Jack passed away on 18 June 2002. I never seem to ever remember that date, always needing to consult the painting in my living room for it, a watercolour I did soon after he was gone. The day he was born is another matter entirely. 26 April 1988 is one of the best days of all-time; my family and I would meet him a few short weeks later. I had just gotten back from India with my mom, who was five years younger than I am right now, and my sister who wasn’t even a teenager yet, still adorable and cute. Meanwhile, my brothers and our dad, only a year older then than I am now, manned the Indiana homefront, unbeknownst to me — my youngest brother waging a mental battle with dad to get another dog.
My brother George, at the time just a big-haired early teenager, won.
George was a lot more vocal back then, persuasive then as he is now, just with more words his younger days. And so the cutest little fur ball of a puppy came into our life, a Chow Chow named Helix, to join our German Shepherd Tina. (I didn’t name either dog.) Several years later, after I had moved away from home, George renamed him to Jack and called him Jackyboy. The names stuck.
Years later, other dogs and cats came into our lives, and Jack’s presence was relegated into the background as Chows tend to get aloof and reclusive the older they get. He even had a one-night and one-morning stint in Chicago late December one year when I lived with DaveRisner. It didn’t take him long to be persona non grata, as he bit DaveRisner’s cat 12 hours after that Chicago visit, and so that was that. Back he went to Indiana, much to my sister’s happiness, who was in high school by then and had never given approval for his move. Years later, Jack came back to Chicago again just in time for his 11th birthday, this time for good.
I lived in the East Village then – 835 North Damen Ave, between Augusta and Chicago, in this palace of an apartment, my bedroom bigger than any living room I’ve lived in before or since. Around the corner on Chicago Ave, a pub named Cleo’s became our second home. I walked in with Jack, announced that it was his birthday, and the bartender Stephen poured three shots of Jameson — one for me, one for him and of course, one for Jack. Stephen was an English bloke, the kind of bartender who always knew your name, especially when he didn’t.
And that’s how my life with Jackyboy started in Chicago – on 26 April 1999.
I didn’t meet her then, but soon after, I would find out the following year, that her birthday also fell on 26 April. When Elizabeth walked into my life, I knew I’d met someone I’d never known before, and would never know someone of her like again. It wasn’t long before we became best of friends. Certain people you meet in your life that’s the closest thing to a hurricane, her presence in every room a force of nature. She was fun beyond belief, bringing so much life into my life. Moreover, she was a sweetheart beyond belief. She was the kind of person you’d meet that would leave an indelible mark upon your heart and your soul. She lived life in a way that I envied and eventually learned from – she lived all of it, every single moment of every single day and night. She would prove to be one of the sweetest and most giving souls I would ever come to know. Chicago in those days was a magical time for me; and much of that was because of my friend Lizzy.
I would visit her when she was bartending, whether I dressed up as Uma Thurman strutting to the Northside Bar & Grill on Damen Ave (having a few choice words for me) or after a ballgame at Wrigley Field going to the Nisei Lounge or at Liquid Kitty on my way to a late night out in the Gold Coast or the many nights we, along with our friend JennyLee, were at the Lava Lounge at the other corner down the street from where we lived.
My jeep was an extension of me in those days. With the top down, I would drive with either Elizabeth or JennyLee or with Jack or with some combination of the three that included Jackyboy all over Chicagoland, up Lakeshore Drive, and through the North Shore. The music was blaring, and we would be singing at the top of our lungs. And we would be laughing uncontrollably.
On one particular Saturday afternoon years ago at the turn of the century, driving south on Ashland Avenue, the top once again down on my Wrangler, driving with JennyLee, I exclaimed, “I thought my sister was loud, but you’ve got to be the loudest person I know!”
Somewhat hurt I think, and completely incredulous, she retorted, “I am definitely NOT the loudest person you know!!”
“Then who is?”
Just then, a sonic boom passed by us, the sound traveling in the opposite direction on Ashland. (As the years go by, that sound when described in the retelling just gets louder and louder; but I’m fairly certain it sounded like a sonic boom.) Just like that, a “woot! woot!” accompanied arms outstretched in a “hello” and “goodbye”. Hurricane Lizzy was on her way to work.
“I told you!!!!” JennyLee, as we both laughed so hard.
Another time I texted Elizabeth from the airport, having discovered her namesake had written a book entitled “Eat, Pray, Love”.
Elizabeth’s response? “She took my name and my money!”
Lizzy was funny. She always made me laugh.
She’s a wonderful wife and devoted mother now, as happy and full of life now as she was then.
I have a lot of friends, many of whom I love; but Elizabeth will always have a special place in my heart.
And 26 April will always be a special day. Jack and Elizabeth have ensured that from now till the end of time.
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ALWAYS BE EPIC.