March 4, 2008

A Rotten Apple

Sometimes my iTunes shuffle does a terrible job at it. A few times a month it ignores my thousands of tracks and decides to work its way through the Modest Mouse catalog every 7 to 10 songs. I have no idea why iTunes does this but it is as if a ghost has made its way into my laptop to make himself known.

I say himself because there is a dead person involved, a man, and while I don't actually believe in spirits, his memory makes his way to me time and time again.

Thanks Apple?

For the purpose of this story I will call my friend Henry Nurse. Henry and I met at a CMJ showcase for the Peechees in NYC at a venue called The Cooler in 1996. I was taking pictures of boys I thought were cute and well, he was. We became fast friends and for the week we ran into each other several times a night. He was an avid music fan and had made a mecca like trip from Ohio to see as many of his favorite bands as possible.

There is one important thing to note here. Modest Mouse was his favorite among favorites.

He had befriended the band the last time they played his hometown and he in turn made it a point to travel to see them a few times a year, usually in NY. For the bulk of, if not for all of these trips, he stayed with me while I was living in Hoboken, NJ.

As it worked out, I was an old friend of Modest Mouse (back when I called Seattle my home in the early 90's) so together Henry and I made his East Coast visits about spending time with the band and pursuing his second greatest passion, thrift store shopping for tee-shirts with stupid phrases on it.

Henry and I also traveled to Seattle for a week together to spend time with the band on their / my old stomping ground. One of my favorite memories of this trip is Henry, Jeremy Green, and I climbing around the base of the famous waterfall from the TV show Twin Peaks and then being introduced to Jeremy's parents for the first time. They proudly showed off their dining room which had become a shrine to their son and his musical accomplishments in Modest Mouse. Seeing the pride in Jeremy's parent's face and hanging all over their walls framed was a truly sweet private moment among friends that has stayed with me all these years.

A year or so later an old roommate of Henry's called me out of the blue. It was strange enough she was calling me, no less at work (how did she even have my number I wondered?) and her small talk was curious at best. Within minutes she quietly questioned out loud how she could tell me the news.

Our friend Henry was dead.

This was the first time I had ever received a call about a friend dying and it was also the first of many friends of mine to come whose name would be followed by "died of an overdose." The news was especially shocking because Henry didn't drink and he wasn't known to be much a drug user no less a hard drug user. He was a healthy, athletic, vibrant, positive guy and suddenly he was gone. I was in utter shock.

The story goes that he fell in love with some junkie girl and she shot him up with too much heroin his first time out. I still don't have a clue how true this part of the story is but it doesn't really matter much. Henry was gone and it was my turn to call our mutual friends including the Modest Mouse crew. It was a nearly impossible call to make but I choked out the words. It was also the last conversation I had with any members of the band or their housemates.

I couldn't bring myself to listen to their records for years no less see them live. It seemed all wrong without my friend Henry to share the pleasure with and rather than their music bringing me comfort, it made me sick to stomach. The Moon & Antarctica sat on my record shelf collecting dust waiting for the day I was ready to face it and now nearly a decade later my computer has decided for me that the time is now.

Anyone who knew Henry equated him with music and I have wonder how someone who dated him, had private moments revolving around his passion for music and then proceeded to kill him accidentally lives not just with themselves, but with the records he loved. If I am haunted by one band and silly shirts with pointless quotes like "I like it Fresh" I hope this woman is haunted by hundreds of records that are as real as Henry once was.

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