The Appreciation of a Life and the Sadness of Death.
Suddenly there's a lot to think about tonight.
One of the joys of the internet is the ability to keep in touch with people known from far away or long ago and in some cases people who have never been more than pixels and data on a screen. For someone like me who often forgot to value friendships enough and carelessly spent many years letting friends pass through my fingers like grains of sand, the internet has been a boon. Sometimes though I wonder if blissful ignorance doesn't have a bit going for it. This evening I got some news about someone I had never met and the coincidence of names led me to find out about someone else as well. A young person that I barely knew then and only heard of again because of a stray sliver of information that popped up online. The news has led me to try to put my thoughts down in a story and stories have rules and formulas and conventions so tonight I'll play by the rules.
Once upon a time. . . There were two Jesses.
One was a young guy who used to hang around the house.
The house was Howland House, an old wooden villa on MAC avenue in East Lansing, Michigan. It had become an independently run housing co-operative and was home to a fairly motley bunch of students all of whom attended the nearby Michigan State University. These weren't the slick, fraternity and sorority students who lived in the beautifully maintained houses further up the avenue. This wasn't the home of students with a trust fund future. You wouldn't ever mistake them for life's chosen people. It wasn't even really a coherent gang of any kind. It was just the collection that is left over when everyone else is gone, like the last person to get picked for a football team. This was all the last people to get picked for any football team ever.
Possibly because of the eclectic nature of the residents it was a pretty open and welcoming group. Not everyone was an angel and there was certainly enough of a dark side but it was one of the most open and mixed groups of humanity I witnessed in the US.
Jesse didn't live here. He was too young to be a student and nominally lived at home with his mother. In reality he lived wherever he fell asleep and couch or floor surfed around the homes of his friends in the Lansing area. Some of the Howland House residents knew him so he used to turn up on the living room floor occasionally. Jesse was in his teens and had just finished not graduating from high school. His "dropout" status may have been a problem in the job market but as a self employed drug dealer he wasn't attending a lot of interviews anyway. Like many small fry he dealt dope, speed and acid as a way of financing his own habits. Like many small fry he also wasn't very good at it and he had been arrested more than once. As a minor he was on a pretty endless series of probationary sentences. In theory supervised but in fact ignored.
Anyway he wasn't a major part of my universe. Someone to hear as he talked about how wasted he had been last night or to trip over as I wandered out for a run in the early midwest morning. He wasn't my friend nor really anyone's friend just someone who was part of the furniture of life in that town. When I packed my bags and headed out to the west coast I forgot about him and didn't give him a second thought. For decades.
The other Jesse.
I didn't know that this guy existed until long after I had left the states. He grew up in British Columbia in the seventies and moved to the US to make a living as a croupier in Las Vegas. He came to my notice when he started publishing stories and articles on LinkedIn and then Bebee.com. The stories dealt with a difficult upbringing, life in Vegas, his fight against cancer, a career as an amateur boxer, masseur, process server and cemetery worker. His mental health problems, drug addiction and so much more. The list seemed to go on forever. His entire existence seemed to be one huge, tumbling rollercoaster ride from high to low, round and round we go.
In among all the bullshit articles about "How to be a leader" or "Ten interview questions to avoid" his stuff stood out like Sammy Davis Jr at a Klan rally.
And then, somehow his life just calmed down.
He moved back to Nanaimo in BC. He wrote and got on with life. He published "Early Out" a book charting all the life experiences you probably wouldn't ever want your kids to go through and settled down to a much more relaxed existence. At least relatively.
His work experience was a roll call of professions and he managed to fit them all in and remember enough to write about it afterwards with wit, feeling, anger and in a way a kind of love. His writing was rough and real. It glowed with the authentic feeling you only get from having done the hard yards. He always replied to messages and I loved that he would follow up on suggestions and get back with his opinions. Once he struggled to find Christy Moore on iTunes as he was searching for a female vocalist and took a while to realise that Christy is a pretty normal name for men in Ireland. We traded a few messages and that was about the size of it. I thought that if I was ever back over in BC I would look him up or send him a note or something but in the meantime I just liked reading his stuff.
So! Two Jesses.
Not just two Jesses but two Jesses that I only barely knew and the reason they both feature in this tale tonight is that tonight is when I found out that one of them has died and the other is in prison.
The first Jesse was involved in a disagreement some years ago with someone outside a bar in East Lansing that he was too young to enter legally. He pulled a knife and fatally stabbed that person.
Stupid. Rash. Heedless of the future.
No more probation. Now it's the real deal and some things can't be undone. I wonder how it got to that but probably it got to that because of a thousand little things that became a big thing and someone lost his life.
The second Jesse lost his life because he contracted an infection following a back operation and although he rallied magnificently at one point and it seemed like he was well over the worst he simply stopped one day. On the 31st of December 2017 he was found sitting at his keyboard. Writing.
Jesse Kaellis RIP.
Some stories don't have a "happy ever after" ending. Some stories don't end with the good guys winning and some stories don't have a cute moral point that wraps everything up nicely.
In a real story the young loser would have sorted himself out and ditched the knife for some kind of positive existence.
In a real story the guy who fought everything and won would have had at least a few more years and perhaps would get the girl and ride into the sunset.
This just isn't that story.
At the start I said I would stick to the rules but I lied, beaten by the reality. I am sad at the waste of potential and the loss of life. These events didn't happen to strangers. They happened to people just like us and "There but for the grace of God" and all that. So tomorrow I'll be the same person I am today but perhaps I'll try to be a little bit more helpful and a slightly better person because today I got a reminder that life is unfair and we never know how the next part of the story is going to go.
Take care folks and shine as bright as you can.
I enjoy writing. It’s not the torture that some ex ...
The three zombies step back as the bus to Reykjavi ...
You have no groups that fit your search