Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I miss you, Drew

Drewid McGilvra, nee Andrew Leroy Kellogg, died Monday, June 25th, 2007. I've wanted to write about it, but it's been so hard to know the words. Many of those who do not know him may feel sympathy for me, but think that, since they did not know him, his loss of life means little to them personally.

Anyone reading this would be mistaken to think so. Drew influenced me, my life and ideas and opinions, to such a degree that anyone who knows me has also felt a little bit of Drew.

The tendency to speak in general terms of one who has passed is not appropriate for Drew. I could say, for example, that "he was one of those rare individuals who truly exhibited generosity and compassion," but, while true, it does not come close to the truth, nor the flavor of his reality.

Most people would like to believe themselves unique in the world, cherished and special. Few could come close to exactly how unique Drew was. He was an oddity among the odd; freaky among the freaks. I do not say this disparagingly- he would have been delighted by it! I can see him now, cackling at me with his huge grin, head cocked sidewise, eyes looking somehow UP at me though he towered over me by a good half a foot. He wears his chauffeur's cap, the same one he wore every time he drove his hearse, the same one which survived the demolition of his beloved vehicle, and which even now rests on Ross' dash as a tribute.

The best way I can think of to have you as readers come to know the Drew I knew, is to relate some vignettes of our past. To begin: "Having coffee" is a verb, a hobby, a habit, a pasttime, and was our main source of entertainment. I was at IHOP with Copper, and I clearly remember seeing Drew round the corner. He was not the newcomer- I was. We were both non-smokers and a non-coffee drinkers, which may seem normal, but was quite unusual in our little circle. Instead, he drank Dr. Pepper, liberally seasoned with 7 packets of sugar. I drank Diet Coke. I cannot now remember which came first- Rocky Horror Picture Show or Drew, but the two are inexplicably twined together for me. I acted at the Magic Lantern as Janet in Spokane's "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Oh yes, I could pull it off back then, if barely. *grin* I remember Drew most often as Riff Raff, but he played Brad, too. After the show, we'd all go out for coffee and BS for hours. Some of my fondest memories were spent thus, dressed in a bustier, fish net stockings, and face paint, laughing and talking and flirting until dawn.

I worked with Drew at Dick's for nearly four years. He didn't get me the job, per se- he insisted I'd never be hired if it were known I was his friend- but he encouraged me to apply. I can't say any fast food job has ever been pleasant, but it was fast paced, steady, and it did supply a sure income. I liked many of my co-workers. I still don't know whether Drew genuinely liked the job or not, but he took enormous pride in his abilities there. The man could peel and slice spuds into fries faster than anyone I had seen. It looked dangerous to me in fact, which might have no little bearing on how proud he was to do it. Whomp, whomp whompwhompwhomp... in a spud went, and he was pulling the lever almost before his hand came away. He never once nicked himself- for all it LOOKED dangerous, he was very careful- just fast and proud of it. He could do anything, anywhere in that place. He never slacked off that I could see, but every moment did everything as efficiently as he could. "Lazy" was not in his vocabulary.

He taught me how to make a "Graveyard," his signature Dick's shake. You take a quart-sized drink container, and put a little squirt of every flavor in it. Chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, raspberry, orange, root beer, hot fudge... everything. Mix it all up and you have a thick, brown mess. Not many people knew about they graveyard, but those that did were regular consumers of the shake, and always tipped us well, heh.

Halloweens were, of course, Drew's favorite holiday. He was Wiccan (my first experience with such), and Samhain was a religious holiday for him. At work, he always dressed up in what seemed to be a sincere attempt to make onlookers lose their lunch. Spiders, fake flesh dripping blood and ichor, looking ready to drop off his skin- if it was gross, it was on his costume. Poor Linda, Dick's co-owner, had to try to persuade Drew it wasn't a positive experience for customers who wanted to eat. He was indignant and pissed off, but he did eventually remove at least the most offensive of the tissues.

