Essays

A collection writings and thoughts by artist Gary Llama.

Twenty Years: Remembering My Friend

20 years ago, I lost my best friend in a car accident…

…I want to write here about what he meant to me.

First, some humor.

In middle school, I decided to cover Guns N Roses ‘Don’t Cry’, solo. Through a bass amp. I can remember how painfully horrible it was. But that didn’t dawn on me, I so amped up from the adrenaline of just doing it. Afterwords, this kid came up to me, hands in his pockets, and asked if I wanted to try and jam with him sometime. He was a guitar player. I said sure. I never really thought anything would come of it.

A few weeks later, we actually did jam. I was stoked. He was a very good guitar player. We actually took lessons at the same place, it turns out. So we jammed, and jammed, and that christmas, we recorded around a dozen or so songs. We’d have sleepovers, and just make recordings, using his PC to record through the stereo in, and some oddly rigged way of playing it back to make further tracks.

As we continued playing music, we realized we needed a band. Patrick said he ‘knew a dude’, but he came with another guitar player. So thats how we met our Drummer Matt, and our guitar player Langdon. Patrick proposed the name ‘Golden Llamas’, he explained it’s meaning, basically a thing with him and his friends in his neighborhood, we decided to roll with it. We played the talent show, and then a battle of the bands, with a new singer. But upon taking the stage, the singer dude said he couldn’t do it. Pat looked at me, and that was the moment I became a singer (or what little of it I can do).

Later that year, we had a sleepover at his house and while watching ‘headbangers ball’, saw a video for some kind of new-fangled metal band. They sounded awesome! They were called ‘Rancid’. So when it came time for a christmas gift, I got him one of their tapes, their only one they had out, and gave it to him. Little did I know, that tape, which I didn’t even ask him if it was good until like a month later, would change my life forever.

Fast forward and we got into punk. We kept playing shows. And our little band went through growing pains. The kind you get when have folks so passionate about what they are doing. I remember one time, and I regret the hell out of this, I actually told Patrick he was out of the band cuz he kept missing practices. In all fairness, he was a busy dude, and I think he was just adjusting to a pretty heavy mix of obligations. But we ended up getting everything in line, and played a bunch of amazing shows, and had a hell of a time.

One of the things that always got me about him, was his compassion for others. We wrote political music, political punk, and we co-wrote almost everything. I’d hand him a part, a week later he’d give it back at practice, better. But his lyrics are really where the compassion came through. And as he grew, his ethics grew as well. We both discovered veganism, and he felt very strongly about NOT doing drugs, save for the occasional clove cigarrette. And he grew into a friend I could always count on, through and through. The advice he’d give, it’s goodness, would sneak up on you. Always simple, and always amazing. Sage advice.

For me, growing up the way I did, his house, his family, became something of a safe place for me. And such a creative and positive place. Fostered with love, and so much support. And his Mom drove us to so many things, and gave us some of her own wisdom along the way. One thing in particular I remember, was her telling me something to the effect of me having ‘an artists heart’, and how I had to protect the good in it, while facing the criticisms, no doubt after one of the many hellstorms of criticism we got for being punk kids, and being political.

The day he passed, my world changed forever. Things became more urgent. And being a decent person became more important to me. Unfortunately for me, I had years of stuff to work through before I could approach those goals with good faith. But it was the things I learned with him, and from him, that gave me hope, and gave me guidance. And it was that same goodness that made my own fuckups eventually become so distastful to myself that I would have to force myself to change.

I was so lucky to have known him. If everyone had a friend like him, this world would be a much different place.

When he passed, I decided that the only way I could make any of the wrongness in his passing right, would be to just try and carry some little bit of him forward with me. And to me, that really was two things: 1) To never stop making things, and 2) to remember his compassion, and try my hardest to give some of it to the world through the things I do. Making stuff is easy, but this later one, so fucking hard. But such a good goal, that even giving 2% of it will help sometimes.

I know loosing him fucked me up. And over the years I’ve spent time with therapists, and more recently with friends, trying to work through how that effected me. Losing someone you love is so hard. Yet it’s nothing like I can imagine it would be for his family.

And it’s odd, because of the way our culture treats death, I am much conflicted on how to remember him with others. Sometimes I’d worry about opening wounds for others, other times, I’d worry that I may be seen poorly for how raw it still is for me. But then I realized, it is what it is. So I just try to respect what I can sense from others when talking to them. On this note, I did explore the subject with a couple folks during a podcast I was doing, and have that recorded, some friends rememebering him, but I wanted to get more, and then I didn’t know whether it was too private to post, perhaps something just better kept amongst friends? I don’t know.

Today, I sit here as the father of a daughter, and I try so hard to put goodness into her life. And the model of goodness, being a good person, is based so much around my friend Patrick. And every record I put out, it’s based around that same need him and I discovered so many years ago, that the point of political punk, and music in general, is to keep the dialogue going for the folks that need it. Because we all need it at some point. We need to hear it, and we need to communicate it. Admist all the conflicts of thought I have come across in my life, that is the one thing that has ALWAYS held true.

I have so much more I could write, about how, when I gave him my skateboard, he turned into an amazing skater in under a month, or how we spent a summer being archery instructors at a boy scout camp, or how we stayed up all night one night running around midlothian, doing crazy stuff and listening to the Dead Kennedy’ ‘Viva Las Vegas’ on perpetual repeat. but I’d just leave it right here: We must be so thankful for the people around us. And never forget, that we are ALWAYS living, and accordingly, we can always change, and do new things, and expand ourselves. And be the people we wish we could be. It’s really all up to us.

And I know this, because he showed it to me with my own life. Before meeting Pat, I was on a bad path. And through our journey, somehow, someway, so many of the things I had going on before knowing him, things I would beat myself up for, and use destructively, got turned on it’s head, and shown a positive use for.

If I had to sum him up, it’s really just about the force for good he was. The passion he had. The dedication to things he felt important. And his accepting, yet constantly questioning, in the most kind way possible, mind.

Rest in peace, Man. Know you are dearly missed.

Gary

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Llamatism is a collection of things, a cabinet of curiosities, and reports from explorations on things, by Gary Llama.

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