Friday, June 13, 2014

Letter to Van

Vandelear, last month I went to New Orleans for its 45th Annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. It was the first time I’d gone back since you made your transition. At every turn I remembered the first time we went with Sandy and Leslie for the 25th. We rented a house in Gentilly, an African-American residential neighborhood. Sipped the local beer, Black and Voodoo, in the backyard while lightening bugs flickered the night we arrived. The next morning we headed for the Fairgrounds. Everything we loved was inside—fantastic music, seven tents of it, a crafts market (where we spent every dime we could afford on handmade goods), and booth after booth of great New Orleans food. For four days we were on sensory overload. Sandy’s homeboy, Richie Havens, performed and Aretha and the Neville Brothers closed out the Fest. We all had a fabulous time but you and I were the ones who fell in love with the Crescent City, started talking about moving there as soon as we returned home.
This year I went with Lita—my you, here in San Miguel. Physically you’re polar opposites; she’s white, average height and way too thin. But you have the same essence, both over-the-top women who live life, head-to-toe accessorized, at a full tilt. She’s vintage rather than Afrocentric but you’re both clothes horses and several of her Art Deco pins could easily have been in your jewelry box. Of course I thought of you as Lita and I enjoyed JazzFest this May.
I carried you with me when I left Lita and moved on to New York for ten days. I split my time there between two friends I met through you, Paul, who you’ve known since college, and Stephanie, your first tenant when you bought the house in Baltimore.
Paul and I walked down memory lane every day. He looks great. The rest of us are expanding but he hasn’t put on a pound. We spent lots of time reminiscing about the parties you and I gave in my old brownstone—Thanksgiving dinners, summer bar-b-ques, and Paul’s fabulous 50th in the yard. That might have been our best. Formal dining outside when the garden was at its peak; roses and lilies in full-force bloom, a few pink and red peonies still on the bushes. The food that day was perfection—your caviar drizzled deviled-eggs, Martha’s recipe for salmon stuffed with oranges and leeks, the champagne floats we served with the cake. I haven’t entertained like that since we stopped giving parties together. Life’s changed now that you’re not in it.
Stephanie’s life has changed too. Now that you’re gone, she doesn’t have a road dog in Baltimore who’s as adventurous as you were. She’s spending more time in New York, hanging with friends there and her old crew in New Jersey. We miss having your life intermingled with ours. 
Vandelear Walker you left a big hole.