Happy birthday dear Seedy, CD, Clay. This is how I remember you. Wearing my coat, taking my clothes, reading my books, listening to my music. I remember dancing with you at Cats, watching movies with you and Randy, visiting Ronnie with you, going to Marcy Mendelon’s art show with you, you drinking with Fawn while I was in New Mexico at my grandmother’s funeral and you knocking a beer bottle into her face, chipping her front tooth. I remember how you offered to go to the funeral with me and you patiently walked me through the whole ritual. You asked me to bring you rain back from the desert and I did.
Soul on Ice is comprised of different writings—essays, letters, and musings by Eldridge Cleaver, a former Black Panther Ministry of Information party leader. He writes about who he was, what he did, and why. He does not hide anything: his past actions, his past anger, his past crimes. He also writes about who he becomes, and from Folsom Prison he writes about being 18 years old in 1954, the “crucial turning point in the history of the Afro-American—for the U.S.A. as a whole—the year segregation was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court” (Cleaver, 3), which was when he started serving a sentence for possession of pot. This decision shaped what it was like “to be black in white America.” (Cleaver, 3)
Roxane Gay‘s latest book, Hunger, opens up with “Every body has a story and a history. Here I offer mine with a memoir of my body and my hunger.” (3). Gay writes of being fat in a world that shames and demeans people for taking up space. And she looks at her body’s history: how did she get where she is? Why does she weigh so much? What happened to create this body? It wasn’t merely eating. It wasn’t just not taking exercise or being weak or lazy. I could not handle some of the physical challenges she’s endured. Hunger is not a self-help book, it’s not a feel-good book, nor is it a change-your-life book. And while it is not any of those things, this book is everything to me. This book is a writer opening up about her past, exposing the very things so many of us don’t talk about, this book made me feel connected to her in a way very few authors do.
Patti Smith spoke at a church in Berkeley and did an impromptu musical performance. Her self-deprecating humor was exquisitely charming. Her book, M Train, is about nothing. Really, on page one, first paragraph, first sentence, she writes, “It’s not so easy writing about nothing.” (Smith, 1). I devoured M Train. I was on vacation in New Mexico reading it, at my Aunt’s ranch, sitting on the porch, drinking coffee out of my deceased Uncle’s mug. Everything felt so connected, so immediately relevant. And yet, I suspect I would relate to this book and connect everything wherever I was while reading it.
Last week I started to feel numb. I realized I was feeling off and couldn’t figure out why. And then, it clicked. Clay’s death-a-versary. This is the third year since he died. And I’m horrible at dates. I can’t remember people’s birthdays. I never know anniversaries when I’m dating someone. I never bother to pay attention. So why would I remember a death-a-versary? But my body knows. My body mourns and reminds me of the great loss of the weirdest, coolest, most annoying, most awesome person, Clay Wofford, aka CD Wofford, aka, Seedy Wofford.
And of course, this day reminds me of the deterioration of his body and mind. And subsequently, the deterioration of our friendship. For years after we broke up, we remained friends. We were in weekly contact: at some points, daily contact.