second heartbeat

.Way back in 2001, a month before September 11, I took a bit of a leap of faith and went to work in Portland for an educational consulting/research firm. I had never worked in a place where the majority of my co-workers shared the same age, sense of humor, interests and values. I grew especially close to a couple of the guys there, Rich, a writer who introduced me to McSweeney's, and Kevin. Kevin Jahnsen was our graphic designer, and introduced me to sushi, men's league softball, Wolfenstein, frou frou, amelie and the triple nickel pub. and the martini lunch. we may have taken extra long lunch breaks and caught a movie from time to time at the cinema. 

From time to time I would cart over my pc to play games with his other friends, one of whom, Gary Lodge, died unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm. Gary was a philosopher, techie, genius, a good writer, and was incredibly sweet to my wife when she joined us. He left behind a young son, and a devasted mom, who took over his blog. You can still read Kevin's goodbye, all these years later. 'Goodbye friend. You'll be missed.'

I had been an emt/firefighter around this time, and I distinctly remember one day at work, Kevin was a bit panicky. He said that his chest hurt, and he was having trouble breathing. I took his vitals to give to the paramedics when they arrived, and assured him that it was probably benign. I told him I thought it was just pleurisy. But later on, he would be diagnosed with some cardiac issues. It compelled him to get incredibly fit, and it was remarkable to see the change, years later.

The job itself, dream though it was, presented some challenges. We were unable to figure out a way to move from Olympia to Portland, and while the pay was decent, there were no family benefits, and we were getting killed with insurance costs, not to mention the expenses I took on for my pied-a-terre. Long story short, I made the difficult decision to resign from the job, after just under two years. 

Over the years, I returned to Portland frequently to hang out, and became very familiar with Kevin's guest room. But eventually I started hanging out more and more with my new blogger friends. Kevin joined us sometimes in the beginning, but as you can imagine, spending time with folks talking about blogging can take some patience. And secretly, Kevin also shared some concerns that a few of the habits I was picking up were a bit destructive. Still, we found some time for some cool adventures. We took a trip to Vegas after I landed my new job in Tacoma. And he and his wife, son and a couple of other work friends spent a weekend up with us, and I took them out boating on Clear Lake. This was before I had a cell phone or digital camera, so the memories are scarce, and now, all the more dear. 

I left in February of 2003, the same month our daughter was born. I had told my friends about a tradition we brought with us from Romania, whereby you gift expecting parents a bottle of brandy, to be opened when the child reached maturity (18 in Romania). You would small toasts each year on their birthday and recork the bottle. My friends seemed to like this idea, and gifted us a bottle of Glenfiddich. 

When Naya turned 18, in the middle of COVID, we opened the bottle of Glenfiddich, and it caused me to remember those days in Portland with my friends. I sent an email to Kevin and Rich, thanking them for the gift, and inviting them up for another boating trip. I told them I would make plans to meet up in Portland, as my latest new job includes some clients in Stumptown. 

The other day, I had a terrible dream about our boston terrier, and woke up with that feeling of grief and misery that nightmares are so adept at imparting.

Kevin died on Wednesday, and Rich was kind enough to let me know. He leaves behind a son, and countless grieving friends and family. He'll be missed.


Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing your memories of Kevin. I had the chance to work with him (remotely) and always appreciated his wide-ranging interests and knowledge, not to mention his wry humor. I'm sorry for your loss.

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