Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Kennedy

with 9 comments

I found out over the weekend that a really good friend of mine had passed away recently from a sudden heart attack.  The irony was, he was on his way to the doctor for an already-prescribed stress test, so he was trying to take care of himself, but he was just a tad bit too late.

His name was Kennedy, and he was someone important in my life going way back.  I’ll explain why.

When I got the news from his daughter that I needed to call her to check on what was some “very sad news,” I knew instantly what it was, and it felt like a sucker punch.

If I’ve ever personally known a Renaissance man in this lifetime, Kennedy was he.  Kennedy knew something about everything, he know a lot about some things, but no matter what he knew, he was always very well worth knowing and he could tell a story beyond compare.

He also had a grand sense of humor, one that ranged from the twisted to the benign to the outrageous, but one always informed by a Cheshire Cat grin that could, and did, warm your heart.

Because Kennedy had had the good fortune to leverage the G.I. bill (and did, over and over and over again…he had more college degrees than I could count), and because of his intellectual voraciousness, he could expound on topics ranging from literature to art history to the latest and greatest sci-fi novel.

But he wasn’t just book smart.  Yes, he spent a number of years in college and in the orbit of the publishing industry, running across authors like Stephen King and beyond, but he would also regale me with tales from the times he was traipsing across Europe as a young hippie hipster.

I first met Kennedy some 21 years ago when I first moved back to my hometown of Denton, Texas, to continue my university education at the University of North Texas.

I met him at the university student union, where he was working part-time doing desktop publishing-related things (I can’t remember exactly what!), and doing it on a Macintosh! (Remember, this was 1988.)

Over the next several years, Kennedy and I were in one another’s orbits in a variety of ways…we continued working on and honing our editing and desktop publishing skills together…we reappropriated resources from the university to develop an underground newspaper (that was around the time of the Gulf War I) entitled “The North Texas Lite.”

Kennedy also helped me do some very interesting in-field research on Harry Hines Boulevard in Dallas for an urban anthropology class, and when I graduated with my BA degree in English in 1991, Kennedy served as the co-sponsor and venture capitalist for my very popular and festive graduation party.

That alone was the most kind and unselfish thing anybody had ever done for me up to that point in my life, and he did it with that Cheshire Cat grin as if it was absolutely his pleasure…and I suspect it must have been, but it meant the world to me (I took a few extra years to get my undergrad degree so I had a lot to celebrate.)

Later, Kennedy opened his own very popular near-campus bookstore, where students would congregate regularly just to chat with him and once in a while buy something, and in 1993, Kennedy and a couple of other friends took our first trip to San Miguel de Allende, a wonderful artists enclave northwest of Mexico City.

It was San Miguel where Kennedy last week met his untimely demise.

I think the reason his passing has so haunted me is because it exemplifies for me — and, I’m sure, his wonderful children Astra and Bryan — the fragility of life.

But also because it means the passing of someone who I know helped shape the fragile clay of my own youth through his own good humor, tutelage, and encouragement in a way that had been completely unselfish, and in a manner that helped pave the way and shape and inform the professional I later became.

But, I take great comfort that the circumstances by which Kennedy has passed are an arbiter of the great connectedness and symmetry in our universe.

You see, I last visited San Miguel in 2006 with some other friends, and as fate would have it, found my way to the bar that would only later become Kennedy’s (or “Kenny,” as JJ and friends would come to refer to him) virtual living room.

It’s a small world after all.

JJ’s was a comfy, cozy Harley bar that drew a great diversity in its clientele, and where, if you were brave enough, JJ would do his famous knife trick (I went along for that particular ride, and still have all my fingers).

I take great comfort, and laughter, in knowing that Kennedy spent some of his last couple of years’ evenings a few nights a week in this very warm and welcoming place, and I don’t find it ironic at all that Kennedy found it after I had made my own return trip to San Miguel some 13 years after our great adventure together there.

So, I’ll leave you where Kennedy left us, in San Miguel de Allende, in a bar straight out of a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie.

It’s a ceremony that may seem strange on its face, but if you knew Kennedy, it was an entirely apt means by which for him to make his escape from this life and possibly of starting the adventure to find out what may come next.

