In fact, I lost contact with most of the people I knew in college, including my, beer-drinking friends and the Joe Kenda My My My Shirt first woman I ever woke up in the morning. The years after graduation hardened me into someone quite different from the strutting graduate who left campus that day headed for New York City, ready to offer the world his talent. The world, I discovered, was not all that interested.
I wandered around my early the same time, I had my first serious encounter with death. My favorite uncle, my mother’s brother, the Joe Kenda My My My Shirt man who had taught me music, taught me to drive, teased me about girls, thrown me a football—that one adult whom I targeted as a child and said, “That’s who I want to be when I grow up”—died of pancreatic cancer at the age of forty-four.
He was a short, handsome man with a thick mustache, and I was with him for the last year of his life, living in an apartment just below his. I watched his strong body wither, then bloat, saw him suffer, night after night, doubled over at the dinner table, pressing on his stomach, his eyes shut, his mouth contorted in pain. “Ahhhhh, God,” he would moan. “Ahhhhhh, Jesus!” The rest of us—my aunt, his two young sons, me— stood there, silently, cleaning the plates, averting our eyes. It was the Joe Kenda My My My Shirt most helpless I have ever felt in my life.