David Fiske in 20 Polaroids

  1. One afternoon I called up my friend David. When he answered I began reading him Donald Barthelme’s short story “The School.” Once I reached the end of the story, I promptly hung up. We discussed the story the next day at work. No further explanation of the phone call was required.

 

  1. When I was living in Chicago and David in Massachusetts, he sent me a package containing, among other things, a Polaroid of himself sporting a pair of large, fake breasts under a tasteful white blouse. That picture hung on one of my kitchen cabinets for years afterward.

 

  1. Sunday mornings at the coffee shop were reliably slow, so David and I passed the time by cutting things out of the Sunday Times-Picayune and decorating the store with visual non-sequiturs. On each biscotti jar, for instance, we pasted a single panel from the comics section. My favorite was one of David’s selections, Curtis from Curtis gazing in mute horror as his father danced The Robot.

 

  1. One evening the power went out in our neighborhood of New Orleans. Myra and I weren’t sleepy yet, so we called David to see if the lights were on in his apartment. We spent the evening drinking bourbon, watching Cheaters and critiquing the published poetry of Thurston Moore. It turned out to be one of my favorite Wednesdays.

 

  1. My professors in the Fiction Writing department at Columbia College Chicago frequently stressed the importance of having a reliable “first reader” for one’s unpolished prose. I decided that David should be mine. For a couple of years I sent him everything I wrote that I was at all proud of. He wrote back promptly every time, usually with praise but sometimes with much-needed criticism. He once told me he thought he was falling in love with the teenage girl at the heart of my novel-in-progress. That was one of the best things anyone has ever said about my writing. I later named the main street in my fictional small town after him.

 

  1. On particularly maddening days at the coffee shop, David and I attempted to kill customers using only the power of our minds. We never mastered it.

 

  1. David had told me about his problems with sleepwalking, but I hadn’t witnessed it until one night when he was visiting me in Chicago. I woke up around 2 a.m. to the sound of David rummaging through my bedroom closet. When I asked what he was doing, he calmly reassured me, saying softly, “No, it’s OK. It’s me, Dave.” I eventually got him to leave the closet and head back to the couch. He remembered none of it in the morning.

 

  1. When David mentioned an upcoming trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, I remembered that my friend Matt, who lived there, had asked me for a mix CD. David agreed to make the delivery. He strolled stone-faced into the movie theater where Matt worked and handed him the unlabeled CD, then walked out without saying a word. Matt was completely baffled by the encounter until I called him and explained it all a few weeks later.

 

  1. On a sand bar somewhere on the Bogue Chitto River, David and I and our friends Roan and William squared off, charging at each other with inner tubes wedged around our waists. I don’t recall who won, but obviously there are no losers in a situation like that.

 

  1. David and I had an ongoing debate about men’s room etiquette. It began after he took one of the middle urinals in a four-urinal movie theater bathroom. A gentleman was already using the one on the far end, so I sidled in to the one alongside David. He held that I should have just waited so as to avoid awkwardness. My argument was that I would have left the standard courtesy gap had the other urinal not been occupied, but the laws of supply and demand ultimately trump social niceties.

 

  1. Some friends once invited Myra and me on a Honduras-to-Chicago road trip. On our way out of San Antonio, we somehow talked our hosts into making a detour through New Orleans so we could see our old friends Roan and Kristina. David was just getting back to the States after a trip to Egypt with his parents, so we assumed we’d miss him on this visit. As it turned out, David sped from Florida to New Orleans just so he could chat with us on a street corner for half an hour before we had to hit the road. Duly impressed, Myra and I hopped into our Scion the day after we got to Chicago and drove back down to New Orleans to surprise David with a return visit.

 

  1. Man and dogI collaborated with David on half of an absurdist play. We wrote it in the coffee shop’s log book during our down time. The only scene I remember involved a parade of clichéd American icons, including Marilyn Monroe riding Marlon Brando like a horse. David objected to me calling Marilyn Monroe a cliché. He really liked Marilyn Monroe.

 

  1. David was the first person I ever met who could match me NewsRadio quote for NewsRadio quote. If there’s a surer recipe for gaining my immediate respect, I don’t know it.

 

  1. When a music writing gig landed me an advance copy of Cat Power’s masterwork You Are Free, the first thing I did was drive to the coffee shop to show David. His envious, appreciative reaction was extremely validating. A month or so later David and Myra and I saw Cat Power play at the Howlin’ Wolf. It was one of the worst live performances any of us had seen. Myra fell asleep on her feet in the front row. I think David and I both learned something unfortunate about artistic heroes that night.

 

  1. There exists a photograph of David and me wearing a single, very large pair of men’s blue jeans, one of us in either leg.

 

  1. David and I regularly exchanged CDs, each trying to win the other one over to our personal favorite artists. I got him into Crooked Fingers, Bill Withers and Magnetic Fields. He got me into M. Ward, Mitch Hedberg and The Postal Service. I never convinced him about Lou Reed and he never convinced me about Bill Hicks.

 

  1. In David’s apartment after Katrina, he and I watched the debut of the New Orleans-set cop drama K-Ville. We decided that we would take a shot every time the show shoehorned in a gratuitous New Orleans stereotype. By the time Anthony Anderson got around to extolling the virtues of eating po’ boys for breakfast, we were pretty well in the bag.

 

  1. The night before we left New Orleans to move to Chicago, Myra and I had a bunch of our friends over for a last meal at Ninja Sushi and some drinks amidst our boxed-up worldly belongings. We doled out goodbyes at the end of the evening, with all the usual handshakes and hugs and half-teary well-wishes. When I came to David, he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me with all his might. At first I thought he was just being over the top, playing it for a laugh, but when he kept on squeezing I realized this was every inch a heartfelt, emotional farewell. I hugged him back hard, my heart splintering a little bit as I did.

 

  1. After David died last month, his parents sent me some things of his that they thought I’d appreciate. One of those items was a lovely, mahogany-toned lamp that had accompanied David on all of his far-flung travels. (In the decade or so that I knew him he’d lived in New Orleans, Massachusetts, Amsterdam and Chicago, and he and his parents had traveled to most corners of the globe.) The lamp is by my bedside now, on the nightstand behind the alarm clock, in a spot where I’ll be sure to see it every morning.

 

  1. There was a time when my next course of action would have been to send this list to David for his analysis. Even though we’d fallen out of that practice in recent years, I’ve been thinking I might want to start it up again. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but god damn it, what does? So long, Dave. I’d say I miss you, but that doesn’t even begin to cover it.

3 comments

  1. I have a world of questions for you. David was my best friend for the first 20 years of my life. I googled his name this morning (I was looking for his email so I could tell him that I got married to the girl he always said I would), only to have my heart broken by this. What on earth happened?

    He always spoke so highly of you and Myra.

  2. I’d found Dave on Facebook about a month before I heard the news that he’d passed. I wanted to let him know that I was sorry for not being the person he deserved. I have looked at every Dave Fiske that Google could deliver. I am both delighted and deeply saddened to be reading this post. Please, if you would, get back to me. I’d like to know what happened. I’d also like to forward some pictures to you. Thank you

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