Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Spending Warm Summer Days Indoors

Well, I'm a week behind somehow. Don't know where the time went. The following is from last week. And it goes pretty far off the topic of triathlon and agility so consider yourself warned.

The week was kind of crappy because I was sore right on into the weekend. I backed off everything and I think the bike ride up the canyon on top of everything else was a bit much. I went out to the agility field for the first time on Thurs. to try a jumpers course with Cody and I just couldn't run, only shuffle/run a few steps then have to stop. I took a class focusing on distance skills on Sunday with Lola and was still having problems. I talked to my physical therapist about it all on Monday and he said it was normal, I'd have periods of improvement then plateau then improvement so I stopped feeling too bad about it. He did say climbing on the bike for so long is really hard on the particular soft tissue damage I have so I'm going to lay off of that for a while.

A party on Friday night led me to sleep in on Sat. and by the time I was awake and coherent it was too hot and I had no motivation to head out into the baking sun. So I turned my energies into cleaning up my much neglected house and decided to go for a nice cool swim later in the day. Well, after 4-5 hours of obsessive/compulsive cleaning I was too trashed for swimming and couldn't bear to turn the t.v. on so I turned to the good old internet for entertainment. I found a website of photos of Chicago punk shows from the 80's and was hooked for the afternoon. Many of the shows I'd been to and still have boxes of similar photos but there were many from a few years before my time and it was pretty cool to see.

Looking through those old photos I was reminded of my old friend Eric B., who sang & played guitar in a band called Life Sentence. There were photos of his band as well as zillions of pictures of him dancing & jumping around in the crowd. He was always at shows and seemed to know everyone. He was one of those friendly, outgoing guys that instantly befriended everyone he met. I first met him in 1984 when I went into a record store near my aunt's house in the Chicago 'burbs. Eric was working there and when he saw the punk records I was buying he struck up a conversation and next thing I knew he'd invited me to see his band play at a party somewhere. I was just some dorky teenager from the 'burbs buying a Misfits record, many of the other long time scenesters from the city would have turned their noses up at me instantly but Eric didn't care and was more than willing to welcome me in. When I started going to shows in the city I would sometimes catch him watching out for me (not that I needed it) now and then and I know he did the same for other people as well.

Life Sentence received a bit of attention sometime around 1986 or so when their record received a rave review on MTV's 120 minutes show and a member of Metallica wore a Life Sentence t-shirt in a photo on the cover of some metal magazine. I don't recall exactly what this publicity did for them but I remember it was significant for such a small unknown band. A few years later the band split and Eric ended up in a legal battle with one of his bandmates over rights to the name. Now really, this was Eric's band and the other guy was a jackass to kick up a fuss and apparently the judge & jury agreed with me because Eric eventually won the rights to the name. He put out another record with different members but it didn't go anywhere. In fact I forgot it even existed and that I 'd bought a copy until I went to pull out the first record the other day and found it. Unfortunately, the general public had the same reaction I did and that was the end of Life Sentence. Tragically, I suppose it was also a contributing factor to the end of Eric as I knew him.

Now I'll be honest here, Eric was no saint. He was into drugs for the 7 years I knew him and most certainly before that. Though his drug use was obvious it wasn't a part of his life he shared with me and for that I was thankful. Don't ask, don't tell. And to be fair, he seemed to handle it o.k. He had a nice house in the 'burbs (I think it was his anyway, I never saw any parents or signs of parents there), a relatively successful band as far as punk bands went back then, and more friends than most people have a right too. There were a few times I'd see him at shows where he was stumbling around like an Ironman participant losing control of his body a hundred yards from the finish line but those instances were rare. I'm not saying he wasn't wasted a lot, I'm just saying he handled it o.k. for the most part and had a pretty decent life all things considered.

Unfortunately, curiosity got the better of me that Saturday afternoon and I went snooping on the internet again to see what he was up to these days. I've found that people in bands are pretty easy to track on the internet and I figured that through Life Sentence I'd find a link to some current band he was in, or at least news about him but the trail was disturbingly cold. After a bit of digging I found an old post from last February on a Chicago punk rock discussion board. Someone was asking if anyone knew what Eric was up to and someone else said they'd run into him in the city and he was panhandling and living in transient housing. There was a lot of response to this news on the thread-disbelief, sadness, and even someone offering to organize a benefit for him. Many people had stories about Eric similar to mine. A bit more digging and I found a more recent post in someone's blog saying Eric had turned to herion in the late 90's and had pretty much quit music.

All of this news affected me badly. I know it sounds incredibly stupid and I can't explain it but there you go. Somehow the thought of him living on the street like that really upset me, even typing this I can feel my stomach turning over. I felt incredibly helpless too. How do you help a 45 year old with a 25-30 year drug habit when you live in another state and haven't seen him in 15 years? I know where he was last seen and approx. where he was living and it's on the way to a friend's place that I plan on visiting when I go to Chicago in August so I'll drive around a little to try and find him but I'm not hopeful. I'm going home to visit friends & family and attend my cousin's wedding, I can't spare much time running around questioning junkies about the location of my long lost friend. I don't even know for sure that he's still alive. And if I find him then what? Somebody mentioned that they thought Eric just wanted to die. Do I think I have the words in me that will magically make him suddenly care about life enough to get some help? I'm not that deluded. But at the same time I can't shrug my shoulders and let it go. I need to at least try, hopeless as it is. I really want to tell him how much he meant to me and so many other people, how worried we are and that we still care and want to help him. And if that doesn't get through to him, well, I guess at least I want the opportunity see him one more time and say goodbye.

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