It was on a Halloween that Drew lost his hearse. The loss of it was a hard, hard blow, and we all knew it, though he endured it stoically, forcing himself to laugh. All of us coffee-drinkers had experienced Drew's hearse. We'd spend weekends "cruising" in the back of it, and it was a well-known fixture on the streets of Spokane. We'd go to movies at the drive in, and I think the Drive-in people hated us, because he could really pack a crowd in back there! We'd scatter, or lay on the roof, and it was a social occasion more than it was movie watching- I don't recall a single movie seen there. But one Halloween, he was driving it and flipped it end over end. Not a roll, from side to side, but back over front. A hearse! Miraculously, Drew was fine, though the car was completely totaled. He was safe, strapped into the driver's side by his seat belt, even though the seat itself went through the windshield, out from under him. It was found down an embankment- if that seat had contained Drew, there's no way he'd have survived the fall.

Eventually, I moved into an apartment in Drew's building. He was one floor above mine. To see it, one would be hard pressed to prove modern furniture existed. His bed was a coffin, and every other fixture seemed to consist of milk crates fastened together with duct tape. Drew loved duct tape, and taped up everything with it, including Christmas presents, every single year. Fake spider webs and black cloths were draped everywhere. He was as voracious a reader as I, though, and had entire milk crate bookcases filled with science fiction and fantasy. He also had a pet tarantula, "George." The first of that name passed on while Drew was on vacation- he had asked me to feed it, but I have a fear of arachnids. Instead, Drew dropped a week's worth of crickets in George's cage for him to munch on when he felt like. The best laid plans, however... the crickets staged a revolution, and by the time Drew returned, all that was left in the cage were a few hairy legs and some very smug crickets.

I wish everyone could share with me, what a generous, wonderful spirit he had. Nothing could keep him down. Even at his most miserable, when we KNEW his smiles and laughs were forced, still he pressed on and did his best, every day, to be a good friend, confidant, and employee. He bought coffee and food for the street kids (and some adults who should have known better) who were hungry. He'd give rides to anybody, when he had his car- a valuable commodity. Most of us had to take the bus or walk.

I wish I could download my memories of Drew for all to see. There are years worth of anecdotes to tell. Walking the Bloomsday Parade in high heels. Dirk's World. House. Sanctuary. People's Park. Bruce's Place, Java Junkies, Frankie Doodle's, Denny's. He loved rain, thunder, lightning, and snow, dark days and darker nights, and detested daytime, sunshine, and spring. So many memories, and so many ways he influenced all of our lives.

Drew found his soul mate in Jasmine. We were all so pleased and happy for him. You never saw a more ecstatic man. The smiles began to be genuine, and his laughs lost their forced bark, becoming more natural. He changed his name, taking hers, instead of the more traditional way around, and none of us were surprised. His loss as a friend is devastating- I can't imagine what Jasmine must be going through, but I hope she knows how many of us love her, for herself and for giving Drew the light he gave us.

Drew's existence, his friendship, turned on a lot of lights in my head; his friendship was one of several which inspired me and opened my mind to acceptance. I began to accept myself, first of all, and I learned to accept others. I had led a sheltered, narrow life- never once had I knowingly encountered any of the things I had been taught were "bad," and I had shunned them when I saw them. In Spokane, amongst friends who accepted me unconditionally, I blossomed, learned, and grew under the gentle tutelage that was more example than lesson. One of the most important things I've learned in my life is that nobody, nobody, can truly understand another- but if you accept someone for who they choose to be, your own life will be enriched beyond measure. No one has enough experience to judge another, for none can possibly understand the motivations, experiences, or reasons of another. Experiences, lessons, and plain old fashioned fun come in a wide variety of styles and flavors- and you may miss the most important ones if you don't open your eyes or mind, and accept what others can share with you.

My visit back to Spokane for the memorial was cleansing and healing. It was a sort of renewal, too. I saw so many friends, and discovered my love for them has not diminished a hair in the years I've been away. I took strength from them, and hope they did from me. As horrible an occasion as it was for a visit, it was good, too. My friends' unconditional acceptance of me and joy at seeing me reminded me of lessons I had forgotten- I AM worthy of friendship, and of love. There is nothing wrong with me. I am who I am, and any who cannot accept me are the ones flawed, not I. I could see Drew looking at me as I realized it, and I know that even in death, he watches out for us and takes care of us. We are not alone.

Thank you Drew, for the privilege of knowing you. I miss you.

Walk with the God and Goddess in the summerlands. Blessed be.