Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Funeral for Rex

What an amazing event today - full of tears, open emotion, joyous reminiscing. It was such a healing process to come together, and get some great stories about Rex for everyone.
Hectic morning - lots of preparing, TomG and crew arrived with facilities from Tippett Studio for the service (heaters, tables and chairs, coffee machine, beverage). By 1 PM people began showing up, and it hit me hard. Three or four times in the next hour I had to excuse myself for fear of breaking down. M and Rev Steve, and Rex's family showed up by 1:30. More people arriving, and by 2:10, Steve started the ritual. A reading of one of Rex's poems (we uncovered an enormous amount of fantastic works of art and writing at his apartment). A memory of what Rex meant to him. A sage smudging. And one his favorite Leonard Cohen songs played ("First we take Manhattan. Then we take Berlin."). I went to the mic (choked up) and invited anyone to come up and speak.
It was such an amazing collection of community I witnessed. I wonder if Rex had any idea how many great friends he had, and how much his family truly appreciated him. I would think so. People had such great memories of how wonderfully he treated them. How his generosity and capacity for concern touched them. How smart, stimulating, sly, he was in conversations. His easy way with all kinds of people. His sense of humor, and the jokes and funny anecdotes helped make our feelings real.
Everyone told us how much they appreciated Bonnie and I opening our house and arranging the gathering. I could only say that we were glad to do it, to give something back, to give everyone a place. M had his laptop with a slideshow of pics, and we played some of his favorite music, and people brought in several cornucopias-worth of food. As the day went into night, (and after a 4.0 quake rattled through, epicentered in Berkeley... his spirit departing the earth?), I became very at ease - not that the loss was made any less horrific, but the realization that what was left in its wake was enormous, and a fantastic thing. LX Rudis said 'he's only as gone as we let him be gone, in our hearts," and I agree and would add this : Rex fostered his myriad friends of different backgrounds. We keep him in our hearts, and our togetherness keeps his memory alive.
There was an additional undertone to his condition. When Rex's body expired, they took him into the OR to extract his organs. The surgeons found out he had extensive stomach cancer, which had spread into his liver, and was terminal within a year. All the unanswerable questions - how much he knew from a doctor about the seriousness of his condition, if he knew instinctually his body was dying; how long he had been dealing with the pain; why he didn't bring it up in any detail with friends; what was going through his mind in the seconds before he fell - could drive you mad ricocheting in your mind. The facts are (and M has provided us with most of the insight) : in the preceding weeks, he had shown no mood change of having received the inevitable news, nor any outward signs of significant stomach disturbance; that he was looking forward to hosting a BBQ at his place the next weekend, and birthdays to be celebrated next month; that his last few hours and minutes were spent doing something he enjoyed, with good friends; that he was spared (and did spare us) the excruciating and drawn-out process of dying in front of his friends. This changes nothing about how much we loved him and will miss him, but in some small, indescribable way it's a comfort, and makes the death a tiny bit less senseless, that he went quickly and with no suffering.
Mark has started a Wikipedia page to honor Rex and his lifetime of art and artist support. Please view it, and share in his life's memory.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Goodbye, friend

Goodbye, friend

Rex Markle (Richard Phillip Markle) was disconnected from mechanical life support, and passed swiftly and peacefully, in the early hours of Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006. Age 35.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Finality

