I try not to dwell on the death but every once in a while a memento mori (reminder of death) comes floating through your field of vision. One of Facebook’s more annoying little traits is a list that pops up in the upper right hand corner of your home page, telling you what an awful friend you are. It tells you you haven’t connected with so-and-so in such-and-such a time and that if you weren’t such a self-centred bastard you would send people messages once in a while. I have two friends who are on this list quite a bit but there is a very good reason I haven’t sent them a message: they’re dead.
I actually have three dead friends on my Facebook Friends list but I am assuming the third hasn’t been dead long enough for Facebook’s automatic “lousy friend” system to pick up that no one sends him personal messages anymore. Oddly enough, all three of them are musicians as well. I’ve had other non-musical friends die before but it was before the invention of Facebook and though the dead may retain their Facebook pages, they rarely start them.
Hardy Hansen was the last to go: Cancer. He fought it hard but death will always win out in the end whether it hits you with the first or third pitch. Hardy had been singing in musicals dating back to 1955. I met him at karaoke a few years ago. It is no secret to anyone that Hardy annoyed the hell out of me on even the best of days. The fact that he did annoy me is unimportant (it isn’t that difficult). What caused him to annoy me was important: he always wanted my opinion.
In his later years, Hardy parlayed his appearance and singing voice into a sweet little Sinatra Tribute gig. He’d break out the bow tie for Cancer fundraising events and contests. He really was pretty good. But he was always a little uncertain of himself – Should he do this song and that gesture? After a while it got annoying but I always respected that he wanted to be all he could. He just wanted to be good. Well Hardy, you were.
I met Paul Preminger when he was drumming for The Smugglers. The first time I went to The Town Pump, I was underage and using his ID. His laugh could fill a stadium. It was more of a good-spirited cackle, actually. His father found it strangely fitting that such a caring and giving person should die of an enlarged heart. Paul and I hadn’t seen each other much in the years before he died, but it was, ironically, Facebook that allowed us to reconnect. I still see Paul everywhere. But I don’t hear that laugh anymore and that is how I know he is really gone.
If Paul was a shock, Mike was a crime. Mike Gurr, another drummer, hadn’t even made it out of his twenties when an tour van accident in Manitoba punched his ticket. Admittedly, I didn’t know Mike as well as his other friends and I feel bad that we never got the time. But we did have time together and I still shudder to think how much of that time was spent in the van that would eventually be his death. Mike’s death was one of the moments in my life where I stopped and took stock, then decided what direction to head off in. I guess I can thank him for that too.
Hardy’s site hasn’t been picked up by the Facebook bots yet, but it will. When he does, Hardy will be another “friend who doesn’t visit anymore” who periodically checks in with me to see what mundane fact I am throwing up on Facebook that day.
Most of you are familiar with my workspace but I wonder if you have ever seen these: a hand-drawn picture of Mike, The Smugglers’ first 45, and a bow tie. Facebook isn’t the only thing that remembers.