Matt Elliott at my 50th birthday party, May 15, 2011
Matt was happy.
Matt was at a happy point in his life, doing what he loved in the neighborhood he loved.
I’m taking great comfort in that.
Matt Elliott died on October 27.
Matt was one of those people that I knew would always be part of my life. Who knows where our individual lives would have led, but I knew without a doubt that Matt would be around.
I first meet Matt when we were selling beer for a little craft beer distributor and I soon realized that Matt was everywhere. At various times over the last sixteen years we’ve played poker together, worked across the street from each other, sat next to each other at boxing matches, attended the same shows and tended for each other’s cats.
We took turns being across from each other at various counters and bars– sometimes me waiting on Matt, sometimes Matt waiting on me – sometimes both in the same day. Most fun were the times we were sitting on the same side of the bar. Those meetings typically weren’t planned, but you always knew that Matt was good for excellent conversation and that you were sure to have at least one belly laugh and leave with a bunch of random Indiana-centric facts. If the conversation involved meat or chocolate or newspapers or books or beer, all the more better.
Matt was delightfully curmudgeonly. He was well-versed in the things that caught his fancy and opinionated in almost everything. If he dug his heels in the ground, there was no budging him. I finally gave up in asking him to have decaf coffee brewed in the morning at the Newsstand Café. But he didn’t let differing opinions get in the way of a good conversation or friendship. In the middle of a debate, he’d throw in a charming wink.
Matt was one of those ‘all in’ guys. He didn’t do anything halfway. We swapped cat feeding duties at various times over the years. I would dutifully feed his cat, fetch the mail and turn on lights while he was out of town. Matt would camp out at my house while I was out of town; keeping my Felix company, enjoying sleeping on my ancient sofa, exploring my stacks of books, and the adventure of living a few blocks away for the week.
For years we worked across the street from each other and the Atlas Food Market was on the same corner. After the fixtures and contents of the Market were auctioned off, Matt realized that they hadn’t sold the wooden sign from the alley side of the building. Matt plotted rescuing the sign for months, but he felt the time was never quite right – which drove me nuts. Matt was deliberate and thoughtful about projects, a right–tool-for-the-right-job sort of guy. I’m a dive in and pound-nails-in-the-wall-with-the-heels-of-my-cowboy-boots sort of woman. One evening, after yet another conversation about the sign, I excused myself, drove around the corner, parked next to the building, hopped in the back of my truck, and crowbar’ed the sign down. Ten minutes later I returned to report that the sign was ready to deliver to his house. It is now on the wall of Twenty Tap, across the street from where Atlas used to sit.
Matt was a charming escort. And not just because he owned a tuxedo. I drug him to various fancy fundraisers over the years and he could always make me feel comfortable. I tend to wig out over those things – and convince myself that I don’t belong and I’m not wearing the right thing – you get the picture. By the time Matt and I figured out who’s vehicle could actually hold a passenger (we’re both notorious messy car folks), who’s car was mechanically sound enough to get us downtown, and if we had enough cash to park the car and tip the bartender, I was a mess.
My very favorite Matt memory comes from one of those nights. I was feeling especially tense. I’d already spent $300 on tickets, purchased a fancy dress, and was missing my Red Key shift. I was feeling particularly poor and out of place. There was wine on the tables, but I’m not a wine drinker – wine tends to make my face red and my mood morose – not something you want when you’re already feeling weird. Matt excused himself, found a bar across the street and walked back into the gala with a glass of my favorite whiskey. A man at the table remarked, “Wow, he must really love you.”
Matt really loved all of his friends and would go out of his way to make sure they were comfortable and had exactly what they needed. Except for decaf coffee, maybe.
I did love and admire Matt. After spending time with him my heart always felt full -- from gratitude of living in a community that allows you to meet folks like Matt, and the joy of making strong grown-up friendships.
Rest in peace, my friend. And I’m glad you were happy. Seriously.