Made our way to the hospital Sunday morning, and met Steve and Sarah outside. They already had the news to share, the result of the neurological tests. The first words out of his mouth, that hit me in the gut, but there was no easy way to get it out - "They're pulling the plug on him tonight."
The tests showed no brain activity, the response to reflex and pupil tests was nil, and they determined his brain was deprived of oxygen for too long to reverse the damage. No hope of recovery - highly unlikely he would ever regain consciousness, much less cognizant function or motor skills. The family made the decision to unhook life support and let nature take its course. If the heart stopped within a half hour, dozens of his organs could help other people.
We went in to see him (meeting the stepsisters on the way in), extremely tough, him lying there still hooked up to machines (oddly, looking more at peace than the day before), and the reality and finality of it hit Bonnie pretty hard. She had some words to say. The only things I could come up with to say were, "Goodbye" and, "Thank you for being in my life." I touched his hand, his skin was warm. I noticed things I wished I hadn't, things I don't want to be part of my last memory of his appearance. Allow me to indulge in my journal here, please skip ahead if this is too disturbing... His growth of stubble, and realizing he hadn't shaved in 3 days and would not. The way his lips accepted the intubation tube, the tightness of the securing rubber straps against his cheeks. Scrapes on his face and knuckles that won't heal. The look of his face, and thinking, "Is it swollen?". I've never seen him sleeping, other than the times he's passed out on a couch - is this the way he looks when he's asleep? The shape of the face, to me, only seemed correct from the angle where I was standing right next to him. I took one last look at his face, and began walking from the room. I looked back, and his face didn't look right to me, so I had to return to his bedside, take a final portrait photograph in my mind, and I could not look back when I left the room for that final time.
Again, the next chunk of time is a blur. M coming out to tell us they'd disconnect life support on Monday afternoon (this timeline changed much the next few hours); John and Neal and Trisha showing up; Heather showing up in tears; Mark M returning; almost missing Leslie and Tulah because we took a break down in the Cafe; M talking in distant terms about funeral arrangements, and what to do with his 'stuff'; how the news would spread at work. Rex's Dad going to pick his brother Larry from the airport. And phone calls. Lots and lots of phone calls. Who did I miss? Who would want to know? Who would want to visit in the few hours still available? Maybe I missed some people whom I should have called that afternoon, I apologize. Many people found it hard to believe, a few were intensely weeping. This is the first time I've ever had to deal with anything like this, so little you know, so little you can control.
Back to the rest of the day, Bonnie (my fantasitcally supportive and helpful partner!) and I split and went home in the afternoon. Gilx called and said he and Vicki had gone, no other visitors at the time, and the reality of it hit them hard. More hanging out at home, called M and Steve Leyba a few times, they had a full house and were thankful of the the surroundings. I was on the way to a show at Yoshi's, but I decided it was way more important to be around friends of Rex. Met his brother Larry, who was handling it rough. He related a story that Rex had bought a huge gift for his two-year-old niece, it had just arrived 3 days earlier. Very nice guy, I can notice a lot of similarities in the mannerisms and appearnace with his younger brother. Bid goodnight to the family, and headed home.
I realized I hadn't called Matt and Ann, they were people that should know before the big email send. They showed up on our doorstep 10 minutes after that phone message. Matt said they had already sent a mail - respectful enough, and there's no easy way to announce news like this, but hard to think that's the first thing people will read on Monday morning. Bonnie and I offered to host the ceremony, Rev. Leyba to preside over it, but we'll see how it works out, if we can take the whole capacity of Tippett Studio. Friends of Rex, please mail or call me, we'll put a memories board together.
Sucks. Unbelievably.
We'll miss you, Rex. Incredibly.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Critical condition (long post)

