Sick. Sick with the awful truth I don't want to accept: Two friends died this week. Good men. Artists. Suicides.
The first news came on Wednesday and then another blow came the very next day. I can't stay standing next to Randy when he is telling me about Jerry Smith. I run out of the room, sit down, rub my forehead over and over.
I walk to the lake but I keep forgetting how to breathe. The air gets caught in my tight chest.
I go to my advisors, John Keats and Peter Mattheissen, for words to help me with mortality, to help me express what I can't comprehend. "My heart aches," writes the boy who died at 26. "Broken-brained and wholly broken-hearted" says the man who died, also this week, at 86.
Jerry. Uh, I can't write about Jerry right now.
I need to tell you about Barry Kimm. What a sweetheart. What a talent. Barry and I were at film school together in Iowa City in the 80's, then we reconnected at a reunion there in 2008. As our group walked the shady streets, looking for and telling stories about our old shabby apartment buildings, Barry told me in his serene way about the films he had made since Iowa, the 3-D IMAX movie about the sun that seemed too astounding a project to be real, but sure enough. I told Barry that Randy's company had just opened up a production department and he should give him a call. Barry did. And he got hired and directed several shoots for Optimus, for which I was inordinately proud to play that tiny part.
The last time I saw him was at Optimus's block party two summers ago. We talked in the cyc set on the fourth floor and once again, I was struck by his warmth, sweetness and calm in a room full of drinking ad people. And that was the last I heard until this week. The rest I have learned from mutual friends: when Barry's wife Susan was diagnosed with cancer, the two took a road trip around the country, taking photographs, their shared talent and love. Susan passed away the first week of April and Barry was not able to live without her.
I cannot judge Barry's choice. It brings so much pain to so many people, but his was worse.
The memorial service that was planned for Susan will now be for them both, in Minneapolis, where they lived and loved each other.
Here is one of Barry's last projects. You can see see his goodness and wisdom in every frame.
Tattoo Underground from Barry Kimm on Vimeo.