Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chris de Coeur

Last night, just before going to bed, I went on the internet, and suddenly my world didn’t make sense. One of my boys, Chris “Crash” Pryor, died … 10 months ago. And I just found out last night?!

It made no kind of sense. I kept reading all these loving posts about his life, his writings, his spirit with disbelieving eyes. I thought it was some kind of joke. I mean, who the hell dies two days before their 36th birthday?! It just doesn’t happen. Eighteen, in a way, makes sense—something tragic and stupid—car crash, gun shot … Seventy-two, all right. You lived a full life. I hope you made it a good one. But a brother just doesn’t up and die walking to an ATM machine! Not at 36!

And I didn’t know. While my wife and I were waiting for our first child to enter the world, an old friend was leaving it. And I didn’t know. Chris and I were no longer a part of each other’s world. But shouldn’t I have known? There was a time when something like that couldn’t have happened. And now …

Chris was one of the first people to befriend me when I’d moved to Atlanta back in ’93. I’d been deported from the Czech Republic and Great Britain and moved to the ATL, broken, broke, and friendless, because my dad was there. I was lonely and really lost, and Chris and Hop quickly became my friends, my boys, my … you know.

For three years, those two were such a huge part of my life. Looking back, I’m amazed how much time you spend with your friends when you’re young, single, and unattached. The stupid things you do. The fun you have. And Chris was a blast—a wise-cracking, acerbic, too-smart-for-his-own-good blast. And we were boys. When I had, he had. When he had, I had. He was there when things were good, there when they weren’t, and was a good enough friend to tell me when I was screwing up.

But those things never last. They can’t. You grow up, and we Gen Xers move. For millennia, people never went more than 12 miles outside of their place of birth. But our generation is nomadic. I’m not alone in having friends all over the country—even friends in other countries, on other continents. It’s what we do. And you never think much of it. You miss your friends for awhile, but it’s not that big a deal. You’ll see them again. Hell, you’ll probably end up in the same city again at some point. My one friend and I have ended up living in both Atlanta and DC after college.

There was no reason to think something like that wouldn’t happen with Chris and me. After all, it wasn’t like we had fallen out or had grown apart or anything like that. He’d just moved away. We’d lost touch. But a friend is a friend for life. We’d hook up again, shootin’ the Shinola in a bar, ranting politics, race, women, and music, music, music.

We’d gotten back in touch briefly last year. I found his blog and shot him an email. He called me, and we laughed for a minute. Chris was rapid-fire funny the whole time—like he wanted to cram the last ten years into one phone call. It wore me out, but I loved it. He was still the intense, wry intellect I remembered, and we were still friends—like that last decade apart didn’t mean a thing. And age hadn’t mellowed him one bit. He still gave a shit.

He called again, but I was driving and DC had just banned cell-phone driving. I told him I’d call him back. I didn’t. I was about to go on tour. At the time I’d thought I was going to be in LA and told him as much. But I later changed my mind. With a pregnant wife, I didn’t want to be too far from home. When I got back, life took over: moving to a new place, nesting, having the baby, caring for a newborn. And then, I just forgot.

I didn’t remember until last night—ten months later—ten months after my boy’s death.

It’s not like I feel guilty, or anything. Just sad. A couple years ago, when I had to eulogize my uncle, I said that life is a collection of moments and that we need to hold those moments dear because they are what makes life worth living. I meant those words, but I don’t really live them enough. I get busy. Sometimes, I don’t appreciate all that I have and all the people around me. I don’t keep in very good touch with the people who are important to me, and it doesn’t make me feel any better knowing I’m not alone in this. Chris was important to me; he was there during a very difficult period in my life; and I hadn’t talked to him in 10 years.

I’d thought we’d always meet again, that we’d always be friends, that one day we’d be those two, old coots talkin’ bookoo shit at the end of the bar. But that moment is never going to happen.

But we did have some times. I stayed up late last night, crying off-and-on ‘til 4am, thinking about them. And while I’m sad now, I’m so glad we had them.

Like how my former (?), bourgie self used to cringe when he used to greet me with “What up, my nigga?”

