The King of Limbs

Band: Radiohead
Album: The King of Limbs
Best song: “Lotus Flower” is amazing.
Worst song: “Codex” isn’t much.

This is not about an album, though, you should listen to King of Limbs, especially “Lotus Flower.” I don’t do reviews for Memorial Day, instead, I do a rehash of this, the eulogy I never said. The one I’ll rewrite for years to come. (Last year’s is here. The one from 2010 is here. The album name The King of Limbs makes me think of Taft because he was all knees and elbows and because he loved Radiohead. Also because I love Radiohead. Yes. It’s a stretch.

May, for most of my life, has been a pretty happy month. When I was young, it was the real start of spring; Chicago Marches and Aprils were rainy and unpleasant when I was little. It was the beginning of the fun part of baseball season, when teams and players took shape. It was playoff hockey and basketball. We started going outside consistently for gym class at school. Eventually, college let out for the summer in May. One of my closest friends has a birthday in May. My sister got married Memorial Day weekend. Cinco de Mayo is one of my favorite holidays and it’s my life’s work to get it as popular as St. Patrick’s Day (drinking holiday, bad food, colder weather).

May’s a beautiful month, were it not for the sense of dread and longing I feel every year.

By the time you’ve read this, I’ve mostly likely made my peace with the fourth anniversary of my closest friend’s death. “Made my peace” is actually not really what’s happening; I’ve probably just cried some and understood that final is final is final. Final doesn’t fuck around.

I only have one friend out here in DC who knew Taft. We all hung out in college during my sophomore year because the three of us didn’t drink and lived in the dorms together. He’s got a similar goofiness that is and he asked me a very simple, yet very good question recently. “Is this the defining moment in your life so far?”

I, of course, answered in the affirmative, largely with the explanation that the shock is the most important thing. My parents split up and it was a huge, monumental moment in my life. I was an adult — this summer is the 10-year anniversary of that occasion — but I knew it was coming, sooner or later. With Taft’s death, it was out of nowhere.

And that’s the fear. Life cycles are, for the most part, predictable. My friends get married and have kids. Friends graduate from college. My dad gets remarried. My sister builds a life for herself. Our parents fall ill as they grow older. The body degrades. Indeed, Taft’s father was dying at the time of Taft’s death; he had cancer and passed less than a month after his son’s passing. But, that’s what parents of adults do. They die. Circle of life and such.

Hearing that a perfectly healthy 27-year-old has passed is not. It’s a shock to anyone, assuming said 27-year-old isn’t a junkie, an armed services member or in a gang. Taft was none of these things. He was just a young man on the precipice of greatness.

I have zero tattoos. I’ve, since I was a kid, wanted one, but never came to a decision on one. I had a great idea every year. And that fact — having a new idea every year — just proves that it’s not a good idea for me to get one. I’ll grow tired of whatever I put on my body.

The closest I ever came to getting one was af few months after Taft passed. A friend of ours had made shirts for a Taft visit to New York and we reprinted a version of those. The logo on the front in a T in a circle, in Cubs blue.

I was going to get that tattooed. I’d brought a printout to a tattoo shop and asked the guy about pricing. I learned just how expensive tatts are and didn’t get it. But, mostly, I dodged a bullet.

It’s not to say that I would regret the tattoo; I wouldn’t. But, in my own mind (and only my mind), that cheapens the memory. I don’t need a tattoo to remember Taft; I think about him every day. I don’t need reminders. Every Memorial Day weekend is hard. Every May brings the dread. Every Cub triumph, however small, has the power to make me misty.

It’s in TV. It’s in music. It’s in the stories we don’t get to share, the conversations never had.

The dreams are the worst part, by far.

Missing him is a pain that’s constant, but duller than the shock of waking up from a dream in which he stars. They seem to come in waves, but have been constant for the past four years. I have them a lot and, however painful they may be, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Indeed, I worry if they ever cease will it mean I don’t care anymore? Does it mean I don’t miss my friend? Does it mean I’ve accepted it?

Because, really, I don’t think I want to accept it.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

    You can contact me at rjgianfortune at gmail dot com.

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