You do this: you ride the bumpiest, smallest plane on the planet from San Francisco to Albuquerque. You have white knuckles and the Xanax is taking the edge off the anxiety you feel, but just barely. You wonder if the plane falls out of the sky will it spin or tumble. Maybe it will just dive down nosefirst, and for a beautiful minute everyone will be weightless in the freefall inside the cabin. You decide that if that happens, you will unbuckle your seatbelt, you will enjoy the last few moments of your life like an astronaut. Continue reading Pride
Part 5 of 5. To read previous parts, click here for Part 1.
It’s the holiday season in 1991, and I’m a freshman in college. I’m coming back home to Albuquerque from spending time in Los Alamos, New Mexico, with my first boyfriend Max. I met Max’s family there, saw Star Trek 6 with him in an empty movie theater while I whispered the complicated galactic politics to him. We secretly made out whenever possible: to this day, I have a soft, nostalgic spot for the Drakkar Noir cologne he wore. We get back to our dorms on the UNM campus, and I get the call from my sister: something is wrong, come to the house right away.
I open the front door to my parents’ house, and my life is never the same after that. I see my sister’s tear-stained face, she’s in the living room with her husband Bob. My Dad is stoic but barely keeping it together while my grandmother shuffles around in her slippers, not understanding exactly what happened. My mom is wandering from room to room in the old Victorian house, incoherent, apoplectic, wailing with grief. I know then that my big brother John is dead. This is what it looks like when a family explodes from the inside out. Continue reading My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer, Part 5: The End of Everything
On New Year’s Eve, 22 years ago, my big brother passed away of a drug overdose. This past year, I experienced a romantic loss…which would normally be fine, but this one hit me like a ton of bricks, and made some pretty old, ugly personal demons surface. Why? I think my reaction to the latter has to do with unresolved abandonment issues from the former. This series is an attempt to move past both of these losses, and start healing. We’re all in this together, and the stakes are never higher than when you take a stand for your own happiness.
If you’re new and just joining this journey with me, you should probably start at Part 1. If you’ve read some of this already, you can join me at Part 2 or Part 3. If you only want to read this entry, I really don’t understand you. We probably can’t hang. Major spoilers ahead, boo.
John Hastings would have been 49 years old today. Happy Birthday, big brother.
The last few weeks have felt even better. I’m stronger and happier. My life doesn’t feel like I’m wandering through a Lars Von Trier film anymore. I’m nearing the end of this journey to find Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxxx, the person my family has held responsible for my brother’s death. It feels like perfect timing. Not only personally, but professionally: I don’t want the search to take over my life, or be the focus of this blog (“BLCKSMTH? Oh, you mean the Dead Brother Blog?”), even though the point of BLCKSMTH is to tell the story of people’s paths, however difficult, to lives they love, and were probably meant for all along.
One thing that has helped me heal is
vast amounts of boxed wine working on my set design for the stage adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. It’s a dream project of mine, combining Mr. Gaiman’s storytelling while aesthetically being inspired by a favorite artist of mine, Lee Bontecou. Most days, for almost two weeks, I have been at my theater from 10 am to 10 pm. I am exhausted, my hands look like hamburger meat, and I think I might permanently smell like metalworking/welding fumes. But I am so happy working on this project, making art again, and it’s so gratifying to see members of my “extended family” at Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles come by and help out. There are some pretty talented and generous people executing this project.
This week, I broke away from the set build for a couple of hours to talk to Mark De La Garza, Gilda De La Garza’s brother. Mark was probably the last person to see John alive, and the conversation solidified my decision on what to do with the new information I have now (that my resourceful sister Linda found), about where Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxx lives. Continue reading My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer Part 4: The Plan
On New Year’s Eve, 22 years ago, my big brother passed away of a drug overdose. This past year, I experienced a romantic loss…which would normally be fine, but this one hit me like a ton of bricks. Why? I believe my grief from the latter has to do with unresolved issues from the former. This series is an attempt to move past both of these losses, and start healing. We’re all in this together, and the stakes are never higher than when you take a stand for your own happiness.
If you haven’t yet, please read Part 1 here. And if you read that already, here’s Part 2. I just sold the rights to turn this into animated webisodes (this is a lie, I just wanted to type “webisode”).
