Thursday, July 29, 2010

He Ain't Crazy, He's My Brother.

Some people go about their lives and don't appreciate what they have. Some people go about their lives and wish they had more. Some of us dream big but struggle to do what comes naturally to others due to human frailties that can weigh them down like an anchor. I lost a friend and a brother yesterday. He had more personality than most people and a youthful energy for the wonders of life. Alot of people can't help falling into the traps of going about their days routinely like drones in a bee hive. That was never his problem. He took pleasure in all the little things that life and people have to offer. He disliked no man who wasn't named George Bush or Dick Cheney. He would stop a homeless guy in the street and talk to him for an hour. Some might call that crazy. And maybe it was, but it’s what made Brian Holtzman "Brian" to his family and “Holtz” to his friends. It’s what made him somebody everybody remembered. He sought out those that the rest of the city avoids and challenged them to get help for themselves.

He wanted me to live the life I was meant to live and I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to do that and to avoid being average. He was never ordinary. He was a one-of- a-kind-guy that made every one who knew him glad that he was in their life. When he was healthy, he would always be there for you no matter what kind of emotional state you were in. As he would joke "misery loves company". And he was only miserable when his illness clouded his thoughts and altered his ability to think clearly.

He was a friend who became a brother and struggled to just be himself, something most people can’t even comprehend. That's all he ever wanted to do; to live a life that let him devour everything that was interesting about the world. And he did that in only a short time. He didn’t just meet people. He digested everything they had to say and absorbed the information in order to understand everything about what made them tick. You couldn’t lie to him, because he would call you on your bullshit in a second. If you were truly in his life than he knew you as well as you knew yourself.

Holtz could be a walking contradiction sometimes. He hated the trappings of wealth but spent $40 on hand lotion at Kiehl’s. He would spend his days working at homeless shelters but loved being in a Vegas casino with his friends. He resembled a young Tim Robbins and had the thickest hair of anyone of my friends, yet he started taking Propecia, as a precautionary measure. He leaned towards the darker subjects in books and movies. He might be the only man who could watch a double feature of Ordinary People and Schindler’s List. Yet you have never seen anyone laugh harder at something as goofy as the Ali G show or as funny as Eddie Murphy Raw. He didn’t like being called crazy and would debate me over who was crazier, which made me feel nuts for arguing with someone who was mentally ill. He would joke about his condition but never joke about others who had mental illness. He was an excellent social worker but due to his illness he had trouble in certain social situations. He hated racists but loved the Redskins.

I happened to have lived with Brian at his happiest and at some of his worst times. He kept me on my toes sometimes, not knowing how he would react to things when he was in a highly paranoid state. He loved everything about the energy of New York City, but the stimulus of all the people could occasionally get overwhelming for him(which is not uncommon.) I always felt like I could bring him back from getting too close to the edge, until the part of his mind that was sick took over the rest and pushed him over.

One day I came home from work and I heard a shuffling noise from his room. I knew he wasn’t home yet and when I entered his room, there was a pigeon perched on top of his book case and papers strewn about on the floor. After slamming the door closed and saying “holy shit” out loud about three times fast, I grabbed a broom, went back in and proceeded to poke at the bird from a way-too-safe distance. I shouted in a high-pitched yelp that must have woken up every sleeping dog in Murray Hill. After getting the pigeon out the window, I cleaned up his room and tried to relax on the couch wishing I had a drink harder than Pepsi.

When Brian came home I told him the story and because of the paranoia that his illness bestowed upon him (he would be very impressed with me that I used words like bestowed, by the way) he thought that I purposely let the pigeon into his room in order to mess up his stuff. Eventually, he realized it was an incredibly unlikely occurrence and we would eventually joke about it. This is just one story of how his mind would alter the way he would perceive things occasionally. Holtz knew me so well that I know if he read this, he would point out that I included a story showcasing my own dorkiness in a eulogy for him.

If you’re lucky in this life, you might have a handful of people that come into yours and truly impact you. Truly make you a better person for knowing them. The people you can call up after ten years without any communication and go right into a conversation that you had when you were every day friends. My friend Brian Holtzman was one of those people. We all need people like that in order to get through this crazy thing we call life. Shit, every day would be a hell of a lot more boring without them.

He once wrote a screenplay called “Could you be loved?” which he never showed me, partly due to the fact that he did not want me to judge it negatively and partly because of his dyslexia (it would have been like deciphering the scribbling of a fifth grader) It’s funny that he chose that Bob Marley title. With a title like that it could actually be sold and probably pitched to Leonardo DiCaprio, even if it had been just a one sentence outline of an idea and 100 blank pages. It was also ironic because he was so easily loveable to anyone who knew him.

Nothing relaxed Holtz like Jazz and we both were big fans of The Allman Brothers. One day I came home and he had the Lucinda Williams “Sweet Side” song playing on a continuous loop to take his mind off whatever his mind was focusing on.

“You run yourself ragged tryin' to be strong .You feel bad when you done nothin' wrong” The lyrics, the perfect bluesy hook and the pain in Lucinda Willams’ voice resonated with him.

I am breathing heavy right now and my chest is pounding (as I sit at the end of my bed and type) at the thought of his family’s loss and not having him in my life, even though he had not been a part of it for years now. I hope I will have a family of my own to tell stories of my friend Holtz to keep his spirit alive. My friend Brian Holtzman always showed his sweet side.