April 2nd, 2009


A life: Remembering Erin Bennett

31 years. March 5th, 1978 to March 27th, 2009. That was the time a woman named Erin Bennett was with us. The quantity is quantified, easily and in type, like in an obituary. The quality, of course, is far more subjective. Takes more to determine. Takes thought.

A memorial is a good way to inspire that thought.

Between 20 and 30 people – from family to friends both in person and online – went to an Oregon City church for the 2:00 Wednesday service. At the same time, if all went as planned, an online memorial took place (somewhere on Greedy Or Needy, a site where Erin created an account). Separate remembrances, for two different groups, both striving to process the loss. Both striving to place a stake in time: Around this, we’ll build our memory of Erin. We’ll share that memory, make it a collective memory, add to it; that’s what we can give her. It’s an imperfect substitute for life, but it’s what we do when someone leaves us: make sure the memory of that person stays.

We learned of her life. It was hard-charging: an active, perfectionist, stubborn life. After growing up in Southern California, a young Erin went to the Oregon Coast for the first time and ran into the ocean…then ran out almost as quickly, shocked by how much colder the Pacific is there than it is a thousand miles south. (I’ve swam at both coasts: I can imagine what she felt!) Parents – birth- and step- – and older relatives spoke of raising her; her fiancé Matt spoke of falling in love with her. We thought about Erin’s love of books, her expansive study of religion (encouraged in an interfaith household that each December had a Christmas tree with a Star of David on top) and her love of music and poetry. There were two readings: first, from Sanskrit poet Kalidasa:
Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence.
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of achievement
Are but experiences of time.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!
The second was from Rabindranath Tagore:
…Life as a whole never takes death seriously. It laughs, dances and plays, it builds, hoards and loves in death's face. Only when we detach one individual fact of death do we see its blankness and become dismayed. We lose sight of the wholeness of a life of which death is part. It is like looking at a piece of cloth through a microscope. It appears like a net; we gaze at the big holes and shiver in imagination. But the truth is, death is not the ultimate reality. It looks black, as the sky looks blue; but it does not blacken existence, just as the sky does not leave its stain upon the wings of the bird.
Erin charged at her chronic conditions the way she charged at life, researching treatments like mad. She lived with those conditions for years, still getting outdoors for camping, swimming and hammock-sleeping when she could. It took a lot to stop her. I knew that just from my limited experience of her online, of Project Download and the attendant drama of that effort. I knew that more strongly by the end of her memorial.

After the formal service, we slowly left our pews to go to the food, coffee and tea waiting in the back of the church, and we visited. I spoke with her family and friends. Matt told of their low-key celebration of Erin’s 31st birthday a month ago. Friends talked about her competitive streak. Parents talked about her annoyance at wearing dresses. A friend named Becky who’d met Erin online spoke of their last conversation, a phone call with Erin in Portland and Becky near the coast. More laughs happened. People wrote names and messages in a small notebook. We cried a little more. We hugged, or shook hands, a little more. We connected a little more.

While there, I had unexpected moments of connection: seeing Erin’s picture and realizing she looked not unlike my friend zarhooie, or noticing that a bouquet of flowers was sent by the same OHSU clinic where I’ve gotten check-ups. These were surprising moments where different lives seemed almost to rhyme. Then I’d get over the little shivers of shock: C’mon, Chris, people have more connections and similarities than you’d think. Don’t read more into these moments than what’s already in them.

Instead, it can be put more simply: death happens after life happens. One needs the other. Neither is that easy, really, but both are necessary: they are connected, intertwined, and complicated, but they are there. Erin has experienced both. It passes our understanding, what she has experienced; but that doesn’t make it less valid an experience.

It’s life which we can have a better chance of understanding. It’s not easy, either, but Erin did it, as best she could. We celebrated her life as best we could.

