Wednesday, April 22, 2020

John

I came to know John through his wife, Meredith.

Meredith and I met when we were in our 20s and dating guys who lived in the same row house in DC. We eventually outgrew those relationships and grew into ours, and she became one of my very best friends. 

Lore has it she and John met on New Year's Eve 1999 when Meatloaf was performing at Madison Square Garden. Meredith had been selected from the crowd of thousands at the concert to join the band onstage during the song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." (Things like this happen to Meredith all the time - her life is a series of bizarro incidents that sound made up but are not.) When John spotted her on stage, he turned to the friend he was with and proclaimed, "I'm going to marry that woman." (The reality is they'd met one other time prior to that, but this telling makes for a better story.)

When they started dating soon after, I asked about him and she told me he was a comedy writer. As Mer is one of the world's funniest humans and provides almost-constant comedic fodder, I figured this was a perfect union.

And in many ways, it was. They moved from NYC to LA and back to NYC - following writing jobs for which John was hired. As a native New Yorker and part of the comedy world, John had a community of comedian and writer friends who, if you didn't recognize their names, you'd definitely recognize their work. I got to know some of this crazy, creative circle during visits to see John and Mer, which at times included taking the train to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone, going out to restaurants, or just hanging out in their apartment. This circle grew to include my daughter, my Mom, and assorted friends I introduced, who immediately (and understandably) liked John and Meredith better than they liked me.
One of my favorite pics of these two
taken during one of the Writers Guild
Awards shows.
By any measure, John is an impressive guy. He graduated from an Ivy League school, received an Emmy nomination for his writing on "The Chris Rock Show," published a novel, did stand-up comedy, and wrote and produced the Writers Guild Awards in addition to many other notable writing and performing credits.

Additionally, John knew more about music than anyone I've ever met. And not only knew music but was, himself, an accomplished musician. (He and I shared a love for the Ramones. One of my favorite memories is when we were at a relative's house following Meredith's mother's funeral, and John sat down at the piano during the gathering and began to play what sounded like a classical music piece. After a few minutes, I realized he had actually slowed the tempo and stylized one of my favorite Ramones songs - then looked over, gave me a sly smile, and continued with his performance.)

He was really funny like that.

Other favorite memories of John are:

- On the way to my cousin's wedding on Long Island, I absentmindedly left my phone on the train. A Samaritan located and turned in the phone, but the LIRR would only allow it to be picked up in person, they would not ship it. John offered to head to Penn Station from their apartment (not a short trip) and send the phone back to me, which he did. While I know it was inconvenient and required a lot of logistics, he made me feel he was happy to help

- When Meredith and John had to move their wedding from Malibu, California to Orlando, Florida very quickly due to both of Meredith's parents being ill and not able to travel, John not only went with the flow, he also embraced it. So many things did not go as planned during the wedding celebration (photographer broke out in hives and left without telling anyone, audio did not work, so reception music was played via niece's Hello Kitty boom box and a microphone, etc.) and instead of either John or Meredith getting upset, they laughed at the absurdity of it all and as a result, set the tone for the most memorable and fun wedding I've ever attended

- When my daughter was born, Meredith came to my shower and presented me with a gift from she and John: a tiny Ramones t-shirt and the following original artwork:


- When I turned 40, John put together a mix CD heavy on the Ramones and other music he knew I'd like

- And perhaps best of all - for Christmas a couple of years ago, Meredith tracked down a (ridiculous, amateur) horror movie she and I had filmed years earlier and John edited and scored the movie as a gift, adding credits and graphics to the video. It was thoughtful and creative and hilarious and so very him

Some of my other favorite John and Mer moments through the years are captured in the posts below:

New Yawk - December 2008
New York Part 1 - Meredith - June 2009
Happy 10th Anniversary of Guy Who Flipped Over the Banister Day - December 2009
Psycho-phant - November 2010
The Red Carpet Treatment - February 2014
The Write Stuff - February 2015
A Martle By Any Other Name... July 2015 (this one is about Mer, so I feel it provides context)
Finding Mr. Write (aka Bob Balaban) - February 2016

As I'm sorting through specific memories over the past few days, it's clear that somewhere along the line, John became more than just my friend's husband - he also became my friend.

When John, who had never smoked and rarely drank, got sick five years ago with lung cancer, he and Meredith did not let it define him or their lives. Through the years, I often felt there would be no John without Meredith - she seemed to sense exactly what he needed and was able to provide it and support him in all his endeavors. She took such good care of him always, though particularly in the past few years. When I and others told her how awed we were by all she did for John, she brushed it off, saying it was "what anyone would do." Except it wasn't. It was extraordinary. And the most loving display I have ever witnessed.

Ave's first visit to NYC in 2006 - John and Mer babysat her
in the hellhole hotel room we rented so Tim and I could have a night out.
Ave screamed her head off the whole time. They are very good friends.
Comedy Against Evil show at the DC Arts Center the
night before Rally to Restore Sanity, October 2010
Brunch with John, Mer, and my Mom at "Fetch"
(We were so trying to make "Fetch" happen)
November 2012

Brunch with Meredith, John and my Mom in November 2014.
I cannot remember why we were having a stare down, I just
remember we laughed all day. Especially when my
Mom declared she had a "hankerin' for some gravlax."
(She loved this day because she made John laugh, which
she knew was a high compliment, indeed.)

Tribeca Film Festival 2008 - Meredith starred in 
a short selected for the festival - John and I were there as
stalker-fans

More shenanigans with John at the film festival.
As I recall, I made an insensitive comment about the size of his prostate.

The last time I saw John was about a month ago. Meredith cleared with his doctors it was safe to visit as long as I was diligent about hand washing and did not hug him. That weekend, we spent all our time in John's room, told stories, and watched a video some of his comedian friends had created for his birthday. The video was hilarious and very sweet, with each person taking time at the end to share birthday wishes and talk about how much they loved John. When the video ended, John remarked, "there are a lot of people who love me."

As I was leaving the next day, I told John I loved him and that I would see him the following month (my daughter and I were scheduled to do a charity walk in NYC with Meredith at the end of April). Of course COVID-19 thwarted our plans, but we were still hopeful at the time.

On April 19th, Meredith called to let me know John had passed - at home with her, his Mom, and their dog, Baxter, snuggled up next to him - as always, surrounded by love.


Rest in peace, dear friend.

9 comments:

dori said...

Beautiful tribute. As one of the fortunate friends who got to meet John and Meredith through you, I have a small glimpse into what a loss this is for everyone who loves him and the world at large.

I think I took that last photo!!

Brutalism said...

You absolutely took that last photo! You were there at the film festival with us - we had so much fun! I'm so glad you got to meet him.

Willow said...

My condolences to all who knew & loved John. You paint a wonderful picture of your dear friends ❤️

Brutalism said...

Thanks, ML!

John C said...

It’s very clear that John was a a wonderful man and that you cared deeply for one another. Very nice of you to use your considerable writing skills to pay tribute to him. Well done

Brutalism said...

Thanks, John C!

Mary Bachar said...

Beautiful tribute Kathleen. Thank you for sharing. What a blessing to have enjoyed his friendship, as well as Meredith's. Thank you for sharing some special memories. May God Bless you & all those who know/love him, with His Peace as you grieve.
Sincerely,
Mary Bachar

Unknown said...

What a wonderful remembrance. Thanks for sharing this special relationship.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful remembrance. Thanks for sharing this special relationship.