I’m going to miss you terribly, my good friend…more than I can relate here.

Just knowing you’re no longer on this planet causes me a very great sadness.

But in my sadness, I will try to always remember that 13 hour long train ride in the dead of the Mexican night, your Cheshire grin smiling away in the moonlight as you waited for the nice seniorita to bring you another cerveza, the dark and barren Mexican moonscape passing by in the background barely hiding the promise of what great adventure lay south for us in San Miguel, not knowing, in fact, that we were making our way to what would become your final resting place.

Written by turbotodd

December 7, 2009 at 8:30 pm

9 Responses

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  1. Powerful words, and a heartwarming tribute, Turbo. Well done. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    HH

    heather

    December 8, 2009 at 2:20 pm

  2. Wow. Thank you so much for this. I hadn’t seen it until now — I was google-searching my Dad in the hopes of finding some of his “Atencion” articles still online. But this is a much more precious gem. It was a treat to read about my Dad through someone else’s eyes, and to know that we’re not the only ones feeling the loss.

    I’m more of an agnostic than any kind of believer, but I like to think that he’s still smiling his Cheshire cat grin somewhere, hangin’ out in the afterlife equivalent of a dive bar and no doubt still spinning his yarns.

    I hope you won’t mind if I share a link to this for my family & friends to read.

    -Astra

    Astra

    December 15, 2009 at 1:47 am

    • Astra, of course not, and know that I got your email and will be back in touch about the photos and getting together once I’m back in town for more than just a handful of days. In the meantime, I hope you and Bryan are hanging in there and I look forward to seeing the two of you again soon.

      turbotodd

      December 15, 2009 at 2:24 am

  3. That was an awesome tribute Todd. I know Kennedy would have appreciated it.

    Sandi Brackeen

    December 16, 2009 at 12:59 am

    • Sandi, I am SO glad you chimed in and to know you’re alive and well. I thought of you immediately when I got the sad news and wondered what was up with you. How are you doing? Your blog would suggest you’re still living in Denton, is that right? Well, I’ll expect to be back in Christmas, so if you’d like to share some Christmas cheer and toast one for Kennedy, I’m definitely up for it!

      turbotodd

      December 16, 2009 at 1:31 am

  4. Todd,
    Astra very kindly sent me the link to your blog. I am Kennedy’s younger sister. Your words captured our beloved brother so well. It is a great comfort to me to know that others appreciated what a unique individual he was. His passing lessens us all.
    Thank you.
    Lily

    Lily Poyser Steiner

    December 16, 2009 at 3:12 pm

  5. Todd,

    I couldn’t have put it better. That’s some fine writing and a fitting tribute my friend.

    I’ve been thinking about Kennedy quite a bit since you called with the news. He was a free soul and a welcome guide in my formation as well. Were he a book his title would be “How to Subvert the Dominant Paradigm without Having to Try Very Hard,” or maybe “without Really Trying.” Ah hell, it was at best a working title. He would have had to write that one himself. I hope he did.

    He certainly enriched my life. The hour or so he spent teaching me Pagemaker seems to have set the course of my life though. We all spent many a night together at the Flying Tomato and there bouts, not to mention leaning on the counter at his shop on my return trips.

    I’ve gone looking for Kennedy on every trip back to Denton and was disappointed not to find him last June. The shock of seeing most of Fry St. gone didn’t set well either, but this loss is a greater blow by far than a few buildings burnt.

    The night after you called, I was getting together with some friends and we raised our glasses to him and I tried to say a few words, but I got too choked up–just as I am now. I will miss him.

    Thanks again for such a nicely turned piece.

    Paul

    Paulie

    December 19, 2009 at 7:39 pm

  6. Thanks for writing this, Todd. That first trip to San Miguel certainly set the stage for the last few years of my dad’s life, in ways he couldn’t have possibly known. Thanks for showing him such a good time. I remember he had a blast at your July 4th party in Austin a few years back. He was incredibly proud of your success.

    Thanks so much for coming to the memorial. Sorry we didn’t get to talk much. Would love to get together and swap some more stories about Dad.

    -Bryan

    Bryan Poyser

    December 20, 2009 at 6:45 am


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