Thursday, September 20, 2018


Above, a playlist I made from scrobbles for my cousin's funeral

As the youngest of three, I didn’t have younger siblings to chase around and terrorize, but I did have a gaggle of cousins. When we were young, we were all pretty close and played together routinely at family gatherings as an ensemble. Though Lucas was not the closest in age to me, I found myself paired with him far more often. Even though our personalities were wildly different and he did things like, as a three year old, try to smash a telephone into my face, foreshadowing his eventual lifelong love of pro wrestling- the closest thing resembling a sport he could tolerate, I felt a strong bond with him.

There were awkward tween and teen years where we barely conversed, but only because we seemed to be operating on different wavelengths, not different altogether frequencies. He was discovering and celebrating the musical canon when I was looking for inroads to defy it. His Kevin Smith and Moby phases came a bit later than mine, but he was also 6 years younger. But once we had both reached adulthood, I think we were able to connect again on an even plane.

Sometimes, I think the connection I felt was somewhat aspirational since I just liked and respected Lucas and felt like we were both the outcasts of the family. We both retreated into pop culture and wrote about it at length, obsessed over ephemera and minutiae and were fascinated by the parts that were seemed hidden or obscured by an excess of light elsewhere. I’d venture that this came from a similar incentive on both ends- an escape from our families or the structures and barriers that had seemingly been put in place by them. But while in my case, it was a sort of banal but ultimately harmless nuclear family structure and the flattening, nullifying impulses of the suburbs that made me seek hidden solace in the fantasy world, for Lucas it was a legitimately difficult home life. Struggling against these circumstances, I’m sure the comfort of the new worlds presented within film, TV, music, et al. seemed too enticing to live anywhere else. We were both relatively introverted, but whereas I can barely string together a sentence without writing it down first, Lucas was careful and well-spoken off-the-cuff when he wanted to be, with a sharp and clear-eyed memory. He was also funny as hell when he wanted to be, which was surprising since he otherwise carried with him a kind of persistent gravity and pathos, a sort of lingering sadness that didn’t seem like it could be quelled, but which was offset by moments of pure joy.

Lucas’s goal was always to be on the radio, an experience he fell hard for when he worked at his college radio station. When he moved out to LA, he asked if I knew anybody in radio. I didn’t, but tried to put him in touch with some media contacts that I don’t think he ever reached out to. I imagine he was disappointed to find that on-air talent jobs in radio were few and far between, didn’t exercise much autonomy in music selection, and didn’t really pay squat. I’d found this out myself while working in promotions for Cumulus Media adjacent the popular local radio jocks right out of college, one of whom a thoughtful and sensitive Husker Du fan reduced to building a kind of sub-Howard Stern persona and hawking Whitesnake tickets at car dealerships for aging sports dads. I too hosted a college radio show, both in college and after, which was a blast, but I found it odd that this was Lucas’s focus since I think he would have been disappointed in the disconnect between what radio could be and what it actually was. My major passion, writing, had become largely decommodified in the push to digital. After attempting to freelance for some time and conferring with fellow writers on what life looked like for the average writer, living hand-to-mouth and chasing down publishers for meager paychecks, I made the choice not pursue the hardships, uncertainty, and strain of that path and settled in to a 9 to 5. Lucas chose the difficult path.

Living and working in a husked out industrial shell of small town America in Upstate NY, he was resolutely miserable and I encouraged him a number of times to just pick up and go (as Amanda and I had done), but money was always an issue for him, way moreso than it ever was for me. It took him a while to cull together money from vulture lawyers looking over the estate of his father, who passed away in 2013, but when he did he embarked off to Los Angeles. It doesn’t seem like Lucas ever landed on the radio, but he wrote, did some standup comedy (training with Second City), and collected odd jobs, assisting on projects like the Turner Classic Film Festival and the Razzies. In the meantime, he made a go of freelancing, getting the opportunity to interview Tommy Wiseau and watch/comment on hours of archival TV for work, things that must have been akin to those moments of pure joy alluded to above. While I have other family who have gone into media, Lucas’s drive was creative. He either didn’t see much value in the other kind of work or knew it wasn’t for him, even if it meant money would continue to be an issue. And with him gone, that seems to leaves me alone in the family as the other one (that I knew of) for whom creativity and imagination is more important than professionalism or other traditional measures of success.

After the initial shock of hearing he had died, that’s the feeling I can’t shake- that he left me alone in the family, or even moreso, that he himself was alone on the west coast and needed me. Maybe not me, but someone. Either way, I wasn’t there. He abruptly shut off social media at one point and I didn’t have his phone number. With the pace of life, I wasn’t able to keep up, which is a shitty excuse.

We still don’t know how he died, and it’d be stupid to speculate on what happened. The only important thing worth mentioning is that he was 29 years old and 29 is too goddamned young to die. It’s probably stupid for me to think in these terms too- who am I to know what he needed- I hadn’t talked to him in years, but Lucas was the first person I remember knowing as a baby. I watched him grow up and live his entire life. As an adjunct older sibling, I modeled interactions of how to play with younger kids and see shades of my son in those moments (Lucas and Oliver both love(d) Michael Jackson). My aunt would always me pictures of him, which I kept on my bulletin board, like a little brother I was proud of. And when I first got deep into writing in middle school, I would name almost all of my main characters Luke, because the name to me epitomized cool.

I regret not hanging on to that relationship tighter and I regret not coming out to visit him, when I know that would have meant something to him. I regret not being able to collaborate with him, to be creative in some capacity, or just encourage him to do a podcast or something like that to just let him know I though his voice was valuable and worth listening to. It’s too late to do that now, so perhaps writing this is the best I can do.

Below is a remnant from when we did collaborate- ages ago- on a song called “Jacolyte”, which I remember as being a theme song for a (imaginary?) pro-wrestler of some kind. The tape it came from credited the band as ORG, which still sounds like a pretty rad name for a band. It features myself on keyboard and Lucas on vocals. When I sent it to him around 2 years ago, he said it made him “unbelievably happy” and I’m gonna severely miss not having someone like him in my life.

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