The music program for Erin Bennett’s memorial:

“A Change Is Gonna Come,” Sam Cooke
“Might As Well Catch the Wind,” Donovan
“Live Like You Were Dying,” Tim McGraw
“The Difference,” Matchbox Twenty
“#9 Dream,” John Lennon

“The Circle of Life,” Elton John and the London Community Gospel Choir
“Lucky,” Colbie Cailat & Jason Mraz

“Forever Young,” Joan Baez
“Unwell,” Matchbox Twenty
“What A Wonderful World,” Louis Armstrong
“The Circle of Life,” Carmen Twillie and Lebo M
“The End of the Innocence,” Bruce Hornsby and the Range
“I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz
iAm iSaid

Held in thrall by the Legs of Amy Acker

I'm less than one episode away from completing Angel Season Two (I've been watching episodes piecemeal during Cort and Fatboy's show), and appreciating that this show could both go to really, really dark places, story-wise (like in the middle of Season 2, for example, with that Angel-closing-the-doors moment or the, um, burninating) and also go to goofier places, story-wise. I doubt Buffy the Vampire Slayer could've done anything like Lorne's home dimension, with that dog and the bearded mom and with Charisma Carpenter almost looking like Wonder Woman at one point and with calling humans "cows" and with yes, oh yes, Numfar doing the dance of joy. Makes me appreciate even more the balancing act the Buffy/Angel producers did, making one show lighter if the other show was darker; after all, on Buffy at the same time the world was about to end.

Continued rest-in-peace thoughts, Andy Hallett (who played Lorne the demon on Angel). I hope Joss Whedon dedicated tomorrow night's episode of Dollhouse to you.

Leering Alert: I think I wibbled a little bit at Amy Acker's legs.

Good season, overall. The dialogue, to me, still too often seems to be trying too hard to be clever, but I know that's part of its style. It still sometimes seemed less natural than on Buffy, even though the language on Buffy is just as stylized in its own way. I can't fully explain dialogue, and not even Stephen King can, either. Quote, why not? From On Writing:
It's hard to say what's wrong with [H.P.] Lovecraft's dialogue, other than the obvious: it's stilted and lifeless, brimming with country cornpone... When dialogue is right, we know. When it's wrong we also know -- it jags on the ear like a badly tuned musical instrument.
Thank goodness that even at less than its best, the Angel dialogue ain't nearly that bad. Maybe it's more a showing-off quality that's rubbing me the wrong way. It's possible for dialogue to have flair and also be direct. It doesn't have to be, as Dorothy Parker said about wisecracking, "calisthenics with words."

I'm being too harsh (I can be the same way about how I speak!). Again, Angel's a good show, getting better (and clearly doing its thing with more of a budget than Season 1 had).

Speaking of TV, look out (maybe): soon I'll finally take a look at Season 1 of Lost and see if I react favorably to it. DVDs are waiting for borrow-age. *thumbs up*
Whale fluke

Still ain't got no job? (Friday on Friday at the Bagdad)

To any of y'all reading this who might be goin' to tomorrow night's Cort and Fatboy Late Night Movie presentation of Ice Cube's stoner opus Friday (hey! I made a poll about it!):

Are you also thinking of attending May's Cort and Fatboy late night movie, The Big Lebowski? The big annual screening thing that's spawned such delights as The March of the Lebowskis? Cort and Fatboy have promised to tell Friday's audience how they'll be more likely to be able to get into The Big Lebowski early.

Get the scoop. Also get laughs c/o Cube, Chris Tucker, and the rest of their neighborhood. For real.
iAm iSaid

The happy-causing things

Time for what's making me laughing and happy.

Like running into the song "Break My Stride" on VH1.


Ten Top Trivia Tips about Chris Walsh!

  1. White chocolate isn't technically chocolate, because it doesn't contain Chris Walsh!
  2. There are roughly 10,000 man-made objects the size of Chris Walsh orbiting the Earth.
  3. The Chris Walsh-fighting market in the Philippines is huge - several thousand Chris Walsh-fights take place there every day.
  4. The opposite sides of Chris Walsh always add up to seven.
  5. In a pinch, the skin from a shark can be used as Chris Walsh!
  6. Chris Walshomancy is the art of telling the future with Chris Walsh!
  7. It is bad luck to light three cigarettes with the same Chris Walsh.
  8. Britain's Millennium Dome is more than double the size of Chris Walsh.
  9. A Chris Walshometer is used to measure Chris Walsh!
  10. Ostriches stick their heads in Chris Walsh not to hide but to look for water!
I am interested in - do tell me about

(Thanks, coffeeinhell!)