I was chatting with my neighbor Kipp last night about recounting the memories of the last twenty years in the house. I was telling him that I was feeling sad thinking about friends and relatives that have died and disappointed in myself that I haven't done more to the house or in life or whatever. He pointed out that I'm "feeling all of the feels."
Part of the issue is that I'm not an introspective person by nature. I seem to have a decent ability to keep moving along. I wake up each day in a good mood no matter how I was feeling when I went to bed (or cried myself to sleep or whatever the case may be).
If you've ever taken the StrenghsFinder assessment you won't be surprised to learn that my #1 strength is Positivity. Being positive all of the time is mostly a great thing. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about what might go wrong.
Being constantly positive also has it drawbacks. I'm never sure when to let anything go, whether it be a relationship, job, lawn mower - I just know that I can make it right! It also means that I tend to remember the pleasant events more than the sad ones.
Tonight, I'm going to share my memories of Matt Elliott. He's been in my mind a lot lately. His birthday and the five year anniversary of this death were last month. And his beloved Cubs won the World Series this week!
I first meet Matt when we were both selling beer for a craft beer distributor twenty years ago. I soon realized that Matt was everywhere. At various times since we'd met, we'd played poker together, worked across the street from each other, sat next to each other at boxing matches, attended the same concers 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 Indianatastic 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 things that I didn't know you could have an opinion about. 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. 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 chores over the years. I would dutifully feed his cat, fetch the mail and turn on lights while he was out of town and hightail it out of his house to the next thing.
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 at 52nd Street and College Avenue. 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 type 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 always dressed for the occasion, typically in a suit. This photo is from my 50th birthday party, Matt is in the middle, Chad Mills on the left and John Newton on the right - more great friends I've made since I moved into Chez Pez.
Matt was always among the last to leave my St. Valentine's Day parties. He was great at keeping the conversation going and people entertained. Throughout the years he helped push Tammy's Jeep out of the snow, hauled beer off my porch into the bathtub so it wouldn't freeze, and was all around helpful.
Matt was a charming escort. And not just because he owned a tuxedo. I dragged him to various fancy fundraisers over the years and he could always make me feel comfortable. I tended to wig out over those events – and convince myself that I don’t belong and I’m not wearing the right dress – 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 so I wasn't making money. 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 and out of place. Matt excused himself, walked to the bar across the street and sauntered back to 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 the gratitude of living in a community that allows you to meet folks like Matt, and the joy of making strong grown-up friendships.
You are missed my friend.