*** RYAN TATE: Shocking secrets--revealed! ***





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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

I forgot the birthday of Laura, one of my very best friends, last week. Coincidentally, I almost forgot my brother Stephen's birthday tonight. Thank God I update my weblog by first clicking a button in CityDesk and then typing out the current date as the name of the new file.

Laura I met my very first day at Berkeley. She lived next door to me in Unit 2 and, as it turned out, we had some common acquiantences in her hometown of Manhattan Beach. (There's a big Manhattan Beach-Camp Stevens connection.) We carried on for the next five years or so a brilliantly rambanctious friendship, filled with late night talks, drinking, pot smoke, yelling, fights, faux-fights, proclamations of devtion, and widely assorted debauchery of all sort.

She had Grateful Dead and I had my "juice," the term her and her freshman year roomate coined for rap music, preferably blared through my roomate's enormous, amplified electric bass speaker. She had her hippie co-op friends, I had my straighlaced Daily Cal cronies. She cussed like a sailor and would holler loudly at the slightest provocation; most of my girlfriends, like me, had much more delicate sensibilities (Laura loved to make fun of one female friend of mine who asked in a squeaky-girly voice for a male acquiantence to feed her pizza because it was too hot to pick up.) I had a fairly uptight attitude toward drugs and alcohol that took many years to ease; Laura at one point seemed intent on experimenting with everything on the planet.

The one thing we had in common was an ferocious curiousity -- about life, about the lives of others, about the world. And near-complete fearlessness about verbal confrontation. As her friends would say, we were both "totally drama." Not just with each other, but with everyone. We loved to manufacture it.

Laura and I are still friends, although there was a bit of a pause when she went off to the Peace Corps for two years, and she now lives in LA. I'm sure she's still drama though, which is why I sort of fear calling her to apologize. But I will, and hopefully she'll forgive me, perhaps after a helping of drama, and we'll be friends again. I remember once in college she forgave some major transgression after she saw I had posted a picture of her and I and our good friend Alan on my website. I had no idea she would find this touching. It's hard to tell with Laura.


I have been thinking a lot about old friends lately, not just because of Laura. I've been thinking about them in part because I am a very sentimental person and have a very tough time with change. Like Laura and most of my other closest friends and family, I am a Cancer, or at least on the cusp of being one.

I have also been thinking about them because my good friend Thomas Oh died on June 22 in Brazil. Thomas had been there about three or four months, if you count a prior trip from which he returned only for a week or two. He had traveled there after leaving Sun Microsystems, where he was a sales engineer, travelling all over the world helping set up Sun systems and helping answer questions from sales prospects. He fell in love with Brazil and wanted to stay there until he learned Portuguese. He used to say in all seriousness that this was a language he wanted to learn "because it would be such a useful language to know." He was making plans to extend his visit when, after journeying off from his friends' campsite on the beach one night, he fell off of a cliff into the water below.

Thomas was methodical, perfectionist, disciplined, patient and a superb teacher. He was also an energetic conversationalist, so much so that people sometimes became exasperated when, for example, he would not stop talking and leave their home to let them sleep late at night after an evening of spirited discussion.

Thomas was the first person I ever wrote for at the Daily Cal. He also took me under his wing and taught me the process for putting the paper online, which was much easier than it had been thanks to the fact that he marshalled, through sheer nagging and persistencer, everyone in the production department into using an orderly digital workflow. An AppleScript program he wrote to help speed online publishing, and some books he leant me, launched me on a rediscovery of computer programming, which I had not tinkered with since I was in Elementary School. (I proceeded from AppleScript to Frontier/UserTalk to Perl, at which I have become increasingly proficient after many years of study and practice.) He basically set me on track for the professional life I lead today, as well as one of my chief hobbies (programming). Even my car, a 1996 Geo Prizm, was the product of Thomas' obsessions. He explained several times how he had sought out a Geo Prizm -- he eventually flew to Texas to pick up a used one he found online -- because it has the guts of the uver-reliable Toyota Corolla without the name recognition, artificially depressing its resale value. He even let me borrow his during a trip to Italy, before I bought my own on his advice.

Because Thomas could be exasperating, it was easy to take him for granted, to spend less time with him than perhaps one should. And now, of course, there are moments when all I can think of are the times we missed together, and the covnersations we didn't have, and that I never told him how much he meant to me. The times we did have were critical to my life today.

Thomas' funeral was July 9 in Whittier. His family was there, including his sister Barabara, who read memorials from his friends in Brazil. Friends from Los Angeles attended, and a group of us flew down from Berkeley, meeting others who now live in the area.

Just like anyone, I am left to wonder who in Thomas' absence will badger the world into submission, into some small perfection, and thus into grace. As George Bernard Shaw wrote,

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.


There is also the impending departure for New York City of two people who have been dear friends to me over the last couple of years, who have laughed at me and with me, well mostly at me, and loved me in my inexusable and tolerable and exemplary moments alike, and in fact expanded the definition of "exemplary" greatly at moments so that I can slip into the definition.

They are part of a lively, eccentric, diverse, weird, brilliant, inexplicably entertaining and most of all fat group of friends who will now evolve into ... I don't know what. I want to tell the sentimentalist inside me not to worry, especially given the folks who are still around, including at least one close and old friend. And by old I mean, OLD.


Lately it seems like I have failed to make too many important phone calls to too many friends, and failed to return too many e-mails. The fault is entirely my own, funeral notwithstanding, and it would do me well not to be sol fatalistic and mopey, and appreciate the friends I do have, and not wallow in regret or nostalgia. And into the bin with the lines, played over in my car, idling in the BART parking lot this morning, filling time before the train and the next round of friendly drama and rambunctiousness:

who are you now
and who were you then
that you thought somehow
you could just pretend
that you could figure it all out
the mathematics of regret
so it takes two beers to remember now
and five to forget
that i loved you so
yeah, i loved you, so what


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