“You looked like Steven Seagal with your stupid long hair pulled back into a ponytail, I wanted to fucking hate you, but you’re alright Johnny.” That was one of the first things Peter said to me when we finally got past him being my boss at the bookstore. He was the assistant manager at Crown Books back in 1991. There was many things we liked about each other, but I think he thought he knew something about me that most others didn’t. I am aware enough of myself to know that I am perceived as a standoffish yet kind fellow. But as close friends know I have a deviousness that lurks underneath, and sometimes not so underneath. I can lash you with my tongue, often without you even understanding the level to which I struck back. He said I was a tender demon. I am a precarious balance between father and mother.
My mother has always been kind, even in her old crotchety age, she still has a gleam in her eye that makes you want to hold her tight. She is a wonderful slice of humanity. She will drive back to the grocery store if she discovers too late that the cashier had accidentally given her too much change back, even just a few cents.
Peter loved the beat poets, their writing, indistinguishable from their life style, was a very personal matter for him. The love of literature was a selfish but infectious part of his personality. His opinions about the meanings of things needed to be fought for and shared. I was not a big fan of the Beats and this did not please Peter. One day after work, traveling back home on the bus, I reached into my back pack and found a pristine, new, copy of the book Dharma Bums by Kerouac. On the front cover was a post-it note that just said, “Read This!” It was a touching gift but, I too felt I knew Peter pretty well. He did not pay for that book. He had snuck it into my bag so that I would have to unknowing steal my own gift. But you see? I could have returned it. I didn’t.
I have been thinking about Peter a lot while preparing for my character in ONCE, The Musical. He was an incredible musician, with an Irish heart that bled buckets. He was soaked in beer and whiskey, and he sang like he would die if he didn’t. Some people say I had a man crush on Peter, I don’t know about that but I sure did love him. But the thing about loving hims so much is that this is what has allowed me to hate him as much as I do too. I hate him for many reasons but mostly for taking his own life and leaving us all behind with an empty Peter-shape clawed out of our lives.