Thursday, August 12th, 2010 Diary Entry – Bryan
I promised you I’d write about him, Ganymede, and so here it is. You understand how it was difficult to bring myself to finally put words on the screen, but I had to do it sometime. I guess I’ll just tell the truth.
Just as it had become Friday, the Friday just before I last posted, my very good friend and former lover was shedding his body, leaving it to become dust and earth again. He suddenly exited, through his own choice- even if it was not a suicide, he made every moment in his life his own choice. He tried heroin again for the first time in years, overdosed, and the breath left his body, to be reabsorbed, I suppose, into the universe. He was 33.
It is the same friend of whom I spoke some posts ago. This is what I had said:
“Now, another identification. Of course I do not think actors to be superior to other human beings, so much as a different flavor. And lots of flavors are tasty, but this one is one of my favorites. Let me use a little story here. One of my exes has always been something of a Dionysos personified, with an emphasis on Silenus- you know how Jim Morrison would just take tons of drugs just because they were offered him? Well, he was that kind of guy. I remember once he offered me some ecstasy and told me a story of how Mohammed had spoken with Gabriel… but I was not much in the mood for ecstasy, nor was I much in the mood for being loved at that point in my life. His love was too wild, too strong, too quick- I shied away. So we had a bit of a mutual breakup. But I have always felt very ‘lovingly’ about him anyway, if that makes sense. And I have enjoyed his forays in the arts, usually. But here is what I remember most about him: He says that improvisation is the ultimate path to enlightenment. And I may agree that it is at least my favorite- because it is the path for me too. It is an expedient and fun as fuck celebratory path.”
I would find out later in the day on Friday, and I would go to join my friends– my family, really- in a gathering in one of our houses. We would be sitting shiva the next few days, I suppose- but shiva means seven- seven days of mourning- and in today’s society, one can’t just sit shiva properly anymore. There are obligations and work to be done and bills to pay. So I was just plenty exhausted for a week instead. And even my idols have been dressed in mourning clothes.
In this home there was food, and we all brought alcohol, and since it’s California, there were plenty with more than alcohol, too, I suppose. We shared our stories and our memories. We poured libations. I might say that I am desensitized to death, but honestly, it is still disconcerting. And for this death to come now, after I have been learning to practice true acceptance with you, Ganymede- to learn to accept whatever you, and Life, give me, unconditionally. And then you go and take our friend away from us. Although I knew that he would always be with us, it still hurt. And it was strange to see my friends, normally such jovial, comedic people in public society, breaking down. I felt as though I were spying on something I should not see when I walked past the first I saw weeping heavily. I know that some may have even been dealing with the pain in a dysfunctional manner, but I think that in such an environment it is excusable. Someone had said that there must have been a reason for all this to happen. I said, yes, there must have been some good reason, for if there were no good to come, it would not have occurred at all. A third said, “Yes.” A fourth- he disagreed. He said something like- “Excuse me, but I don’t think there’s anything good about this.”
Sunday, we held his memorial service at his (and my) favorite theatre around. It was packed to brimming and we all got drinks at the bar before heading in (and went back out into the bar during the service to get another). We chanted ॐ to start the service, while in नमस्ते, and then many of us in his friends and family spoke at the podium onstage. Some went up whenever they could manage without falling apart. Some of them were partly naked. None of us had anything prepared except of course his father- but it didn’t matter. One of the first speakers mentioned, while looking as though he’d been crying and probably already drinking as much as the rest of us, that Bryan would have said, “Make it up, fucker!”
His was a life lived quickly, and he lived each moment as he wanted. Sometimes he was a little too quick for others- or too chaotic, like I said last post. His chaos could harm others, but we would forgive him. He may not have had much of Apollo’s recommended moderation- I suppose he chose to do without. Still, he always seemed like he was ahead of most in mind and spirit, even if he acted like an animal. And most people will remember his smile and joy- he was always so glad to be doing whatever it was he was doing.
I can’t rightly recollect all the beautiful words that might have been said at the memorial. Or written down in notebooks to be buried later. I have, however, collected a bit of what has been said about him electronically, and that should give an idea at least:
“I am glad we are all together in some way.
He was a wonderfully fun, helpful, playful presence. I hope we can all honour him by remembering that side of him, and finding our own ‘inner Bryan’.
He was a force of fun and so good-natured.
I only met Bryan a few times, but he’s someone you can’t forget. I feel fortunate to have known him even as little as I did.
This is such a shock. Bryan was such an energetic shining star- his light will not fade easily or quietly as evidenced by all those he touched.
I echo the sympathies of my fellow Brits, who were so fortunate to have met Bryan even if only for a short while. The world has lost a top bloke and is a lesser place for it.
I don’t want to accept someone like Bryan being duped out of life. Everyone that has met the guy knows what a positive force he was- such a goof. This is terrible.
I didn’t know Bryan very well, but he was always so nice to me; truly a fantastic individual.
One of the most easy to love people I’ve ever met.
Bryan was one of the most intelligent, engaging and interesting people I’ve ever met, and he had such a comic talent and genius both on and off stage.
There probably isn’t one person who met Bryan that didn’t smile because of it.
