Say the word ‘suicide’ and it feels nasty coming out of your mouth. The implications of the word are terrifying, that someone would hate life so much that they would choose to end it. It can’t be so bad, right? I mean, there is nothing in this world so terrible that it would drive someone to that definitive act, one that cannot be taken back no matter how desperately the survivors wish it was so. In a word: no. It happens every day whether we like it or not.
This blog is a eulogy of sorts, I guess, but I am dedicating it to more than one person. The reason I endeavor to do this is because the theme is universal; we all know someone who has taken their own life and we are left in the wake of their passing scratching our heads, wondering why. There is always a reason, although some choose not to expound upon it by leaving the prerequisite note. Sometimes the reason is simply implied, something we gather from extenuating circumstances.
A few days ago a man I knew from my hometown of DePere, Wisconsin, chose to take his own life. I do not know the manner in which he did it, all I know is that the deed was done. He left behind a girlfriend and two foster children and countless friends. I had not seen him for over two decades yet had spoken with him on the phone about sixteen months ago, regarding the passing of one of his dogs. I’d sent out a group message on Facebook advertising the release of my latest novel and when he got it he took it to be personal in nature and messaged me back that he was down because his dog had died. I could commiserate, having worked with animals for the last fifteen years, and told him to call me anytime, leaving him my number. He didn’t call me that day, but did so a few months later and we talked for almost an hour about various things: companion animals, bands, concerts, people we mutually knew, the city we grew up in etc. I felt good about it afterward, that he had reached out to me, even though he and I had never been what could be construed as ‘good’ friends. Mostly, in high school, we rode to school together with another guy who had a car and we took part in illicit activities that bonded us better than words sometimes can. I don’t know much else about him except that we always got along; he was a nice guy, I can honestly say I don’t think he had any enemies. After high school I left that little town for a big city (big in comparison: Milwaukee) and never saw him again. About five years ago we became friends on Facebook and later the above-mentioned correspondence occurred.
He isn’t the only person I know that has committed suicide. A friend (someone I knew much better in high school, a kid I’d played in a band with) killed himself in 2006, for reasons unknown to me. Not that it should come as a surprise; I hadn’t spoken with him since the early 90’s when I ran into him at a bar in Green Bay and the thing I remember about it was him telling me that I was lucky I got out of there, meaning DePere. Small town life shouldn’t be considered a death sentence, but to him it was, I guess. As with this most recent case I have no idea what his method was, only that it happened. So that is why I say that I dedicate this to more than one person, and what the hell I’ll also dedicate it to myself.
I’ve often fantasized about suicide, being of a creative nature and a man who seems to be in a near constant state of ‘finding’ himself. I am a failed musician, a so far failed writer…I have tried and failed a lot of things in my life but sometimes I feel intrinsically that I would succeed at suicide if I ever so choose to take that route. It takes a certain amount of dedication to carry it out though (and a lot of guts to boot, no matter how ‘cowardly’ the act may seem), and so far (fortunately) I lack the courage.
With that said I am glad that I always find a reason not to do it, and I wish these two men had found that reason as well. But, going further down the rabbit hole, maybe they are happier where they are. I don’t believe we should impose our will on others, making them live when they don’t have the strength to. If someone wants to do it than it is their choice, end of story. Of course I agree with the old saying ‘suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem’ but who are we to place sanctions on people’s lives, who are we to judge?
Coinciding with this man’s suicide (coincidentally?) I am presently reading ‘Heavier Than Heaven’ the biography of Kurt Cobain. I’ve had suicide on my mind as of the past week and it is unpleasant that I should encounter it first hand, via someone I once knew. It always hurts much more when you can put a real face on it, when it was someone you laughed and talked and hung out with, no matter how much time has passed since you’ve seen them. The ghostly image of the obituary photo from 2006 still resonates with me; in fact I came across it last week while digging through a box looking for something else. In the photo he is smiling, happy, but the untold story was the darkness in his heart of a future deed he would perpetrate while all along everyone around him probably thought he was fine.
But all that aside, here is to you guys (I am figuratively raising a glass in a toast) and I hope that wherever you are (be it in an ‘afterlife’ or simply in the ground) that you have finally found peace. Amen.
