RIP our daughter’s first best friend

We lost Alex this week after only having had him eight months, same age Imogen was when we adopted him.

From the beginning he proved himself to be a capable babysitter…

…except he never learned you’re supposed to pretend you were awake the whole time.

Most of the photos in this post are all from the first month or two. I keep thinking about how happy he made all of us, especially her.

“Gotcha” dayIMG_0747
First day
Second morning

Jacob liked to say that he acted like a reincarnated old miner, the way he held down our corner of 12th and Irwin. True to form, he managed to carve out a huge space for himself in a very short time. He leaves a huge hole behind.

This is random, but notice the cat-shredded bar stool in the picture below:

…because evidently our grief manifests itself in decorative duct tape and clearance paint.

Keeping the candles lit for the time being helps a little.
DSCN4699 RIP in kitty heaven.

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When I heard you’d suffered your third stroke I sat up searching for pictures of you but instead of you I found, in every picture, someone with long hair, a weed smoker, black hoodie with snakes on it and black sunglasses, someone sitting outside on a spring morning painting her dogs’ toenails, someone drinking coffee with honey, a huge glass of milk with her steak.

In a truck stop bathroom mirror shaking her head ‘no’ for ‘fuck yes,’ I don’t know if she reinforced me or I her, as I’m probably not supposed to.

4 my Steers family

Honoring: a work in progress

Tuesday 21/10/14 — with Raki, yarzeit candle, Hector
Wednesday 22/10/14 — with Abdellatif Laâbi*


O my friend

sleep well

you need it

because you worked hard

like an honourable man

Before you left

you left your office in order

neatly arranged

You switched off the lights

and on stepping out

you looked at the sky

which was almost painfully blue

You gracefully smoothed your moustache

and said to yourself :

only cowards

think that death is the end

Sleep well my friend

Sleep the sleep of the righteous

Rest well

even from your dreams

Let us shoulder the burden a little



Thursday 23/10/14 — with WHITE LILIES, amazing pine cone


Nejat Ağırnaslı: one more thing

When you lived with me on the island, could you see ahead to this moment in which they would raise you up?  Could you imagine how you would shine above, for them?

Photo: Ricardo Ginés
Photo: Ricardo Ginés

I thought we weren’t supposed to want to not be part of this world with its sunshine and its shadows. How did you change that so conclusively, so decisively? How did you make it seem like something else?

And is yours the first or second father we have seen bowing before his son’s decision to leave him, because his story is similar to the one whose story I listened to beside my grandfather in the pew,

so when he looks for you here in the world, when he looks at a humanity which drove you from him, and is still able to speak with love, by his lead, the gratitude is all on us.

Another world: more on Nejat Ağırnaslı

In some of the pictures of Nejat I have seen in the media, there is a light in his face that I didn’t see when he was sitting at the table working through his translations, or when he was looking at the sea.  We lived together on an island, but he never went swimming.
Sometimes, when a cool breeze would blow in our window, he would say it wasn’t a very nice day, that the weather was really bad. Man, I got on him for wasting vegetables: I binned tiers of zucchini and peppers; couldn’t grasp how he could not eat the ones he’d purchased before buying new ones
and lastly, undoubtedly most memorably, I returned to our house one evening to find a halved kitten on our doorstep, the head half, it looked like it was sleeping, its mother crunching its bones.
He can’t know, I thought, and be home not doing anything about this. Zombied straight up the stairs to his room without removing my boots, I don’t want to know what my face must have looked like,
and he was there, propped up in his small bed, on his laptop, not registering what I was telling him about the kitten, sympathetically looking like he wished I’d go away, so I scooped it myself into the shoebox I had also used as its crib, and my neighbor said kolay gelsin.
At the time I thought what could be more important than removing half of a kitten from your doorstep, but I think I get it now, or at least I am starting to.
Do you know how brave you would have to be, do you know how much fucking courage it would take to fight ISIS?  To know your death was likely? To do it anyway? To plan it?
It isn’t worth getting in fights with the neighbors. Smoke a cigarette if you want to or not. It’s about more than the weather, or swimming, or the damn zucchini. It’s about more than even <gasp> than the kitten.
His close friends said that he would always think about how another world was possible. He was focused on, and died in, his fight for it. And I guess I, still in this one, just miss him.
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Nejat Ağırnaslı died for what he believed in


Nejat Ağırnaslı (1984 – 2014) was killed last week defending the Kurdish city of Kobani from ISIS

I’ve thought of Nejat many times since I noticed, upon returning home one afternoon in August, that his books were gone. I’d sent him an sms from the ferry (as he and I were both wont to do) “warning” him that I was coming and, when I hadn’t heard back, assumed that he was either sleeping or without credit, probably the latter since he would wake up to answer an sms: he was a good communicator.

Once I heard our neighbor yelling, and when I looked out the window I saw that she was yelling at Nejat. He was just standing there taking it from her, nodding. When he walked into our place I asked him how he could stand to let her yell at him like that. “She doesn’t have anything else to do,” he told me. “Let her yell.” He knew which battles were worth fighting.

I could tell right away that he wasn’t home, that he hadn’t been in a while. All of the curtains were drawn as if for the whole season.  And now I feel as though I am piecing together a mystery I could have tried harder to solve. He told me, for example, that he was going to have at least twenty people stay here the night I left for the States, I never even asked him about it. I remember thinking I could have at least told him someone could have my bed.

Red Angry Birds sweatshirt, sweatpants, coffee, slippers, daily translations which bored him. Talking to him on the ferry and walking up the steep hill together, which he pointed out to me actually dips down and gets easier in a couple spots; I hadn’t noticed them before. Hanging up his clothes and folding them which he felt bad about but which I didn’t mind doing at all.

