Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Jonathan Drexler and Will Dalgard

A few months ago we lost Jonathan Drexler. In that time I have wanted to say something about him on this blog. The night I learned about it, I opened up a blank notepad file and put down a few words. But after a paragraph or two, no more words came. And every two or three weeks since then I've tried the same -- and always had the same results. There's a particular story I've wanted to tell about the last time I saw him, but although I have half a dozen files open with different starts, I still haven't been able to put it in a form that I'm satisfied with. I just didn't know what to say. Going on five months now, and I still didn't know what to say -- until now.

A few days ago Will Dalgard died. I didn't know until a few hours ago. My ex-wife called to tell me about it, and my girlfriend brought it to my attention later, because neither one of them thought I should hear about it in somebody's Facebook status update. Y'know what? It took me all of five seconds to figure out what I want to say about him. Here it is:

I wish I'd never met Will Dalgard. I wish I'd never known him. I am a poorer person for having known him. I can't think of anyone else I've ever met that I would say that about -- and just to put that in perspective, I worked in a prison for ten years. I wish I'd never met him. I wish I had never met him.

If that angers you, I get it. It's a terrible thing to say about a person, especially when he's just died. But if you are angered by it, then you didn't know Will. You didn't know him. You didn't know what he thought of himself. If at some point in his life Will could have looked into the future and read every mean thing I'm about to say about him, he would've smiled and said, "That's the worst you can do? Because I've got some stories..."

Will always had a story. He had the story about how he and Dave Matusof ran away from the crazy redneck who wanted to kill them. He had the story about Allison Davis, the girl who broke his heart. He had stories about his landlord and Metallica concerts and bands he was in and girls he dated and shitty jobs he had and the navy he got kicked out of and times he got beat up. He had the story about how I loaned him money to pay his rent, and when he had enough to pay me back he bought a Fender Mustang instead. He always had a story. And right now I feel like he told me every last one of them, and I wish I'd never let him open his mouth. But I did. I let him talk, and I listened, and there's no changing that now.

Will was a storyteller. If you knew him, you knew that. Everybody knew it. How many times did we sit there and listen to him tell some long rambling story from his shitty, stupid life? Sometimes it was in a room with a few "friends" (if Will ever really had "friends" in the literal sense -- I don't think he did). Sometimes it was in a bar with him strumming an acoustic guitar. The ones that are most vivid to me are the ones he told while Dave Graeter and I kept up a monotonous beat in one of his songs with an interminable musical break so he could go on and on and on about whatever he was going on and on and on about.

I've reported one or two of his stories here on this blog. And I've posted a couple of recordings with more of those stories. And as an undeserved favor to Will, I will recount another story that springs to mind at this moment.

About twelve or thirteen years ago, Will was back in Dayton and living in a crappy one bedroom apartment above some storefronts near the corner of Wayne and Wyoming (that building has since been destroyed). I visited him there one night. He showed me a new amplifier and Les Paul that he had somehow acquired and played me a few tunes he was working on. I then noticed a copy of his General Discharge from the United States Navy hanging on the wall. Yes, he hung his "General" discharge on his wall.

He told me that he had loved his time in the navy at first, but it didn't take him long to get restless. He wanted out, so while he was stationed on some ship off the coast of Africa, he went to his commanding officer and said, "Sir! Regulations require that I report any navy personnel dealing federally controlled substances on the ship, SIR!" His CO said, "Of course! Would you like to report someone, Seaman Dalgard?" And Will replied, "Yes sir! I would like to report myself."

He was selling weed on the ship. He reported himself. They booted him. That's the story he told me, and it was all true as far as I know. Will Dalgard was a storyteller.

Will Dalgard was also an addict. He was addicted to everything you could possibly think of. He was addicted to alcohol. He was addicted to drugs. He was addicted to talking and being, and he was addicted to himself and everyone else on the face of the earth. Will Dalgard was bright and talented. He was warm, and he wanted everything to work out well for everybody. He might be the most enthusiastic person I've ever known. He was a human treasure. And he was an addict.

And addicts will always find a way to negate all that nice stuff I just said (like about Will being a "treasure" and such). Addicts will always find a way to do that. But they don't find it because they lack willpower or because they are stupid or because they are any less valuable than anyone else. They just find it. They just do. They disappoint us. That's what addicts do. In essence, it is the only thing they do.

Unfortunately, it just occurred to me that it's a quarter after four in the morning, and there's no way I'm going to finish this tonight. So I'm posting this first part. And tomorrow I'm going to post the rest.

Will was a storyteller, and so am I. And I've got one more story about him and Jonathan Drexler that should be told.

take care,