Category Archives: small towns
Can Green Bay survive this season and make it into the playoffs? That is a very good question! Their depth chart has obviously been challenged with all the injuries the team has sustained over the last eight weeks. At one point it seemed as if they were simply dropping like flies: James Jones, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finely, Evan-Dietrich Smith, Johnny Jolly, Nick Perry and Clay Mathews just to name a few. And then the star quarterback Aaron Rodgers eats the turf and goes out, and the very next week his back-up Seneca Wallace pulls his groin (I pull mine all the time yet still remain in the game; go figure!) and ends his season. Holy crap it sounds like the trailer for a bad movie about replacement players. ‘When all the first-string players go down, who’ll be left to pick up the pieces?’ And then they’ll show a bunch of actors like Rob Schneider, Adam Sandler and all the other dudes that star in their movies. ‘Who will save them now?’
In Green Bay the fine folks are hoping to go five and seven before Mr. Rodgers makes his way back into the neighborhood, figuring if he can return by the Thanksgiving game against Detroit the season can be salvaged. Maybe they can get in with a wild card, depending how the season plays out. As a rabid fan I can only hope the same. There isn’t a lot of faith in the third string guy, Scott Tolzien, even though he led the Wisconsin Badgers to many a victory during his stint in Madison. Thing is, though, he lost out to another quarterback who replaced him, some guy named Russell Wilson who took the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. They lost, but it earned him a starting position at the Seattle Seahawks, beating out another Wisconsin/Green Bay alumni Matt Flynn. Hi Ho!
I am saying all this from a very unique perspective: I am presently staying in Green Bay. Why would I be hanging out in this mill town/slash football Heaven? Good question, one that I am not going to answer suffice it to say I will be departing next week and on to greener (ha!) pastures. My stay here has been interesting to say the very least, tedious and somewhat boring if I want to sound like an asshole, but the fine folks of this quaint little town have been more than generous, in their deer hunting, gun hoarding, binge drinking, racial slur spewing sort of way. Yes, this is the hallowed ground of the legends of Frozen Tundra lore, the kind of gridiron stories that inspire movies and books about muscle bound gods who attack one another viciously all in the name of fair play, where the name Vince Lombardi comes up at least several times a day in any manner of conversation. In fact, I am staying off of Lombardi Avenue, a mere mile or so from the stadium. In just about any place in this town you can see the stadium, a neon monolith that the Brett Farve era Packers helped transform from the once modest arena (replete with aluminum benches to keep your tush cold in the winter) to one of the largest sports venues in the United States. Sacred ground, Titletown, all that happy crap that I was so excited about when I lived far, far away from this desolate, backwater burg. Somehow it seemed much cooler to be a fan when I didn’t live here; now I am just one of many who refers to the team as such: “We kicked their ass last week!” or “We’re going to the Superbowl!” as if the citizens are actually part of the team, an extension, the fifty-third man so to speak. Yet in a town where the city does own the team I suppose one can say that as they do have some sort of say, even if no one in management listens to a word. Just ask Ted Thompson what he thinks of Joe Jerk-offs opinion. Ted would probably mutter “Go to hell” if you suggested back during pre-season that it wasn’t a good idea to get rid of Graham Harrell or BJ Coleman, the thought being that Aaron Rodgers (despite his almost inhuman feats on the field) might sustain some type of injury that led to needing a back-up. Seneca Wallace? we all thought. Why the hell would they want that geezer out there? He practically needs a walker for Christ’s sake. Does he even have any of his original teeth left?
Yet I digress. And I haven’t even touched upon the poor play of the defense, who’ve allowed far more points than I’d care to mention (I’d have to look up the stat and I don’t feel like it) and haven’t been able to make any plays on the ball worth mentioning (forced turnovers, etc), although AJ Hawk has been looking alive out there, not to mention Mr. Jolly, BJ Raji and to a certain extent Sam Shields, although he has blown several key plays, most noticeably during the Monday Night Football debacle against the Bears and their six foot seven receivers. Holy man…
Is the season going to be a wash? Can Green Bay arise from the ashes and make a play-off berth? Will they continue to lose first-string players, continuously testing the depth of their second and third string players? Will Green Bay ever renounce its love of killing Bambi’s mother, father, cousins and distant relatives? Will the fans ever admit how much they love chanting John Kuhn’s name simply because they adore being given a free break on saying the word Kuhn (pronounced coon) all together in the mostly white somewhat ethnically challenged town? Some of these questions may never be answered, but the season will play itself out as it may, and in the end it is just a game, a game that generates more revenue than I’ll ever be able to conceive of in my lifetime. Be that as it may, I’ll still be watching because, what the hell, I love football and I love the Green Bay Packers. Go Pack!
