the first

On morning rounds, my attending asked me a question. “How long do you think he has?” It wasn’t the usual test-your-knowledge pimping that we’ve gotten used to as doctors in training.  She genuinely wanted to know what I thought.

* * *

I’ve been privileged to stand witness only twice.

Six years ago, I drove down to McHenry from Wisconsin to be with my aunt. With her family—her sister, my mom and dad, my brother and his wife–we stood at her bedside as the ventilator was switched off. It was anticipated and planned, for as much as such a thing could be planned given that it was only two weeks earlier that she had successfully had a heart valve replacement and her room was decorated with the well wishes of “get well soon” balloons that were still there.

I really hate those balloons.

Four years ago, we—Scott’s friends—were in the middle of working out a schedule so that one of us would always be around to provide support for his mom, who had been with him every minute of his hospital stay. It was nighttime and I was getting ready to go back home to Wisconsin to show my face at work before coming back for my scheduled support shift, but our plans were soon to become moot. I don’t know what his prognosis had been—did he have hours? days? weeks? months?—maybe I was being purposefully ignorant—but we had been preparing for the long haul.

Scott had a group of close friends that had been with him since high school, but he and I only became friends many years later. They were present for his passing, with the exception of Joe. I asked Michael why I should have been there and not Joe.

“You needed to be there to get the story,” just as he so often is, to be the keeper of the story.

* * *

I wasn’t present when he passed away. I arrived at the hospital in the morning and asked my intern if he had seen him yet. “He passed away about an hour ago.”

When my attending asked me how long I thought he had, I sighed and shook my head. I thought of my aunt. I thought of Scott. “I don’t know. Maybe a day.”

Sometimes, there is no reward in being right.

two years late

Tragedy, I think, tends to whitewash the canvas of our memories, leaving only itself in its wake. The fun times I had in New York are hard to remember through the filter of September 11. My memories of a dear friend of mine from those days are discolored by the time I spent in earnest with him during his final days in the hospital. I promised myself I would write a remembrance of him, as so many did when he passed, but I was never sure what to write. Two years later, motivated by an excellent memorial penned by another good friend of his, despite the piles of studying awaiting me once I finish this post, I figured I should just sit down and recover what was lost before another year goes by.

Continue reading “two years late”

musical influences

I had no idea what I was agreeing to, but when Swanson invited me to go with him to a screening of Stop Making Sense sometime my sophomore year I think it was, I said sure, why not. Thus do I credit him with introducing me to The Talking Heads. I can’t be certain, but he probably also had a hand in my ownership of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. He most definitely introduced me to Steve Goodman, however.

Later on through his intervention would he also introduce me to Larry Swenson and Lee Murdock.

only not enough of what matters

Ever since Scott moved out of the city in 2000-2001 or thereabouts, I had kept in touch with him mostly through the Internet. In so doing, he became less of a “real” inhabitant of my life and more someone who I knew through the virtual reality of ones and zeros.  It’s easy for me, then, to chalk up his absence to simply having moved onto the Next Big Internet Thing, as he has done many times before; that, when I saw his Facebook profile on today, his birthday, it felt like I can still give him a ring the next time I’m in town and meet up for a drink and cheesy comestibles at NoMi, in a sort of blissful ignorance, a tacit denial of the reality of it all.

But with a blink of my eyes, I remember again.


The hardest thing he has ever done, Mike Rudzinski told me recently, was composing his remembrance of Scott.

I don’t doubt it.* I still am not able to put together anything quite as coherent or organized as the many writings some of Scott’s many friends have posted; and I don’t know if I ever will, really. The best I could muster to write on Scott’s Facebook wall was a simple two-word goodbye, meant simply to mark his passing and nothing more.

This post, too, is merely a placeholder, reserving a place for my remembrance of Scott that will, sometime, come. It is fitting–some might say a moral imperative–to commemorate Scott’s life by sharing with everyone what he has meant to us. I will do my part, but as I lack the ability to thread a cohesive narrative here, it will be in fragments…and only after I’ve had a chance to rest.

* though emceeing Psaturday’s Pseudo may have topped it…I don’t know.


This past Monday, the night Scott passed, we packed up everything in his room to be brought home with his mom. (Oddly enough, we had earlier in the day already started packing away the nonessentials, anticipating that he would be soon transferred to palliative care.) When I picked up my coat to depart, I noticed my iPod nano was not where I had left it, which was in my inner coat pocket. Since my earphones had fallen out earlier, I presumed my iPod fell out of the pocket as well and hunted around the room for it, with no success. Thinking that it might have made its way into one of the packed bags, Gail said she would keep an eye out for it when she unpacked.

Now, that particular pocket actually has a hole towards the top, into which things could fall into the inner shell of the coat. I had patted down the coat and didn’t feel any foreign objects. Nor was the iPod to be found at home (on the off chance that I didn’t actually bring it with me). Ready to write it off as a loss–after all, it’s just a thing and things can be replaced, the thought occurred to me that Scott might have… “borrowed” it for some music on the long walk that he had embarked upon. If he wanted it, he could have just asked me–and I would have made sure there was music on there that he’d actually like.

As we left the Fireside Grill tonight for a post-Pseudo meal, I reached into my pockets to pull out my gloves and felt something weird inside the coat. Feeling around, it was rectangular and very solid. After first thinking “what the hell is this?,” it came to me: it was my iPod. Immediately, I stuck my hand down that hole in the coat– and presto, the missing iPod. I yelled over to Mike R., who was familiar with the tale of the iPod-gone-missing: “Dude, do you know what I just found?” “NO WAY. Scott returned it to you!”

After sharing with Michael P. the joyous story of the reunion of a man and his gadget, we ultimately decided that Scott probably found the music on my iPod unacceptable.

me and scotty mcgee, pt. 1.

If memory serves, this is the first communication I ever sent Scott outside of the notesfiles.

Date: Mon, 20 Jul 1998 20:46:07 -0500 (CDT)
From: [ME]
X-Sender: [ME]
Subject: ISO advice/words of wisdom
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.3.96.980720203638.8379F-100000@pepsi>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII
Status:  O

Hi, Scott. We've never personally met except on notesfiles, but I wanted
to ask you if you'd be willing to give me your impressions on living in
New York, seeing as how I'll be moving out there in a month. I gathered
from your ph that you live out in Queens; what's it like? I haven't
explored much of New York beyond Manhattan below 57th and The Bronx,
around Fordham. I'm thinking of getting an apartment after my freshman
year, and I'm wondering where's a good place to look--Manhattan is most
likely out of my price range, even with a roommate.

I'm just trying to get a feel for the place before The Big Move. Any
comments/advice/etc. would be helpful. Oh, and if you're wondering, I'll
be located on Third Ave. and 9th, in the Village.