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This is a story about Osvaldo who I will miss

Can I tell you about my best day of 1998? I’d like to tell you about my best day of 1998.
I think it was a Tuesday because I’m pretty sure all my Creative Writing classes at Wayne State were on either Tuesdays or Thursdays.  And I’m reasonably sure that my Intro to Creative Writing class was on a Tuesday.  That doesn’t really matter. I’m just organising my thoughts.
Exactly one week before my best day I had a bad day. I turned in my first short story for my Intro to Creative Writing class and, man, I was an absolute mess about. I was sure my new professor, who had quite clearly told us  that sugar coating was for donuts not writers, was going to hate it.
It was a pretty slight but funny story called Becoming Robert about a girl named Alice who feared she was turning into her exboyfriend after a messy breakup. I didn’t want him to hate it. I was desperate to impress him. On the first day of class he’d told me in his thick Argentine accent that he was already writing a movie about me in his head. I had a lot to live up to.
He saved my story till last and I was losing my mind all through class. I think I participated in the other critiques, I know I chewed my pen the whole way through. I remember asking at the smoke break if my story could be next. He just laughed at me and made me wait.

When we finally got to my story he held up his copy and I could see a million, possibly 2 million, red circles on the first page. I was sure he was going to order me out of the class room and tell me to drop the class. He would make me change my major. I was done. I would just go lay down on Cass Ave and wait to be run over by a car. Instead, he said it was the best story of the week. That he hated one line in the last paragraph and that my abuse of commas was shameful, but otherwise it was a great story.
I’ve had some really good moments in my life, I’m a lucky person in that regard, but that moment remains one of the best. Osvaldo Sabino was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and not just because he liked my stories. He knew how to encourage and antagonize in just the right ways. He was a pain in the ass and an absolute wonder in just about equal parts. He was always trying to set me up with cute boys. I needed to live more according to him. And he was always encouraging me to pursue scholarships and opportunities.

And I was just one of many who were lucky enough to know him.
He died unexpectedly on Tuesday. It’s been 16 years since I last saw him in person and I feel like it was just last week that I was sitting around the big round table at Z’s on the corner of Woodward and Warren with him and his partner, Chris Leland, part of a crew of young people passionate about words and stories and saying something real and true.

Thanks for your time and your knowledge, Os.  And the absinthe, too.

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Filed under grief, Memory lane

In Memoriam: The Lafayette Building

In 1997 my friend Renee was part of a juried student art show held in a crumbling office suite in the Lafayette Building in downtown Detroit.

I went with a boy I was dating at the time.  He had the bluest eyes I have ever seen.  I wore a black pencil skirt I bought at Showtime, a black sweater set, my hot pink velvet coat that my grandma bought me a dollar jumble sale, and bright red lipstick.  I still wore my hair red back then.

Renee’s installation was a giant wreath, about 6X6 feet, made from vines we pulled down from my back yard in Port Huron.  We loaded them into the back of her big red van (Clifford) and drove them back to our house in Hamtramck where she burned poetry into the vines and turned them into that giant wreath.  The wreath was positioned around a pile of ashes and bones on the floor.

lafayette art showShe took a Polaroid of the blue eyed boy and I when we got there.  I still have it tucked at the back of a photo album. We are leaning into each other and smiling.  Even though we only dated for a little while, it’s still a picture I like a lot, it reminds me of a very specific time and place in my life.  I don’t look at it like I look at other similar pictures and regret anything, I just remember being very happy and that everything felt open and bright. 

Edited to Add:  I found the Polaroid tonight.  I blocked out his eyes, we aren’t in contact anymore, don’t know how he’d feel about being on my blog 12 years after the fact. Apologies for the poor quality but my scanner isn’t working at the moment so it’s a picture of a picture.  I forgot that he wore a tie.

After we looked at all the art, we wandered around the building, up empty stairwells, down abandoned hallways, looking down into the courtyards that were overgrown and disused.  A beautiful and sad prowl through a doomed building.

It snowed that night.  I remember pulling my pink coat tight and looking at the snow.

According to Wikipedia demolition started last month.  It’s not surprising.  Not even a little bit.  But that doesn’t make it any less sad.  Well, not to me anyhow.

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