Wow. Travel, time, and friends. In the last couple of weeks, I have finally felt like less and less like a grieving widower, and more like my old self again, the person I was before October 8th. Actually, I haven’t felt like my old self. I have spent the last couple of months challenging everything I think I know about me: I conquered a previously debilitating fear. I smoked weed for the first (and second) time in my entire life. I’m going to a gym for the first time in my life (this is a bigger deal than you think), getting on my bike most days. I am suddenly fearless about meeting people and making new friends, inserting myself into social situations. I made the decision to try out another city, one that fosters creativity and is a softer, kinder place for me to be right now than Los Angeles. Yeah, yeah, make all the jokes you want about “midlife crises”. This journey to find Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxxx, the woman who my family (but not me) calls my brother’s “killer”, is changing me, making me stronger. I like what I am turning into.
Don’t get me wrong. There are good days and bad, but the bad are fewer and fewer. No, friend, I still won’t go to see Silver Linings Playbook with you, not quite yet. No, I’m still avoiding watching that episode of Girls (just kidding, I’m not watching it anymore at all…Joe introduced me to it, and all it does is remind me of him now). And I can’t change the station fast enough when fun’s Some Nights, or Mumford’s I Will Wait comes on (haha, I just admitted I LISTEN TO RADIO. This is more embarrassing than anything I’ll ever cop to on this blog). But I am surfacing. I still miss “Joe”, but his ghost is fading. I’m going to be okay.
And then a funny thing happened: I found Mxxxxx Bxxxxxxxx. Continue reading My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer, Part 3: Ouroboros, Or The Myth Of Closure
On New Year’s Eve, 22 years ago, my big brother passed away of a drug overdose. This past year, I experienced a staggering personal, romantic loss. I believe the grief with the latter has to do with unresolved issues from the former. This series is an attempt to move past both of these losses, and start healing. The stakes are never higher than when you take a stand for your own happiness (autocorrect almost changed that to “steaks”, and I almost kept it).
If you haven’t yet, please click here and read the first post in this series. Seriously. It’s like a reality show. Sorry, I mean “unscripted drama”. Maybe a telenovela.
So this is what has happened: My sister Linda, who has been an invaluable partner in this search, helped put me in touch with Melecio and Grace De La Garza, parents of Gilda De La Garza, who knew John for about ten years. She was one of his closest friends at the time of his death. I reached Gilda by phone (she lives in Arizona with her family now), and the conversation was a revelation. She described John as being like another brother to her, in addition to her two biological brothers. She mentioned that they think of John often, and have many pictures of him…she described him as a sort of “missing link” of her family, and that his charisma and charm had not only won her and her siblings over, but that her parents were taken with him too. She told me many stories, many associated with good emotions, some with bad. Continue reading My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer, Part 2: Learning To Laugh Again
First in a series of five. If you’ve already read this, here is Part 2.
On December 31st, 1991, John Edward Hastings was a handsome, bright young 28 year old. He was known for being gregarious, spontaneous, and generous, and had a large circle of friends who loved him. He also happened to be a cocaine and heroin addict, an addiction that started in earnest when he was 26. After losing a great job and burning through his savings, his drug supply was funded by a friend of his in exchange for companionship. And on a sunny day 22 years ago, John Hastings was watching the New Year’s Eve parade in Phoenix, Arizona, when he suddenly became fatigued, stumbled against a wall, slid down it, and died. It was later presumed that he died of heart failure, brought about by the effects of drugs on his system. How do I know these details? Because John Hastings was my big brother. I have decided to find my brother’s “killer”, the woman who supplied my brother the funding that fueled his addiction. Continue reading My Brother’s Keeper, My Brother’s Killer Part 1
For the last few years, I’ve been taking care of my self pretty well: I eat healthy, exercise regularly, and try to get enough sleep, despite both my night owl/early-morning-writer habits. I do these things in no small part because I feel they contribute to my health, but also decrease my chances of getting cancer. Both of my parents have had brushes with cancer. Something that a friend is going through this week has made me think a little bit more about my parent’s experience, and I realized I didn’t know, I didn’t really know what they went through. So I decided to ask them.
I reached out to them cautiously, almost timidly: I had no idea how either of them would react to their son probing a delicate subject like battling cancer, or even having a close call with it, for writing he intended to share publicly (full disclosure: both of my parents had complete access to all drafts of this piece, and also retained full “veto power” in case they changed their minds). My friends and family know that I live my life transparently. It’s not a huge philosophical choice, it’s just how I feel. Yes, there are things that I tell only very few people, but in general, I haven’t really gained anything by keeping secrets. But I wasn’t prepared for how open and eager they were to share their challenges, their fears, and their courage. Continue reading The Unlikely 4-Letter Word: My Parents’ Brushes With Cancer