Sunday, September 9, 2012

In Memory of Rid

Dan Ridley, 1972-2012

We met on the internet just before Christmas in 2007, which is embarrassing enough so I'm not going to tell you which site. Our first date was to see Rhett Miller at the Horseshoe. My idea, of course. His ongoing joke was, "I may be good looking, but I'm not nearly as good looking as Rhett Miller."

We lived about one and a half miles apart in downtown Toronto. Our birthdays were four months apart. He got me addicted to the TV show Intervention. We loved eating at Sweet Lulu's on Queen West, and then going for walks in Trinity-Bellwoods park after dinner. Or hitting the Foggy Dew for nachos and a drink. We would hang out on the rooftop patio at his condo building, with portable coffee mugs full of booze, and watch the city go by, or watch the fireworks from Ontario Place. We frequently watched movies by his favorite directors: Darren Aronofsky and David Lynch. He had a big pouty lower lip that I loved kissing. I called him "Rid," an abbreviation of his last name, Ridley.

We both loved music, but differing styles. Dan was a recovering metal-head and a fantastic guitar player. His favorite bands and artists included Jeff Martin and The Tea Party, Syd Barrett, Jimi Hendrix, Dimebag Darrell, pre-Jim Dickinson Iron Maiden, early Eddie Van Halen, old Black Sabbath, among many, many others. In the mid-90s he had recorded several albums of his original guitar work. I only saw him shred on his electric guitar once. When I met him he mostly played his 12-string acoustic, always in the DADDAD tuning (I think). Being left handed and self-taught, he played his right handed guitars on his lap, Jeff Healy-style. It was amazing to watch. Here is a video of him playing his electric guitar in 2007.

He wasn't so keen on my musical tastes. I took him to a Lucero show and he hated it and left early (it may have been due to the obnoxious Lucero fans though). He was only slightly more enthusiastic about the Drive-By Truckers. For the most part he liked Josh Ritter, and he did like Joel Plaskett (who doesn't like Joel Plaskett?). We spent New Years Eve of 2009 and 2010, at The Sadies annual show at the Horseshoe. He liked The Sadies because Travis and Dallas Good are killer guitar players. They have a completely different style than Dan does, but he appreciated their skill.

He left ridiculous comments on my blog. See the recent comment in the Anthrax post by "Professor Strangewiener." Or the comment by "Large Wang" on the post Groupies, or Lack Thereof. Or "Chucky Cheesedick" on the post Rocktober Redux. What a joker. My blog is littered with dozens of goofy Ridley comments, all "disguised" with ridiculous names. He also helped me write a post once, see Rocktober 11th.

Dan and I weren't an official "couple" for more than a few months. We figured out pretty quickly that we had some huge philosophical differences. But there was no huge blow-out or yelling match when it ended. Dan was a very even keeled, mellow guy, much more so than I am. When we broke up I cried for a few days, got drunk, and went on with my life. We reconnected a few months later, over the show Intervention, of course, and we started hanging out again. We joked that we had no friends and that all of our other friends were married and boring and had kids and were living in the suburbs, which wasn't that far from the truth. When you get to be in your mid to late 30s, it's difficult to find new people who share some of the same interests that you do. Dan and I enjoyed each others company, and we didn't have that many other people to hang out with on a Saturday night in downtown Toronto. We were actually closer friends when we were not an official couple.

Cuddly gifts from Dan
Even when we weren't a couple, Rid always brought me sweet little gifts on holidays or when I was sick. He knew that I loved dogs, so he brought me little stuffed puppies. I have a Schnauzer, a German Sheppard, two Jack Russell Terriers, plus a really cuddly Teddy Bear. We went up to his family cottage near Dorset, Ontario, one weekend. His cottage was his favorite place in the world. He loved the Dorset, Bracebridge, Huntsville area of Ontario, and wanted to retire to that area someday.

My job in Toronto was winding down, and I couldn't get a biotech job in Canada. Heck, even my friends who were Canadian citizens were having hard times finding jobs in Canada, and several of them relocated to the US for work. When I moved to Boston at the beginning of 2011, Dan helped me pick up my U-Haul truck in Eastern Toronto. I remember the feeling of his down winter jacket on my face when I cried into his shoulder because I didn't want to leave Toronto. He promised to visit me in Boston, even though his passport had long ago expired, and he hadn't been on a plane in 17 years.