Had some very grim news come through today. It was one of those things you get the initial call, early in the day, with very little information to go by, and the gravity of the situation grows as you learn more, as other people in the same circumstances pull together in a room, and it really starts to sink in. Starts to, mind you - part of it is you don't want to believe it, shock that it can't reallly be happening. Your friend can't be walking around, joking, partying with you one day, and be comatose, hooked up to machines in a hospital room with little chance of recovery the next. And you can't go by what the doctors tell you - they don't know everything; the expert still has to diagnose; people get better from worse conditions, you hear about 'miracles' all the time.
The situation, and the way my experience unfolded : late in the morning on Saturday, a call came in from M Stevens, that our very good friend Rex Markle had a serious accident Friday night. He fell from a 2nd story balcony - a freak incident, a porch he had spent countless evenings at, drinking and discussing the world with friends. In analyzing it, it would seem not very far - people survive leaps from buildings or sky diving incidents, come on! - but the impact was serious enough to rush him off in an ambulance, and to transfer him to an ICU at a larger hospital within a couple hours. The initial word, I got from M, described him with a possible broken neck. My stomach sank, M was so distraught he didn't know the name of the hospital, only the phone number - I googled that, and it was Highland. I called Bonnie, who was dealing with car service. At this point, I had no concept of what was going on- I wasn't even sure about going to visit - I figured Rex had a few scrapes and cuts, and needed a few days in the hospital, and a few weeks to mend bones. The situation, mood, circumstances... declined from there throughout the day.
Got another call from Brian, who expressed a grimmer outlook, one M hadn't even considered, who was already starting to sound a wreck on the phone. Several folks were on their way to Highland, so I stepped up my pace, picked Bonnie up and made our way there. Looking back on this now, the exact timeline is foggy - who was already there, when certain persons showed up, who got there before whom, and in making calls later, I honestly could not remember if we had been there an hour, two hours, whenever. We got through the staff (who for the most part dealt with us with utmost respect) and went into room #13 (actually just a bay along the wall) to visit Rex.
Shocking. The first concrete example of the heavy truth of it all. In my life, I've never been around that much - hospitals, sickness, injury. I've never even been to a funeral (it was pretty impossible for my grandmother's and uncle's in the past few years). Seeing my friend, lying unconscious in a robe on a gurney, scraped up head and knuckles (later visitors said his knee was messed up, too), hooked up to the EKG and a respirator! for god's sake - this was the first time it hit home. I didn't know how to react, what to think. Bonnie asked, could he hear us. The attending nurse said probably not. We spoke anyway (Bonnie took the lead) - we let him know he was surrounded by people who loved him, and would do anything and everything it took to get him through this. The next moment freaked us out - his eyelids fluttered, then his eyes opened. We rushed out to the station, practically screaming. The nurse informed us it was 'normal' (how anything could be normal in those circumstances, I can't understand) - it was a neurological response to the injury. I watched for a few seconds (and this memory I did NOT share with anyone else the rest of the day) as his eyes opened wide, his face contorted, his mouth bit down, and repeated the same motion perhaps a half dozen times. A seizure, essentially as the nurse described it, and again, that made the situation hit home hard. A lingering glance on his face and form after the seizures had quelled, and I had to get out of there. Other people made several return trips in to visit during the day, Bonnie included, I did not.
So, returning to our crew in the waiting room ( at that time - Mark Morris, M, Brian & his girlfriend, and Chris whom Rex had known since high school) to get an update - Rex's father was commencing the drive from San Diego area. We had very little information, but it was a huge indicator for us that it was a 'next of kin' situation, and only immediate family could make any decisions. M was taking it the hardest, and were all offering what we could. Garth had called me about the camera, and I broke the news to him. Gilx called me back a few minutes later (Vicki later too), and I filled him in. The Tippett xmas was Saturday night, I can only imagine how the news rippled through. I also called Ed & Nina, who got on their way to visit, and Dan F. Rev. Steve arrived with Sarah, who was weeping, the first of the tears that I saw that day.
The next few hours are a chronological muddle in my memory - news trickled out from the staff, we fielded calls throughout the day, took a break for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and waited for his father who was going to be the only one to get the whole story. Other arrivals were LX, K2, Rob, Florek (who was actually there when Rex had his fall & called 911). His father arrived in super good time, and was amazingly cool and collected, and very appreciative of Rex's circle of friends, M especially. Some more waiting for the doctor (though not the neurologist, who won't see him till Sunday morning) and here was the full story as I got it, and the prognosis, and where there is hope :
He suffered three fractured cervical vertebrae, and his spinal cord was pinched between. Massive injury to the base of the skull and top of the spine. Concussion and excessive swelling of the brain, which makes it very difficult to make a long-term outlook (if the swelling goes down, maybe the injury is less severe than it first looked). The brief CAT scan showed zero higher brain activity, and no reflexes or pain response. Almost certain quadripeligia, if he ever even reawakens. Where there is hope : the specialist hasn't tested him, and there are no continuous electrodes attached so that's not a definitive report. His spinal cord was not severed. His heart and lungs are still functioning on their own. And we refuse to give up hope, to accept that nothing can be done. We want a second opinion. And beyond that, we want these people to know who they're dealing with. It's not just a general case, not just flesh, it's Rex! And they don't know what he's capable of, we all do.
So, for tonight, we wait. Please give your good vibes/prayers/karma to Rex.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Most Hated Songs?

I'm a positive guy when it comes to accepting music (except when it comes to the real enemies of art - pop singers. I digress.), but I have a list of most-hated songs. You know those songs you simply have to get away from - if they come up on the radio you dive across the room to turn it off, if it comes up in mixed company you can't politely hold your tongue, if your friend admits to liking it, you may actually lose a tiny bit of respect for that person? Real audio popcorn under your gums, like bending your fingernails back but in your ears. I realize in many cases, this distaste is exacerbated by weasely DJs or other sycophant 'moguls' (I'm looking at you, KEXP's Kevin Cole) who heap the praise on these cultural warts. These are in my opinion, and perhaps only a few others, because these are wildly and undeservedly popular songs.

1) "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)" - The Proclaimers. First of all, it's the height of pretentiousness to have parenthesis in a title unless it completes a phrase or is funny. This one ain't funny. The video makes this even more evil, those guys are so weird looking when they dance around. Chicks buy into this crap?
2) "Hey What's Going On?" 4 Non-Blondes. Again, the video amps up the hate factor. That singer tries too hard to look freaky - like a poser goth. And that hat looks like Seuss puke. As an aside, I'm embarrassed to admit I sometimes confuse them with Concrete Blonde.
3) "Zombie" - The Cranberries. Eeee. Eeee. Eeee. Eeee. Eeee. Eeee.
4) "The Boys are Back in Town" - Thin Lizzy OK, hate is too strong a word, but it's highly irritating to me, though it's impolite to speak ill of the dead, and I generally respect Phil Lynott
5) "Chicago" - Sufjan Stevens. The false-idol darling of indie radio, and I listen to a lot of indie radio. This song in particular is a lightning rod, but his whole style rubs me the wrong way. He's got all the ingredients I should like - multi-instrumentalist, lush arrangements, he's from Michigan! - but it all seems so disingenuous, like ersatz cherry flavoring (not classic Traverse City cherries, yum!).
Well, that' all I can think of for now. Maybe more later. Send me your own list! My best of 2006 coming up soon!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

December already. December 6??

