August 19th is Jonathan Boone's birthday. Don't know who he is? Read on...

Really, I swear that this isn’t gonna turn into my LiveJournal. It won’t. But, if you’re willing to see what I’m listening to during a week, I hope you’d be interested in knowing why this day, out of every year, might be the most important. Though International Baba Day is a holiday in myriad third-world countries, it means much less to me than today.
Today is Jonathan Boone’s birthday. Don’t know who he is? Read on…

We all have people that we met by chance that changed our lives immeasurably. I’m not talking about parents, teachers, or people like that. Those folks were put into your life by nature, so they could earn a paycheck, etc. Mandatory reasons of some sort. The folks that are most interesting to me are the people that you meet randomly, the ones that you could easily have not met if you’d decided to take a different route to work or something.
Most of my close friends are of that type. I met Lanestock, my oldest friend, after we moved to Houston because he rode my school bus and was the only person in my class I recognized after I was moved up a grade. That was too random to be a coincidence.
I met Boone because he was JR’s roommate freshman year of college. Randomly, I wound up going to the mall with Drastic, JR, Chap, and a couple of irrelevant people when we first got to college, and those three cats have been in my core ever since that fateful trip to Lenox (which was the first time I cussed someone out as a college student, birthing a legend I’ll never live down, unfortunately). From there, I met Boone.
Boone was my best friend in college. Surely he wasn’t a plaster saint, but I learned more about dealing with people from him than I’ve learned from anyone else. We were yin and yang, in a way. We thought the same things frequently, but we tended to say them differently.
So, let’s just say someone said something indescribably stupid. Here are our divergent responses.
Boone – Hahaha…and from there, he’d egg the cat on and facetiously make everything seem cool.
Bo – You’s a stupid mu’fucka, you know that?
Now, the person that said that may not have been stupid. ‘Twas of no concern to me. They got the bidness. From Boone I learned that maybe, just maybe, you don’t have to tell people everything that’s on your mind at any given time. If I thought it was funny, then that meant it was probably funny. But, that didn’t mean it had to be shared at the expense of someone’s dignity.
Good lookin’ out, Lil Jon. Had I not peeped that from you, I’d probably be dead right now. And after the cat that got me went to court and broke down what I probably would have said, he probably would have gotten an empathetic acquittal.
And that’s about all the specific detail of his personality I’ll tell you. Saying more would be of laughable magnitude when compared to who he really was. What he is now is a fond memory, and I hope you can learn about him through that memory.
What I really learned was picked up after his life tragically ended at age 20. We take so much in life for granted. Many of us–not all–take for granted that when we hit a light switch that there will be light.
Go broke for a little while, walk in your apartment, and then hit your light switch, only to find out that was done in vain. Very quickly, you learn to appreciate electricity. Never again do you take it as a given.
Otis Redding sang that “you don’t miss your water ’til your well runs dry.” You don’t know what it is to miss your friends until they’re gone.
Gone and never coming back.
JR posted that he remembers that day in 2000 like it was yesterday, and so do I. The details are unnecessary, but there’s nothing more disturbing than talking to someone at 2 in the morning, only to later find out he may not have lived to 3. There’s nothing like hearing someone talking about the death of a stranger, only to find out that stranger was your brother. There’s nothing like seeing your grown friends crying.
There’s nothing like realizing they had to see his body lifeless while you were at work. There’s nothing like going to the hospital, hoping that what you heard was only a rumor. There’s nothing like seeing the words “pronounced dead” next to your best friend’s name. There’s nothing more tragic than seeing the parents of a child on the front row of a wake, staring at their only child for the last time.
There’s nothing like realizing that people viewed you with those same eyes, similar sympathy, and the same concern that you hold for those parents.
But there’s no bigger honor than knowing your hands were two of the last twelve to touch a great man before he was laid to rest. There’s nothing like knowing that one of the most fantastic people you ever met believed you were his best friend. There’s nothing like finding out how dedicated that one person was to you.
There’s nothing like knowing that your best friend took his time with God to pray that you don’t drop out of school because he didn’t want to see whatever meager contribution you could make go to waste. There’s nothing like realizing, at the moment that you hear that, that there was no way you can quit then.
Nothing is more strange than knowing that the work you put in is therapeutic, the remedy for all the things you’d prefer not to think about, and that means that the meager success I’ve achieved may not have happened without losing your boy.
