It would be fair to say, in fact, I can say it with ease and absolute certainty; Nobody, and that means nobody, partied as hard with Rocky “Gonzo” Gonzales as I did.
Don’t believe me? Well tell me this: How many of you have used sign language to communicate with a friend while in hand cuffs on a police transport vehicle? I mean, there’s literally a video of the two of us passed out on a stage in some park, at ten in the morning, surrounded by the remnants of some decadent and drunken jazz festival. A dubious looking half eaten burrito and an empty bottle of Tanqueray laying in between us as girls cackle wildly off screen, Gonzo still in sunglasses and my T-shirt clearly reads “I’m Huge in Japan.”
The writers for “Eastbound and Down” couldn’t make this shit up.
I met “Gonzo” about 7 or 8 years ago here in Tokyo. We worked for the same company and met at some point, although I can’t remember exactly when. Over the years, it’s almost hard to explain, but he and I have basically drank, fought and partied a blue streak through the avenues and alleyways of greater Tokyo.
I’m not going to talk about what happened yesterday because if you’re supposed to know, you probably already do. But Rocky is dead. This has made me think, hard, about him, myself and where I’m at. That’s what this is about.
I’ve called Tokyo “Never Never Land” before, simply because it seems like at whatever age you come here, that’s where you get stuck. If you were 25 when you arrived, five years later, you probably haven’t changed. There are a variety of reasons for this, but there’s a quality to being an expat in a city like Tokyo that makes you feel like you are forever on vacation. Forever cheating the system.
It’s Endless Summer. And we all love it.
However, at some point it starts to catch up with you. YOU don’t really feel different, but something inside is beginning to whisper “This hang over is from your 33rd birthday party brother. What are you doing?” This can simply be time piling up, or like in my case and Rocky’s, it can be a collection of experiences that force you to look at your life and make decisions.
This, I think, is the place Rocky was at over the last year or so. He was depressed and dealing with a lot of pain inside that he hid by drinking and never spending enough time with one group of people to let them see what was really going on with him. Because he didn’t really want to deal with it either. He never wanted the good times to end. He hated last call and never wanted to go home.
What is incredibly tragic about all this, is that despite what were obvious wounds that needed tending to, a lot of us for our own selfish reasons didn’t want to be involved. Some of you reading this will know what I’m talking about. We all have our own baggage, and carrying someone else’s really puts us out. The thing is that at any moment, that person struggling to keep up might just check out. They might go away because the load is too heavy. And then you get left wondering if you could have helped out with one of their bags, and how hard would that have really been?
I think, although Rocky and I were close, we could see reflected in each other certain things that we disliked about ourselves. This ultimately is why we were constantly at odds, yet forever connected and never able to go our separate ways. We lived together after all, despite literally everyone telling us it was the worst idea imaginable. Our two names in the same sentence can cause major black outs in city centers. It takes a certain amount of commitment to hell raising in order to have an entire phrase named after you.
“That’s it. I’m going Gonzo.”
The point, to me, is that if you know someone, and you know they could use some help, then help them. Take the time to talk to them. Lend them a hand. Put your shit aside and shelve your ambivalence. Sit down with a friend. Talk to your kid. Listen to your girlfriend. Do it all genuinely and without wondering what you might get out of it. Just be an open, accessible person.
I will forever be angry at Rocky Gonzales for leaving how he has, but this wouldn’t bother him; I was always mad at him for something and that was nothing a beer and a stupid joke couldn’t fix.
But I will also forever miss him dearly, because he was one of our own.
He was one of us, one of the lost boys. And now he’s gone.