I’m standing in a club called ‘Excess’, a gay bar on Main Street in Green Bay, wearing zombie make-up and tattered clothes, wondering what the hell I’m doing with my life. The make-up artist and his girlfriend are on the dance floor shaking what they got as I lean against a wall and ponder my existence. First things first I did not choose this club; I agreed to come here because the drinks are cheap and nobody judges you, you are who you are. Gay, straight, zombie…none of that matters right now. I feel down because I wanted to meet someone tonight, anyone, preferably a woman, pretty, relatively young, but it is impossible because the make-up artist did such a good job that I am hideous. Beneath all this latex rubber and fake blood no one can tell what a handsome man I am, so I am drinking way too much and thinking about smoking a cigarette (I quit six months ago). Not that what I want can be achieved in this club; not more than two minutes ago I watched two chicks make out with each other in front of the bathroom while a guy in a full body leather bondage outfit lead another man around on a leash. The one on all fours was wearing ass-less chaps and a motorcycle hat Ala Rob Halford from Judas Priest.
My companions finish on the dance floor and we reconvene by the bar. We decide to leave, to go to the country saloon next door, and what the hell, right? Can’t get any worse.
We head over and people comment on the costumes.
“AAARRRGGGG!” I say convincingly, vomiting more fake blood by crunching a plastic capsule in my mouth that tastes like cough syrup.
As we navigate toward the bar I think about everything that has transpired tonight and it makes me more depressed. We started the evening at a party with so many beautiful women I was utterly overwhelmed. All taken, of course. And the guys they were with? Well, let’s just say there isn’t ad spaced reserved for them in Maxim Magazine for the next designer cologne. How did they get these gorgeous women? I wondered, and how did I get one? The world is soooo unfair.
No difference in this country bar: the place is wall to wall with smoking hot babes. Does the rest of the world know that Green Bay, Wi, is full of such amazingly stunning women? And here they are hanging all over beer-bellied guys in cowboy boots with obscene facial hair. I’ll say it again: “AAARRRGGGG!”
This leads me to believe that there is simply no point in carrying on, in continuing my useless existence. I give up, I’m throwing in the towel and calling it a night. I ask my friends what they want to drink and they profess to being drunk so I order a beer for me and two waters for them. The woman tending bar is nice to me but she outweighs me by at least sixty pounds. She is pretty though, and the fact that she is nice makes me smile. Hell, I could do worse than her. Maybe I should set my sights lower.
So I stand against a rail overlooking the dance floor, watching a guy dressed as the Joker strip a fur coat off of an otherwise shirtless, giant, hairy dude and proceed to lick his nipples and I wonder what they are doing here and why they aren’t at Excess. Is anybody seeing this but me? Yes, and no one seems to care. Do I care? No, not really, I just want to meet a nice woman who I can enjoy relaxing evenings with and have long conversations about nothing. I want to cuddle; I want to feel breasts pressed against my chest, warm, soft lips brushing against my ear. Instead I am alone, witnessing things I can’t erase from my mind if I want to, which I do, very badly
The evening comes to an end when the couple I am with decides they want to go. It’s probably all the hot women; he wants to get his girlfriend home and nail her. I don’t blame him. She’s a looker herself, all dressed up in a harlequin costume complete with zombie rotting flesh. I imagine they are going to have a mighty fine time, but I’m not, you know, imagining it. That would just be rude.
They drop me off at my place and we urinate (just the dude and I) on the lawn. Then they split and I give in to temptation and smoke a cigarette I bummed from someone at the country bar. Just another day in the life of a lonely man, a zombie all dressed down with no place to go…