My time with Hollywood

His name was Hollywood. Well, Chris, but everyone who knew him called him Hollywood. He was a snare drummer in our band and after each rehearsal asked if anyone wanted to go to Taco Bueno with him. I remember he had asked me one time if I wanted to go and was surprised he even cared to ask me because I didn’t think we were that close of friends. I said no and blamed it on time and how I had a class at two. He was famous for giving the best bear hugs and lighting up any room he walked in with his larger than life personality.

Every year our band marches in a Veteran’s day parade. And according to the upperclassmen, the parade that happened on November 11, 2011 was the best one yet all because of Hollywood. It was one of those moments you had to be there for because writing it down just does not do it justice. You might ask “How does one guy make a parade so great?” To which all i can say is “You had to have known Hollywood.” After the parade one of my good friends Laura, a bass drummer, asked if I wanted to go to lunch with her and Michelle. I almost said no but agreed to go at the last minute.

They had decided on Chick-fil-a and once we arrived and I saw the rest of the percussion section sitting down, I got really nervous. I was a freshman and a trumpet player. I didn’t know any of the percussionists that well. This was going to be awkward, I had decided. I ordered my food and hesitantly walked to the table with all them. Hollywood was the the first to acknowledge me and said “Hey, come sit down!” A wave of relief washed over me. I was welcome. He asked what my major was and then started ranting about the Chick-fil-a sauce.

“Have you ever tried this stuff? It’s so good I could drink it with a straw. Here try some.”

He talked a mile a minute and quickly slid one of the 8 individual containers of chickfila sauce across the table to me. It was some of the best sauce I had ever had. I nodded in agreement, letting him know I liked it. He seemed happy to have been the one to introduce me to that delicious condiment.

Later on in the meal, we were going around the table asking each other “If (name) was an animal, what animal would they be?”  I silently listened and thought about each person. Dogs, flamingos, and other animals were passed around as ideas for the different people. When it was Hollywood’s turn, a hawk (or some other bird of prey) came to my mind. Nothing seemed to effect him. He had a wife, two kids, his school work, plus marching band and the band fraternity. Yet, he remained seamless and stable through it all. He spoke first.

“I kind of see myself as some stinking awesome bird of prey.” My mouth dropped. I spoke up.

“Me too! I would have to say a hawk. You seem to soar above everything, like nothing or no one can effect you.” I meant it as a compliment and he took it as one. The rest of the meal was a blur, but as we all got up to leave, Chris and some of the others stopped in line to get something else to eat. Michelle, Laura and I had walked out of the restaurant already. Laura stopped, turned around and  as she walked towards the restaurant said to us “I’m going to go say goodbye to them.”  We stood there and both murmured something along the lines of “We’ll see them tomorrow.”

It was a Friday and I had driven home for the weekend. I was on facebook late that night and saw a facebook status explaining that Chris had died.

“What.” I said out loud. “No, no no no no no. Not Chris. Has to be another Chris.”  I commented on the status asking for clarification.

Chris, the band’s Hollywood, had indeed died that night in motorcycle accident. I remember saying to myself over and over, “There’s no way. I just had lunch with him that day. There’s no way.”  He was gone.

Band rehearsal was weird, almost sickening, without Chris. It was still and quiet. The guy who could make all of us laugh without fail during band was gone. The room seemed darker, thicker without him. I had never met someone who had that much influence on the dynamic in a room, just by being there. We all expected and hoped that he would just burst through the band hall doors during rehearsal. Reality sunk in deeper and deeper as the door remained closed and his drums remained untouched.

To this day, I ask for chick-fil-a sauce every time I go there to eat.To this day, I have yet to meet someone who had the same enthusiasm for life and a love as deep as his for people, the drums and his family. I did not know Chris well, but I am so thankful for the time I had with him. Today I pray for his wife, three kids, his parents, and all of his friends who had shared many meals with Chris.

May God comfort them on this day.

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