That time when my wife and I went to enemy territory, Buckhead, to celebrate Chris’s birthday. We walked into a wack-ass reggae bar, confused (‘cause Pryor knew his music, why the hell were we there?). And there was Chris, sunglasses in the dark bar, sipping on a drink, watching the band play.

“What’s up, Chris?”

“I hate soca.”

Or that one night how he was vehemently ranting about how the white boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers had stolen the funk and how there weren’t any brothers or sisters out there strong enough to take it back. And then forcing me to listen to the Peppers until I conceded that Flea was indeed a bad mother. He is.

And I’ll always remember the night when Chris dragged me to the Dark Horse Tavern to go see some of his old band mates from Full Stop. At some point he got up on stage. He’d always talked about how he used to rap, but I’d never seen him. But there he was, bald head shining, rocking the crowd. Folks around me jumping and creaming and dancing … to Chris. When he finally surrendered the mic, he was beaming like a little kid. If you didn’t know the man, he could have a pretty mean, intimidating grille. And there he was—beaming! And I remember thinking, proudly, “That’s my nigga right there. Here is where he belongs.”

There’s so much in our lives that we forget. So many specifics that are lost to us over time. There are so many things about Chris that I’ve already forgotten, and I’ll forget more still. But I’ll always have that moment at the Dark Horse. I’ll always know that he was special to me. And looking at all the loving eulogies last night, it means a lot that he was special to so many others—even to people he’d never actually met—even as far away as Sweden and France.

Last night, during one of my little crying jags, I was thinking I was being stupid. I mean, Chris and I hadn’t hung out in over a decade. But now I’m thinking it’s less stupidity on my part and more of a testament to just how special Christopher Alonzo Pryor was. Maybe we hadn’t been close in all that time, but even with time and distance, I still feel we were friends. We will always be friends. Friendship’s like that—transcending time and space and even death. Even on that October morning when you died alone on that L.A. sidewalk, you were loved by so many. You touched so many people and will always be a part of their lives. You will always be a part of mine. Fuck, Chris, I don’t know why you had to die. What the hell is that all about? It ain’t supposed to be this way. But I do know, even though our time together was so short, you will always mean the world to me. You will always be my friend, my boy, my … you know.


Effaridi said...

Excellent words for what seems to be a wonderful friend. Sorry to hear of you loss. Good, real friends are rare and those friendships endure time, distance, even death. Keep the dust off those memories.

still standing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
still standing said...

... thanks for writing...I deliberatly avoided writing about my friend..because I was too scared to revive/live the memories ...but as youve shown writing is also very meaningful and also enbles other to undersatnd and keeps the taste of friendship often we bander about the term friend...but a real friend going is deep...

mj said...

you have done a fine job of eulogizing chris here. i have just written about him my self on my own blog and i am still in shock having just learned he passed last evening. on a sidewalk? was it natural causes, if anything can be natural, as you said, at 36? i was afraid he took a bullet or something. you know he liked to keep his look mean and he didn't live in beverly hills or anything. fuck. i still can't believe it.
anyway, thanks for writing about chris.

boukman70 said...

well, mj, i hated having to write it, and i hope i don't have to write anything like it again for a looooong time. but i'm glad you appreciated my eulogy. chris was very special. take care.

herbiedrummer3 said...

loved this guy, still to this day FULLSTOP is my alltime fave h'burg band. great show,great times,great crowd, can SOMEONE PLEEEEASEEE SEND ME THE GYST TRACKS

ishq said...

Chris was as good as they come. I'll never forget the time we shared in Virginia early 90s sitting on a porch the next morning after a full stop show - he told me that he wouldn't live to be an old man, that he was surprised that he had lived this long. Well, Chris you were right, brother. He used to inspire me in a thousand ways at once. When he would rap, he would reach right into you and pull out a nugget that you didn't know was there. He would get ya moving. And keep you full tilt until he was done. The subtleness of his eyes and what was behind them... everyone thought he was such a bad ass, but i knew better. He was a real gem. Rest in Peace old friend.