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Back from the dead

As a drummer and a guy who’s known to knock walls down with hammers after 11PM on a weeknight, I’ve got the coolest neighbors in the world. With the exception of Anthony’s friends who occasionally block my driveway with the bumper of their Suburban to avoid touching his parked boat, I really couldn’t ask for a better hood. I’ve been in nightmare domestic situations before (can you say condominium association?), and it couldn’t be more different now. Thank God. It’s all very loose around here, safe, fairly blue collar, pride of ownership runs strong. Everybody’s super cool.

A few weeks ago, when I was in NYC for this, something dreadful happened to my next door neighbor to the west. Kevin’s single, about fifty-five, and would commute everyday to Pasadena to practice law. He’s a great guy with, shall we say, a chemically-involved past. A real green thumb, I’d regularly receive baskets of veggies on my porch that he grew in his backyard garden.

In around March, as springtime started kicking in, I began noticing Kevin’s absence. I figured he was on vacation or something, as his car was in the driveway. While out in the backyard on a ladder one Saturday morning primering my window sills, my neighbor Rob, two doors west, was in Kevin’s backyard mowing the lawn and tending to normal maintenance chores.

“Hey Jace,” Rob said. “Did you hear about Kevin?”

I froze. Aw, shit.

“No. What’s up?”

Rob explained that in early February, one night at about 1:30AM, he received a pounding on his door. He opened it up, and it was Kevin. Apparently a plumbing pipe in Kevin’s house busted, and his house was flooding. Panicked and out of breath, Kevin was running from house to house looking for a wrench so that he could turn off the main. Rob ran across the street to grab a wrench from Lester, and they turned off the main line at the curb, leaving the wrench with Kevin.

I don’t have the details of what happened the next night, but the plumbing fix busted again. Kevin apparently ran out to the curb with the wrench to turn off the main. In doing so, he threw his back out. His body, which has considerable miles on it for a guy under sixty, gave out and collapsed right then and there. He passed out.

Neighbors came out and called 911. Kevin was whisked to the hospital. What happened over the next few days was all bad. Evidently he needed a tracheotomy, which is an operation where they cut a hole in your throat so you can breathe. That procedure ended up in an infection, and Kevin ended up going into the ICU for two months. At that point, he was in such bad shape that they put him in long-term care indefinitely.

It didn’t look good. Kevin’s brother, a doctor from back east, made arrangements to have Kevin’s mail forwarded to him. He came by the house one weekend and rigged timed lights to make it look like somebody was there. He also made arrangements for Kevin’s cats.

We all thought Kevin was a goner.

Last week, by weird coincidence, I was out in the front yard waiting for a contractor to meet me at noon. He was flaking, and I was sitting there, mid-day on a Friday, pissed off and watering my lawn. A BMW drove up, pulling into my driveway by accident. It then backed up, and moved one driveway down, to Kevin’s place.

The driver got out. A cool looking guy, with a straw hat and silver beard. He pulled a wheelchair out of the trunk, circled around to the passenger door, and assisted his passenger into the wheelchair.


Yep. Kevin turned to me, weak as death, and raised a fist, pumping it in the air. His buddy laughed, yelling to me, “He’s back from the dead!”

I turned off the water and went over to greet him. The first thing I noticed was how old he looked. Man, he looked over a hundred. I shook his hand and patted him on the shoulder. He tried to talk, but it came out as a whisper due to the trach. He smiled, and the first thing he whispered to me was:

“Are you the one who saved me?”

Wow. “No,” I explained. “I was out of town. It was Les and Rob.”

I found it trippy that Kevin has been holed up in the hospital for over four months, and all this time he’s not only thought of me, but actually thought I was the guy who got him to the hospital.

Anyway, he’s back. His buddy, Bob, came over and introduced himself after getting Kevin situated in the house with the caregiver. Almost in tears, Bob expressed out grateful he was that Kevin’s still alive. “I really thought we lost him.” Bob’s a blues cat, plays harmonica, and is a photographer who lives a few blocks down the hill on the bluff. He gave me his card and told me to call him anytime.

It’s nice to see Kevin regularly now. His caregiver, Nani, will wheel him out to the front lawn and let him get some sunshine. When he sees me, he’ll pump his fist, and do a weak “air drum” maneuver with his hands. Kevin used to be a drummer, loves Zeppelin and Rogers drums, and always tells me to turn it up.

I still need to give him a copy of Six-Word Memoirs. He was excited to read it.

Life is short, people. Live it hard.

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