Last week I discovered that once again, upon wondering why I hadn’t heard from an old friend for some time, that another great influence on my life has passed on. Mary Cigarettes, who bore two different names before I knew him, left this world seven months ago, just shy of his 60th birthday. I found Front View Magazine’s obituary a bit better than the one in The Irish News.
“After a short illness” is all the sources say, so I can only hope that it was not a painful end. He had lived such a good life as best I can tell, loved by the same good man for 30 years up to the end. He lived fully and loved completely. I know he didn’t want a big to-do when he left. He didn’t want a funeral with a lot of people staring at his body. But I “lit up a big smelly cigar” on the back porch late this afternoon, in his memory.
I want to die with a million miles on my meter
I want to die with well-used, worn out tyres
I want to die with the satisfaction of a lover
who was generous with his body and his valuable time.
He did all those things. And I am honored to have known him, even though ours was a friendship of correspondence and internet connection. We fully intended to meet, eventually. But, as he knew and wrote in more than one of his songs in the last several years, “Time is not cheap anymore.” I suppose it never was, though it seemed many years ago that time was all we had.
We met ten years back on YouTube, back when so many poets and musicians knew each other on that platform. We had mutual friends in xyzllii (the feisty Kristine Byrne), before she and I got too much on each other’s nerves. There was the gentle voice of Andrew Norris (who I’ve just discovered is still producing videos!), the psychedelic, jacket-and-tie-wearing poet David Randall Curtis, and Loretta Obstfield, formerly screen-named TinySpectacle. But Mary (Gregory) and I kept up with each other later on Word Press, then SoundCloud, back to Word Press and Twitter, though I didn’t realize how often he’d been posting on his blog last year. There’s been so much to catch up on.
Every time I’ve tried to sit down to write this little memorial, I either get caught up in one of his songs, or fall down the rabbit holes of our old conversations, and the comments he returned just as freely to friends like those I just mentioned. And it reminds me of people I want to reach out to—for my own sake, not theirs. Like Mary, they have been living full lives on their own. It’s my own loss here that I am selfishly grieving. I’d like to make fewer of these mistakes—this dropping out of contact. But I have told the dear, crazy rock-n-roller many times the influence he has been on me, so he knew, and for that I am glad. Some opportunities not lost at all, and now remembered.
Still, I’ve shed more than a few tears since I learned the news. It’s hard to narrow it down to just a few songs to share with you, but you must take the seven minutes to listen to this memorial on BBC’s Last Word. That is required. You can also dig in to his music on SoundCloud and some of his wonderful old videos from YouTube.
This first tune was his strumming a BeeGees cover in his kitchen, just two months after this post that seems now, well, a bit prescient.
And these last two, well if you’ve followed me for a length of time here, you’ve seen me share them before, thanking him for how they helped me through some difficult times in my life, particularly that last song. Thank, you my dear Mary, my friend Gregory. Thank you for reminding me that often the bridges burned never really mattered anyway, and for all that good and kind training in your “Bootcamp for the Broken Hearted.”