Hampton Beach, NH, 2011
He followed through! He got his passport renewed, and bought a plane ticket, and met me for a week in Beantown. We saw the historical sites, did a road trip to the beach and to a Daytrotter show in Maine, saw Myrtle the Turtle at the New England aquarium, and survived Hurricane Irene by bunking down at my place with lots of junk food, booze, and bad TV movies.

Dan left Boston on August 29, 2011, and that was the last time I saw him. We talked on the phone a lot. I went through a nine month bout of unemployment, and he frequently checked in on me to see how I was doing. According to my phone, we last spoke on August 13, 2012. I needed to vent about some frustrations with my new job and with living in Boston, and he had recently reconnected with an old friend and he was excited to tell me about it. His last e-mail to me was on August 25, commenting on my new purple clothing, "I am wearing some tight purple underwear at the moment..."

I received an e-mail from Dan's sister on Tuesday, September 4, saying that Dan had died early that morning of a heart aneurysm. At first I thought it was some sick, fucked-up joke. Don't only fat old men in their 70s have heart aneurysms? When I realized it was true, I was hysterical with grief.

I talked to Dan's mom yesterday and she said that even in the ER he was making jokes with the doctor about the show Intervention, because they had given him fentanyl for the pain in his abdomen. I think his demeanor even while in severe pain is one part of his lasting legacy. In the four and a half years that I knew him he always had a positive outlook on things. He rarely complained about anything, and he always made the best of every situation. Even cracking goofy jokes to lighten the mood when things got a little too serious.

I snapped the top photo on February 3,2008, when we were hanging out in the sun room in his condo, goofing around. He grabbed his guitar and I took a photo. Who knew that four and a half years later that photo would be part of his hometown newspaper obituary.

The second half of his legacy is his music. He loved the guitar and recorded several albums before I met him. In more recent years he didn't play as often, or create that much new music, but he still loved it with a passion. I posted four of his albums below, three are of original music and one, Covers Galore, is of arrangements he made of songs that he loved. Please download them and share them with all music lovers. I also posted a track from each as an example of the album. My favorite song is "Forbidden Fungus."

Since I haven't seen Dan in a year, his passing still seems inconceivable to me. I feel like he could call me or send me a funny e-mail at any time. I can hear his laugh and feel his hands. I saw a weird guitar on Thursday and wanted to take a photo of it to send to him. He loved his family, his friends, his job, his condo, his family cottage, and his life in general. How can someone with so much love die of a hole in his heart?

Metal Head Suite
Download: Liquid Braino (1995)

Forbidden Fungus
Download: New Aged Noodlefest (1996)

Soft Planet
Download: Freak for Hi-Fi (2001)

Careful with that Axe Eugene
Download: Covers Galore (2004)


Cowbelle said...

Life is an asshole. I am so, so sorry. I wish I didn't know what you are going through.

Dan clearly loved you an awful lot. I hope you can get to a place sooner rather than later where thinking of him makes you more happy than sad.

This was a lovely tribute to what was clearly an awesome dude. I hope it was a little cathartic. Keep hanging on, sister.

Trailer said...

So sorry for the loss of your friend. This was a nice tribute to him. Seems like a cool guy, even if he didn't like Lucero.

Jeffie said...

Dan was the coolest of cool, in so many different ways. Fantastic tribute. University life with Dan was indescribable. I was so fortunate to be close to him for those years. Dan and I only saw each other every few years after University. But man did we live a lifetime during that period! Your words, although written in grief offer some of us a window into the more important moments of his last few years. Thank you.

simon2307 said...

A very moving tribute Amy, he'd be very proud of you lady - stay strong.

Janet Abbott said...

Wow, what a wonderful tribute to an absolutely great guy. I know what you mean about his goofy sense of humour. I met him for the first time in Grade 11 English. I had a horrible cold and was blowing my nose constantly. The first words he ever uttered to me were "wow, aren't we snotty today." At the time, I didn't realize that it was just Dan being Dan. We will all carry a piece of him with us until we all hook up later.

Tom G. said...

That post was awesome. Had me sucked in. Sorry for your loss, he seems like one of the good ones.