as I didn’t have the strength to deal with moving.
There was a memorial for Stimy here in Fort Collins that I attended and I really felt out of place. It was just awkward as no one here really got to see him at his absolute best. I know he was loved here, but it wasn’t “home”. That February, there was a memorial in San Diego I was able to attend with friends playing shows and I got to feel he was remembered for his best. It was surreal to walk through that memorial and see the different friends we shared in the 20+ years we knew each other.
It’s really odd having someone in your life across different scenes, states, and stages of life. Stimy was one of those people. My friend Matt Page is another, he lives in Denver now. I don’t see him nearly often enough but it’s nice to have someone with so much shared history around. So, there it is, a novel about Stimy … it really is nodding at a lot of good and bad. He was sometimes a pain in the ass, but he loved his friends completely.
Tony Falcon was born on Christmas day. He was an incorrigible flirt and generally suave. He road managed several bands including Inch and The Cranberries. He was my roommate for three years right after my son’s mom and I broke up. We spent way too much time drunk in bars probably, but he was always a fun time. He died of leukemia a few years back possibly caused by benzene exposure when he lived near the oil refineries in Commerce City, Colorado. He has a son named Sal that I wonder often how he’s doing, but I have no way of finding his ex. Just before he passed, his girlfriend gave birth to a boy; I have no idea about him either.
Doug Lathrop. He had osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) that left him in a wheelchair and stunted his growth. I met Doug in the middle of the pit at The Casbah during a Rocket from the Crypt show (not the safest place for anyone with OI). There was someone being excessively aggressive towards him and I inserted myself between that jackass and Doug’s chair.
Doug was one of those people who was at every show you’d go to, and we became friends. He wasn’t the easiest friend to have, to hang out with him required effort, often helping him get in and out of his vehicle, or even the toilet. He’d also have you order for him at the bar because at about four-foot tall he couldn’t get near the bar most places (often you’d find yourself paying for his drinks too).
Doug was pushy when it was required, he was that guy that would use the ADA when he felt a business was failing to accommodate him. He was a fierce advocate for disabled rights and very outspoken.
Doug was also the only friend of mine to come to Colorado to visit me. He came out to see the Hot Snakes play in Denver and he, Stimy, and I ended up driving around Denver (them drunk, me laughing) looking for San Diego-style Mexican food. Getting a drunk Doug into the front seat of my Tacoma truck was an adventure, I’m lucky I didn’t kill him then.
Shortly after that trip, Doug came out as gay and had a difficult time being accepted in the gay community. Eventually, I believe, he found that acceptance and became a very vocal gay advocate. I only saw him a couple times after he visited, one of which was when this picture was taken.
It’s fitting that the last time I saw Doug was in the pit at The Casbah for a Rocket show. Not too long after that, he went in for what was thought of as routine surgery (due to his condition he had frequent surgeries), but he ended up with pneumonia and died. He expressed concerns that he wouldn’t make it which I’d never heard from him before.
Doug was also a writer. A friend of his found a completed manuscript and we are having a limited publishing run done. I’m not entirely sure I’ll ever be able to read the book though.
Amber Clark. We were friends in high school, lab partners, and drama geeks (there’s an admission I haven’t made publicly in a while). Shortly after our graduation, she and her mom were found murdered in their home. That year, there were a total of six women murdered by Cleophus Prince Jr. I think this was the first death of a friend that wasn’t somehow “their fault”. I’d had friends OD, or die in car and motorcycle crashes, but this hit hard. The randomness of death and the fleeting nature of life were really brought to my attention at that point. Suddenly, death wasn’t something that happened to those who made bad decisions or suffered from addiction, it was real and you didn’t have a say in its arrival all the time. I was no longer an indestructible teen.
Cleophus now sits on death row and occasionally TV shows do stories on the case because of that. Part of my dislike for the death penalty is how it keeps cases in the spotlight well beyond what I believe non-death penalty cases are. Through appeals, those who know the victims are reminded of the horror visited upon them. I have other issues, but that’s the one that isn’t often thought of when the death penalty comes up. Her death is also why I find fascination with serial killers by the media unseemly.
That’s about all I can handle right now. The only other one I can think of is my dad and I’m not ready to tackle that. Any inaccuracies in these stories can be attributed to a life of somewhat hard living and fuzzy memories. Rest assured, it’s all from a place of love.
I’ll end with this. Stimy was also close friends with Tony Falcon. Right after Tony passed, Stimy posted this picture on social media with the following caption:
“Tony Falcon, me, and Greg Gerding. We lost Tony this year to leukemia. He went very fast and I never got a chance to say good bye! I try never to preach, but make sure you let the important people in your life know what they mean to you ’cause you never know!”
Hug your friends, tell them you love them. If you see they are hurting, acknowledge that and tell them you care about them. Because you never know when they might go.