Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Things I learned from a fallen brother - this note's for you

My entire life I've had this tendency of retaining mass amounts of useless music facts and information, to the point that if one were to open up my skull and analyze my brain, it just might resemble an episode of Hoarders. Sure, I’m the occasional go-to guy for music related facts opposed to Google, but other than self-amusement, it really doesn’t get me very far.

With that being said, and because of an extremely tragic incident, a number of those facts have been surfacing lately giving me the opportunity to reflect and remember with great fondness as to when and where I learned them.

The year was 1997 and I met this guy Ryan through a friend of mine, Jeff. He was an ordinary average guy and instantly gave off a genuine good-nature type aura. He needed little-to-no warming up to and I can honestly say I liked him the moment I shook his hand. Within just a short while, we recognized we had a lot in common, and just like that, an instant camaraderie was born.

The love of music was just one common ground Ryan and I stood on and together we both shared quite the admiration for Nirvana. I always thought I knew everything there was to know about the band until the time Ryan mentioned his favourite Nirvana track was a song called “Marigold”. I had never heard the song before and just assumed he was mistaken with something else, but it was he who introduced me to a huge slew of Nirvana b-sides that I never knew existed. Still to this day, whenever I hear the first few chords to one of the many Nirvana b-sides loaded on my iPod, Ryan instantly comes to mind.

Then there was the time I wore a Goo Goo Dolls shirt to a Goo Goo Dolls concert. A few of us went to an all day festival race car/concert event years ago, and one of the bands playing was the Goo Goo Dolls. I happened to have a Goo’s shirt tucked away in the back of my closet and I figured it was more than the appropriate thing to wear that day. It wasn’t until we got to Ryan’s house before leaving that maybe my choice of attire wasn't such a good idea. Apparently I was committing a major concert faux pas - wearing a band shirt to the show of the band you’re going to see. The hazing came fast and furious as a pissing contest ensued between us, but by the time the jabs had finally subsided, I probably would’ve taken less abuse had I worn socks with sandals instead. To this day, if ever I’m at a concert and see a fan wearing a shirt just like I did all those years ago, I fight temptation of tapping the person on the shoulder with a, “er, excuse me, but don’t you know….”. Needless to say, I’m seasoned with concert attire these days. Payback is a bitch though - I had a field day the day Ryan revealed he was a Limp Bizkit fan.

Fast forward a summer later, Ryan had a barbeque with a group of friends. When the first few bars of the Phil Collins’ hit, “In The Air Tonight” hit the radio, Ryan told the tale behind the song of which none of us had ever heard before. According to the lyrics, the song is based on a true story where Collins witnesses a man refusing to come to the aid of a drowning swimmer, and years later Collins invites the perpetrator to the show where he premieres the song for the first time. And now because the man has been disclosed of his long lost secret, he immediately commits suicide following the concert in a fit of guilt. Ryan told this story with such convincing and meticulous detail, I was blown away and made him tell it twice. As compelling as the story was, it wasn’t until a few years later that I learned the story was complete folklore and turned out to be one of rock n roll’s greatest myths apparently. A little disappointing actually, but it was still fun to hear and I’ve never forgotten where I was and who told me the story.

Although Ryan and I were never the closest of friends and only saw each other sporadically over the past ten years or so, it was always like no time had ever passed whenever we did cross paths. He was always the jovial, happy-go-lucky Ryan I had ever known.

The day we learned of his brave yet harrowing passing, it was all just too surreal and mind numbing to fully comprehend. Trying to make sense out of an act so unspeakable and heinous, all I could think of is something so horrific unfortunately happened to one hell of a human being.

If anything positive has come out of his unspeakable tragedy, it’s all the memories that have come flooding back – captures in time that define one’s youth. To have known him is an honour and a privilege, and I honestly believe I’m a better person for it.

Sgt. Ryan Russell #7686, you are forever saluted.
Thanks for the memories, my friend.

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