His father had been a chef, he’d once told me with pride at the table, as we ate the wonderful breakfast he’d made.

4 my Steers family

I met Danny, Babs and family in 1999 or 2000 when I was working at the Trempealeau Hotel and Babs started there.  How did it happen that their family became my family?  I don’t know.  Danny and Babs’ daughter Allison and I became best friends.  She had an old Audi she could fix herself which she used to drive FAST around La Crosse down alleys through gas stations, it was FUN, my heart beats fast now just thinking of it.  When you are best friends with someone there are obviously a lot of good memories but another one that makes me smile is sleeping in this bed in the Trempealeau house with Al and someone else who crashed in it woke up a little excited and was proving so on my leg and Al and shoved him right out of the bed onto the floor, it was awesome.  She carried me up a hill when I cut my foot on a bottle when we were jumping over a bonfire.  Her foot was also cut.  She went to work the next morning.  I took two weeks off.

I lived at Danny and Babs’ in Onalaska with John in 2002 when I returned from Greece and had no place to live, I never planned these things, still don’t.  I called Babs and she drove up to Winona in a truck and helped me load up all my stuff.  We had known each other only a couple of years at this point.  One day–I forgot to say that Danny was a collector–John and I thought we would “help” by going through some drawers for them and we threw stuff away like rare motorcycle parts, to this day I don’t even know what the f*ck we were thinking going through someone’s stuff like that but Danny and Babs FORGAVE me, not like they said it was fine but still held it against me either, I mean actually forgave me like in the Bible, I think they believed me when I said I was sorry and to this day I still don’t understand the depths of that forgiveness considering how far I was out of line but it was there and now it is its OWN thing.

I remember falling asleep one night when Al and Danny were in the garage talking or working on a bike, when I woke up eight hours later they were still out there talking, it wasn’t a big deal for them to spend all of that time together all of the time and that is only part of what makes a family great and also I learn that from them, eat food together in the kitchen and talk for HOURS a lot of people do this, but there is a different sense of something around them I don’t know how else would I remember one time standing around a kitchen table eating lasagna eight years ago and yet forget an interview I had this morning, but I am suddenly colder on finding my way back overseas than I was last week after Danny’s death and the real life that ensued it seems my job search proceedings much more tedious and like threading through molasses than before, maybe my whole paradigm’s gotta shift, maybe it already has, it just made me think of the people we choose to keep close.  Again.

Funeral proceedings
 Matt and Al

I was home on Monday night April 2nd, wondering why I had scheduled two interviews for the day after my birthday, when I found out Danny died.  I’d been waiting for a call from a school in Africa that I think I knew wasn’t going to come in and just basically squandering time when I saw something some of our Hotel friends said to Babs about Danny.  & how does it change so fast?  How does our collective mentality adjust, in one week, to speaking of someone in the past?  I don’t think they are questions to which anyone knows the answers, & even if they did, we probably wouldn’t want to hear them, and what can you possibly offer a family when their anchor has slipped,  and I didn’t know him as well as his closest friends or his family members, spending too much time away from La Crosse, but here goes.

Myrick Park Gun Shelter, La Crosse, Wisconsin, April 7, 2012

To say that Danny Steers’ funeral was unlike any other funeral seems pretty transparent to those of us who knew him.  No one is like anyone else, but really no one was like Danny.  “La Crosse will never be the same,” a friend wrote, what a true statement: in the twelve years that I knew him, to me he became synonomous with the city.  I knew I’d found the right place when I saw the Harleys, followed two of them in.  Got there just in time to hear the minister, under a tent and hooked up to a microphone and amp, begin his words about and for the family, his prayers.  To hear him speak about how Danny loved Sierra and Rainier, Angela, his oldest daughter’s two kids, and Al’s Xavi and Maurice, the last of whom he had just nicknamed Jiminy Cricket, how much he loved his four children and showed it everyday in his actions, showing up from the road, still in the rig, to Matt’s game, to Sammy’s graduation.  Smiling.  Smiling.  Smiling.

Maybe because I monkey around with words so much or used to and will again, I’ve always been big on people who enact love, I mean show it in everyday actions, somewhere most people wouldn’t think to look for a distilled love from a father to his child, showing up at a basketball game in a semi because you would rather be there than home changing anything.  And that was the main thing about Danny.  He wanted to be there, and he was there, contrast that with the people you encounter who have settled for a boring, template existence.  Nope, he was a big live-r, love-r, cry-er.  He’ll be missed by his family who is already starting to learn how to be able to shine without him

& then Babs said with equanimity I just wanted him to be happy, who is going to look at me like he did, two of the truest statements I have ever heard, if you are into that sort of thing.  Which I am.

Life minus one.

When I heard that he had refused to be hospitalized, I thought of our house getting t.p.’ed when I was in high school.  Always a fear to see white after being gone for a week.  And sure enough, there were the streamers in the tops of the trees, we could see them from the school down the street.  And then we pulled into the driveway and I saw my grandfather in the late afternoon light on an extension ladder cleaning the trees.And that is when I realized that the streams were only in the tops of the trees.  And then my eyes took in the white ball in the yard, it was probably about as big as a car, I don’t know how long it would take someone to pick up all of those pieces.  And the next day at school everyone was loving it but they didn’t know he had saved me all of that humiliation of having to clean it up, not even saved it from me, it never even touched me.And now we are getting the pictures together, the pictures of our whole lives with him, and I am looking in my oldest photo albums and going back to the beginning and remembering when he was so proud of me for silly things and I always wanted to be good in his eyes, so now I guess I go on and keep trying to do that without him, and this is the beginning of that time.  And I remember the good times, thanks for calling, babe, all of the little and big ways that he saved me.

Gaga “Joe” Rahn, 1922-2012