For me, nothing is more bittersweet than success, no matter how meager.
And there’s nothing like the day you realize what’s really important in this world.
In the end, all you’ve got are your people and their respect. We work, we go to school, we pray, we sin, we struggle, we thrive, and we fail. But ultimately, we survive. We survive because of the people in our lives. We survive because those people pick us up when we’re down. We survive because those people believe in us. We survive because we know that we owe it to our friends to be prepared to return those favors when they need them.
We survive because nothing is bad enough that we should consider being without our friends and/or family.
And I couldn’t fully learn this until I’d lost the best friend I had.
That realization, though caused by an event that was initially agonizing and intermittently difficult to deal with, is the one that makes my life what it is. That realization has brought me closer to folks that drifted for a while. That realization brought the Seuss in my life and made him family.
That realization gave me a perspective I never had.
My loss is impossible to describe. 2Pac once said that he wanted “misunderstood” written on his grave, and that line’s always touched me. Outside of family, I think he was the first person to ever understand me. People say that love is never having to say you’re sorry, which was clearly said by someone who’s never had a girlfriend or wife. You might not have to say sorry, but it’s a damn good idea.
But at its most ideal level, friendship means never having to explain yourself, and that’s something different.
To this day, I nag people to death with explanations. I miss not having to do that.
And I miss him. I miss telling goofy jokes that only we found funny. I miss making an entertaining day out of going to the bank. I miss flirting our way into a box of chicken at Popeye’s for two bucks (ugly girls in the West End love college boys). I miss oogling girls in the cafeteria. I miss having fun doing nothing.
I miss my man.
But now, I know JR better than I ever did before, and I feel like we are members of each other’s families. Not like family, but family. I appreciate the Seuss in a way I never would have before. I know just how important my friends are to me, and I may not have realized that otherwise.
I also know the only reason I can sleep at night is that I was fortunate enough to tell Boone I loved him before he passed away. I don’t remember why I did it (actually, it was in response to his defense of me against something the Nigerian Rat Girl that Chap used to date said about me).
But why this post? Why this exhibitionism? Because so many of us don’t have to consider these things. We don’t figure out the magnitude of the emotions we feel for our friends until it’s too late to say anything. If you’re anything like me, you hate to leave things unsaid. You hate to not be clear. You hate to be misunderstood (btw, the guaranteed way to get me to reply to an e-mail, if you’re a reader, is to misundertand something I’ve written. It bothers me that much). And even if you’re not like that, I think there’s an innate desire within us to make sure the people we care about know how we feel.
But oddly enough, we don’t make them understand. Instead, we’re passive and leave things to be understood. We guess and let guess, we assume and let assume, and we interpret and let interpret, but we don’t say what we feel.
And had I not taken one minute of one day to let my man know how I felt, I’m not sure I’d be able to live with myself.
Learn from my almost mistake.
Every year, I send an e-mail that wishes Boone a happy birthday, and I do so because I don’t want people to forget about him. It might seem more self-indulgent than that. I don’t want people to forget how I felt about him, how the beauty of his personality brought out a warmth from beyond my ice-cold cynicism. I want people to understand the love that you feel for someone is its own reward, that the bond between people can be what keeps us going from day to day. And if I have to use myself as an example, then so be it.
That bond’s what gets me out of bed every day. He’s the most important “other” in For Myself and Others. The bond is important on a level many of us never consider. Therefore, it’s something a lot of folks don’t truly appreciate.
I want you to appreciate your bonds with folks if you don’t already. And if this contributes to that end, I’ve done one thing right and can be content fuckin’ up from here on out.
So, Happy Birthday, Jon. And thank you.
And for indulging me, thank y’all.
And if you got something from this, pass it on. I don’t need the thanks.
Next week, probably talking about what I learned from teaching, a column entry on Prince, maybe an ESPN piece on Iverson, and whatever other foolishness comes up.
You know, back to that ignorant sh*t you like…
And as usual, if you like what you see, please send me an e-mail and ask to be added to the mailing list and/or forward a link to your friends, coworkers, enemies, family, and assorted strangers that you send spam to on your off day.
But hold up, shawty…if you do send this, I’ve officially become that “little Timmy” with cancer and a deformed testicle that’s in all those forwards.
Oh well…I’ll be dat.