This weekend I lost another friend, DK, Shawn, or Elton Jaundice on Facebook. Shawn was an artist and a fighter. Shawn cared about everyone. He fought demons that I could never imagine. He was well loved in a circle of tight friends. I was fortunate enough to know him briefly.
I met Shawn when he was planning to have an art show at his home. I had met him one time before, at a cook out /anti-KKK rally in Sarver, but there hadn’t been much opportunity to connect. There have been many improvements to the Art Refuge over the 7 months or so that I’ve been coming by, but at this art show we sat on big plastic paint tubs for stools, while we sat around drinking cheap beer and enjoying the company.
My experiences with Shawn were varied. Sometimes he was quiet, almost in the background of the boisterous voices in the room, and sometimes you couldn’t look any place else. He was so smart and funny, in a sly insidious way. He seemed to me to be mostly Id, and very little Ego.
The winter was hard and long this year. He survived living in a home with no heat with crippling depression. He was often sending out open invites to his home to make art. I regret not taking him up on more of these invites. It seemed what Shawn couldn’t survive was leaving the city. I think that his emotional family was here, in Pittsburgh.
This is what I saw on Friday. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. I thought it was a joke. After having to move back to West Virginia, Shawn was trying so hard to come back. He seemed so close to his goal, perhaps about $30 away from success. I couldn’t really make sense of it.
It wasn’t a joke. By the time anyone got to him it was too late. Shawn died of a self inflicted gun shot wound.
As many of us as could be reached when to his old home, where friends Mel and Jamie still live. There were tears, and laughter. Still part of my brain just didn’t accept it as real, waiting for the curtain to pull back and my friend to still somehow be alive. Saturday I was appreciative of the sun and the air and my legs and my life. I was glad to be able to move, to have a home, to have friends to see. All this loss recently culminating in a bittersweet perspective.
I went to my friend’s Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council benefit prom at Cattivo in Lawrenceville. They’ll be a post more devoted to the highlights at a later time. I think this drunk selfie from the end of the night tells some of the tale.
Sunday’s celebration was intended to be a celebration of Mel’s 2 years of sobriety. It did end up being a mix of memorial and celebration. As I came into the kitchen, I saw that he had a cake. He explained to me that the decorators would not make it in the fashion that he desired so it was a bit of DIY. The ornaments came later…
As I came outside there was a small effigy to Shawn on one of the chairs. His turtle that I often saw appear in pictures, the ever present b.b. guns, and the kazoos he got for a yet to be started concept band.
It was a bit heartbreaking, the reality of the situation, but I soon found preoccupation with tending the assorted phallic meats over the fire. Everyone came and there was food galore; from cheesy potatoes to enchiladas with homemade roasted chicken to all the makings of s’mores with sea salted chocolate. If you left hungry, then it was no one’s fault but your own. There was good company and drink to be had.
Oh and did I mention there was cake?
Shawn’s wake and services are Tues-Weds. I intend on going at this time, but my feelings are a little uncertain. I’m glad the sun was out this weekend, I just wish he could have been with us to enjoy it.