Terry and I became friends in high school. Two goofballs…I don’t know, Tucks, how am I doing so far? Start with high school? Do you agree with “goofballs”? Like when you and I were walking home from Max’s place that winter night, marveling at the freshly fallen snow in front of Harvey High? Not a footprint in it until you and I waded in and spelled a certain four-letter obscenity in letters about 25 feet high with our tracks. Next day, so we heard, one of the teachers looked upon our literary craftsmanship in horror, and sent several of her students outside to run across it.
Indianapolis? What? How’d you end up in that place? Never mind—long story I’m sure. Listen, I’ve got to tell your friends there this tale. Remember when we used to walk the railroad tracks in Painesville, you balancing on one rail and me on the other? We’d try to make each other fall—not by pushing, no, but by psyching each other out. So I’m walking along on my rail, carefully watching my steps, and I noticed that you were not next to me on the other side anymore. I was concentrating on where I was going, but finally I looked up and there on the rail right in front of me was a small fire that you has set with some trash and small twigs. I still laugh at that sight—an actual fire! You made an actual fire in front of me on my rail! Ok man, you win that one!
So, who do the people in Indiana think you were, I wonder? Do they know why I call you “Tucks”? (A misread by your mom on some letter or postcard I addressed to you. “What is Tucks?” asks kindly Mrs. Coyne.) Do they know about that time we bought our first hash but didn’t know how to smoke it? So we were in your parent’s basement trying to pulverize it in a table vise, based on our genius idea to grind it up and mix it with tobacco and smoke it like that. I got sick to my stomach but you were just fine, drinking prune juice in the living room and asking me if I wanted some. I did not. Do they know about Step’s elderberry wine and your sage counsel that I’d know when I was drunk by feeling my chin? Or that apartment we rented on Mentor Avenue with Kathy, or Kathi, or whatever who I think you had a thing for. Or how about the time I got you that job in that LA garment factory, where we first learned that a lot of Mexicans apparently think it’s cool to name their children “Jesus”? Yes, two hippies from Ohio totally surprised by that.
I almost forgot about this one…during school assemblies when everyone was supposed to go to the gym, we used to hide in the theater auditorium until the hallways cleared. Then we would have the entire room to ourselves, just the two of us. So I’d sit in the audience and you’d do some kind of improv, and I’d politely applaud. Then we’d switch places, me on the stage, you in the seats. Let that sink in for a second, Tucks—who, beside the two of us, would do that? Anyone? (I rest my case about the two goofballs.)
Anyway, there it is. I don’t know if I’ve shared anything useful here. Most people know you better than I do, I’m sure. To me you’re still this freak—oh, I just remembered that time you and Twanger came to visit me and Peggy in Athens. She stayed home, we went out, there may have been drinking involved, the gravel you guys poured into the gas tank of that Triumph…never mind, I’m rambling. You got me in trouble with Peggy though.
I last saw you in 1980, before my move to the West Coast. People may wonder why we didn’t stay in touch, but I think you get the deal. I mean, for what reason? In any event, I am a little shaken by your passing. You were a thoughtful person, creative, very funny, and a good friend. And FYI, if you meet someone named “Jesus” up there, it might be, you know, The Real Jesus (unless he’s pushing a rack of suits, smiley face).
Peter Terrance Nicholas Coyne, December 6, 1949 – August 15, 2016. RIP