Been a wee while since the last update (how often to blog entries start that way?). So what's been up... house is coming along OK, finishing up the winterizing soon. Band is coming along, some great jams that I've recorded, and been digging through to find parts that go together. Improv is excessively fun, funnest thing of all, but after a while it can seem like you're spinning your wheels. It's worked well to gel the band and throw out ideas without criticism, and get the fires going, but it'll be good to get real songs done. And I need to work on my lyrics and vocals. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll make serious progress till the week off I have around the holidays. But that will hopefully be intensive, I have nothing else to focus on, and I'll be at home.

I've also been occupied with movie-making! Not that big budget, Hollywood fare that pays the bills, but my own shorts. It started with assisting Proctor on his short, which went really well, and he's got an awesome camera. Then I was inspired to get something done for PDI's Lo-Tech Cinema, 3-minute film fest. I threw out some ideas to my oft-co-conspirators Tom, Eric, Vicki, and Garth. (Tom) Gilx really liked one idea, and developed it way further than I had, so he's taken it over to direct, which is great. But we figured it deserved more attention than the month-to-make-it, 3-minutes-max, format, so we set that aside, and I came up with another quickie idea that we've started producing. First shoot was a bit rough, my first time directing in a few years, and I'm also starring in it. And the weather prevented our outdoor shoot, so we did the interiors. Now we're backed up against the wall to get our exterior scenes done, and the weather is foreboding on the only 2 weekend days we can shoot. And trying to coordinate 8 volunteers' scheds, a couple days before I need em. Then that gives me 4 days to edit and sound mix. Yikes. Looking forward to it tho. We're planning on picking up the first project again in January.

It's been kinda quite on the social/cultural front. Went to an amazing show by 2 Foot Yard at the SF JCC. Someday I'll map out the 'Sleepytime<->Charming Hostess' family tree, and how 75% of all Bay Area eclectic musicians fit into it, but 2 Foot Yard is one of my favorite facets, as far as technical exploitation, songcrafting, stylistic variations, and flow of the show. This was possibly the most extensive and well-executed performance of theirs I've seen, so kudos. It was great catching up with everyone, I feel very honored to know them as well as I do. Also, Lisa Fay was running sound, and we went out for dinner (or whatever you eat at 1 AM is called), and got filled in with her life. She'll be back in Oakland, after her tour with the Smuin Ballet, so hopefully get collaborations with her again.

Thanksgiving was a becoming-traditional trek to OC to visit Bonnie's family. Her brother Tracy came out from Carson City on the Amtrak, the first time I've met him, good guy. We drove down on Thanksgiving day (remarkably smooth traffic wise), and Annie and Steve had taken very ill but managed to get through dinner. Then we went to a movie (a tradition of mine, I guess) to see 'The Fountain'. Ugh, wretched, so overblown and unfocused. Friday, we went with Bonnie's dad Jack to the Huntington Library in Pasadena. First I'd even heard of it - it's from a wealthy family who have opened their private collection of art (Blue Boy and Pinky), rare documents (Guttenberg bible, Chaucer manuscript), pottery (vases and china sets, etc), plus the sprawling grounds which include a Japanese Tea Garden, and cactus garden. Very cool and unique museum-going experience, I highly recommend anyone in LA who may have run the gamut of museums to check this place out! (OK, first check out the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, but the Huntington a close second!). Saturday we met up with Bonnie's long-time friend in Long Beach (nice meeting her and family), and I strolled Belmont Shores shopping (including Fingerprints Music and Polly's Coffee) whilst they went for coffee. Then we made our drive back up, managed to avoid the insanity that was Sunday.

We have houseguests this week also, Steven Leyba and his paramour Sarah. He's been nomadic of late, and this is the biggest chunk of time Bonnie and I have gotten to spend with him, and we have a history of domesticity (he sub-let my Berkeley place when I was in NZ the first time; I moved into the Berkeley duplex when he vacated that in '03), so it's been good times having him around.

Bonnie's birthday bash was in full effect on Dec 3. She has a tradition of big dinner parties (much classier and more intimate than beer bashes or the like), but since this was the first at the new house (the indoors aren't spacious enough to host it), we spread out the tables in the yard and had a lunch. It was spectacular - my friends (who have become Bonnie's friends), Bonnie's friends (who have become MY friends), new neighbors, wonderful food, a great contingent of musical talent ( Andrea Prichett did an informal gig with guitar and singing).

So, more news as it breaks... next post should have the results of my craziness to get the short project done.