Yesterday had such a promising start. My daughter had the day off from school because it was Columbus Day so we went to a movie then hit the thrift stores in search of Halloween costumes. The evening dog walk treated me to a six pack of wild javelinas snorting as they meandered across the road, a sight that thrilled me and scared me at the same time. Just as I was getting ready for bed I decided to check my Facebook.
A message on my wall made me shudder "... Brendan had a stroke and died." I stared at the words thinking it must be an ugly prank. Brendan Mullen was one of the few old friends I have who had never complained to me of the aches and pains of growing old. He was strong, happy, debonair in his stylish hats, he was writing and in the middle of a full, productive life. This couldn't be happening.
In disbelief, I wrote to two other friends on Facebook, careful not to repeat the rumor. "Heard something about Brendan, is he OK?" Within minutes, my fears were confirmed. My eyes went glassy as I watered my pillowcase, remembering a recent argument I'd had with Brendan. We'd made a sloppy peace, each of us feeling we were right, but wanting to move forward and remain friends, we'd agreed to disagree. Like a bandage over an already infected wound, our truce hadn't healed our differences and our friendship had been strained over the past year. It's strange. I thought time would heal us; little did I know we didn’t have very much time left.
I went to sleep thinking of Brendan. When I first met him, he was a young man in his twenties who would blush and babble whenever he spoke to me. Half the time I couldn't understand what he was saying, his accent was so thick in those early days. In 1978, I, along with many members of the L.A. punk community, had made my home at The Canterbury Apartments, just across the blvd from The Masque. At any moment of the day or night my friends and I would invade Brendan's home, wanting to play music, get drunk, or just hang out. Sometimes we'd wake him up and he'd just smile and let us in. He had a little private office, no bigger than a walk-in closet where his bed and a small desk competed for space. It was his sanctuary, the one part of the Masque that was his alone.
One particularly cold night, I along with my friends Shannon and Allison had gone to the Masque to catch a show. All of us had dressed in stupidly scanty outfits, defying the winter weather. I was wearing a 1960's bathing suit which left my midriff exposed except for a narrow strip of fabric that stretched down the middle of my belly. I paired the swimsuit with fishnet stockings, leopard print shoes and bag (that's right, no skirt.) The girls were sporting lingerie as outerwear and we were all shivering. Other clubs got hot once people and bands were inside, but the dingy, concrete walled basement that was the Masque never really warmed up in winter. Seeing us rubbing our arms, Brendan finally came over and ushered us into his office. We sat on his bed and on the single chair he had. We all huddled under jackets and blankets, passing around a flask of rum, laughing at ourselves. I looked around and I could see that Brendan had very few personal belongings, but he put his only coat on me, his single jacket on Shannon and wrapped Allison in the blanket off his bed. When we had warmed up a little he walked us back to The Canterbury, where he dropped us at the gate. We tried to give his things back.
"You can return them tomorrow…" he said, but we quickly peeled off our coverings, dumped them over his arm and started to run inside. He smiled weakly, his arms heavy.
"Thanks Brendan - We love you Brendan!" we shouted as we teetered on our stilletos, racing against the chill night air.
I will always remember Brendan as that shy, blushing young gentleman, the Den Daddy of the L.A. punk scene whose quiet demeanor concealed a passionate promoter of art and music. A man who literally gave me the coat off his back.
Goodbye my friend, you will be missed.