by Paget Pizitz
Photo by Chuck St. John
It’s been over a year since I wrote something for my pals at B-Metro, so I’m fortunate they not only answer my emails but also still let me have some space in their magazine. Hey guys, stop by Melt because the fuzzy navel shots are on the house!
Not much has changed. I still have Louis the cat. He still loves a holiday and any chance it gives him to dress up. However, he was less excited about Easter this year because my neighbors’ miniature lop ear bunny bit the cat. Not only did that teach him about venturing into the Birmingham public, but it also led to a full-body shaving. Let’s just say it’s not a flattering look for a 9-year-old cat with some extra pounds. We moved from English Village to Forrest Park and got another cat. Miss Nina Simone is directly related to the devil. I’m uncertain of the exact lineage, but it’s of definite blood relation. She’s all black with a white pentagram on her chest. When she thinks no one is looking, she walks on two feet and chants. It might sound like a meow to you, but I fancy myself a connoisseur of the cat and this, friends, isn’t a meow. Still, I’m keeping her. You never know when there is going to be an uprising. In times like that, it’s helpful to have the killing cat. Plus, Louis can’t fight. That would require removal of his three-piece suit, of which he isn’t a fan (suits hide the recent full body shave.)
Moving along. I’m sure many of you know that Birmingham lost a great person recently. He also happened to be my third cousin. We always joked that we were the kind of cousins who could marry and have normal babies and society would only mildly frown upon the union. When Alex Sokol passed away, the Internet was flooded with photos, comments, and tributes. I actually think his passing crashed Facebook for an entire day. I don’t know anyone who has so many friends. When my time is up, I’ll be amazed if the first four rows are full. Remember, Louis is plus-sized and takes a seat for two while Nina isn’t allowed entrance into church.
Alex had the temple packed. It was literally a standing room. The Rabbi had to help usher people from the streets inside to hover around those already seated. The outpouring of love and respect gave me chills and tightened my heart in that way you feel right before you try to stop the tears. It’s like the kind of feeling you get when you eat an entire piece of ice. It burns, but you know it’s going to go away. I hadn’t expected to get that lump in my chest, but I was so overtaken by the number of people and the stories they shared about my lunatic third cousin not related by blood.
One of the lasts texts I got from Alex was about two weeks ago. We seemed to always be going through shit at the same time and instinctively, we always knew to reach out to the other person. “I love you cuz. If you ever kill someone, you know I’ll help you bury the body and solidify your alibi.” I laughed, spit, and snorted. I never got to call him back and tell him that “LOL” didn’t do my laughter justice. Quite honestly, I hadn’t laughed so heartily in a while. It felt good.
He was many things to many people, but for me, this sums up my cousin and dear friend. His sentiment was true, loyal, and deep, while his words were insane, manic, and verging on illegal. He said whatever was on his mind, no filter necessary. A few times in recent months, he reached out to me saying that he needed to talk. It seemed important. We would try to schedule a time to get together, but he was always so busy. As it turns out, I was the one who was always so busy. I always had an excuse, most of them work-related. I have been too caught up in the restaurant and trying to open another one that I dismissed my friend, when instinctively I knew he was in need. For that, I’ll always have regrets.
As a result, it’s made me realize how very precious every moment of life can be. My dad once told me, “Cooter, when you’re older, you’ll be lucky if you can say you have five very close friends.” I always thought that was because my father is grumpy, persnickety, and a general pain in the ass. However, I understand now what he meant. True friendship means many different things to everyone. For me, it means that someone will be there, anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. No judgments, just loyal support. I am lucky to have a very small handful of friends who would do just about anything for me. Knowing someone like Alex was a great wake-up call for me to consistently nurture and maintain those friendships. You never know when you’ll be in the desert with an over-stuffed duffle bag. I don’t care how much you bench, you just can’t dig those holes alone.