Bryan was a rare breed, as they say, and his energy and zest for life rubbed off on everyone who met him.
His memory will forever make everyone who knew him smile.
Although I barely knew him, he always lit up the room with his impish grin. We’ve definitely lost a bright light here in the theatre community.
Terribly sorry to hear about Bryan; he was a genuine light in the world.
I was able for a brief amount of time to know a very funny, genuine person.
Bryan was one of a kind. He so loved life and wanted that for everyone. His kind heart will be missed dearly by his family and friends.
Bryan, man, why’d ya have to go so soon. We all wanted you to stay.
Bryan Burgess was a guy with a sick, twisted sense of humor… and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the man. I’ll miss you, Bryan, but I’m more afraid for the people on the other side. I don’t think they’re ready for what you’re gonna bring them.
The first time I met Bryan, he was naked in a No Shame sketch. Then he was the crazy murderer in Macbeth fight rehearsals. He was one of the first people I worked with when I started learning improv. The only thing I remember about my first improv show at The Mill was doing a scene with Bryan. Thank you Bryan for loving performance, loving life, and helping teach the rest of us to do the same.
I think my most vivid memory of you was in college when I would wake up at 7am to get ready to go to class and you’d still be up from the night before with the music blaring and of course you’d still be partying. This didn’t just happen once but pretty much every night. Oh how I envied your tireless pursuit of a good time.
I miss you, you crazy bastard. Hope they are ready for you in Heaven.
While I would never choose these circumstances, I am in a state of awe at the wonderful love that has come out of the woodwork this weekend. Whether or not I was able to respond, know that every kind word and held hand meant and means the world to me. Our loss is Great. Our love is Greater.
We will all miss you so much, Bryan. You have touched so many lives in countless ways.
You know Bryan, lots of the speakers at your memorial reminded me how big a bite out of life you took on a regular basis. I need more of that in my life. In honor of you, I will get out in nature tomorrow. I love nature, no more excuses. I’m gonna take a bite out of life!
He was truly an amazing man with a heart of gold! He had a smile that just warmed your heart as soon as he said, ‘Hi!’! His memorial was one of the most amazing experiences of my life! To see how one person touched so many people ALL in the same way was just a blessing and something that I truly admired! To the family, all I can honestly say is that…one day… I hope you can find peace in your heart! I’m so sorry for your loss! To my fellow coworkers- I LOVE YOU GUYS VERY MUCH! Thank you so much for the love today that you gave me… it was great seeing you all! To Bryan, I am truly honored and blessed to have known you. I can finally say that I’ve met an ANGEL in my lifetime! Time to go home dear friend! I’ll see you soon one day! Thank you for your love and the laughter! You will be missed!
We were honored to see so many people who cherished his bright light, both on and off of the stage. His spirit sold out the house! His family will forever celebrate his life.
I’ve always admired your powerful, unapolegetic, and triumphantly positive self. I’m thankful to have known you.
Bryan created a community and family through his work on the stage. Bryan loved his family and friends. He experienced all that life could offer and gave even more.
I think god was laughing when he sent you to our world. ‘Wait till they get a load of this motherfucker.’ Now we know this planet rocks. Bryan Burgess was here.
So sorry to hear you’ve moved on to the next dimension. You were one funny mofo. :-)
I’ll miss your laugh and your sweetness and well, just you. Love you, Bryan. Don’t take shit from no angels. ‘Shut up, Idiot.’
Bryan, the first night I met you, I thought you were an insane caveman. You were listening to Zappa records, wearing a sheet like a diaper, and screaming obscenities at the top of your lungs. As I spent more time with you throughout the years, I came to know you as one of the most sensitive and intelligent gentlemen of my acquaintance, despite the fact that I’ve seen your naked ass, balls, and cock more times than I care to remember. You are a shining star to all of us, and your antics will forever make us chuckle with fond memories. Love to you, wherever you are.
He can only be leaving us so soon to take laughter to the highest level, where we will hear it eternally.
You’ll live in me and in all of us you’ve touched… above or below the belt.
Don’t get the angels too drunk up there. FUIs would be so much worse than DUIs.
Bryan, we will always remember your unconditional love, the laughter you shared, your beautiful smile, your jokes, your warmth, your love of animals, your endless knowledge of everything and your many, many friends. We cherish you, our hearts ache for you and will miss you so very much.
Bryan would arrive first, party the hardest, fall asleep last, and rise for cleanup in the morning. Community was in Bryan’s spirit. When we were discussing branding for our imminent LA project, his favorite company name was ‘Us’. His role in the Fringe was to make sure everyone had a good time. This was Bryan’s personal mission; he cared about people’s experience- not just the advancement of their careers.
Although I often called him a human tornado of destruction, he built far more than he destroyed. His was a chaotic good, a force of nature no man-made barrier could cage or deny. From this point forth, the bar at Fringe Central will bear his name with honor. His spirit will playfully haunt every event so long as the Fringe endures.
Now we must endeavor to smile without Bryan’s face lighting up our days, to march forth without our fallen friend. To try to understand or at least accept; to be at peace with his life and death. It’s been several days now since he left us; it’s still so hard to understand- to make sense of his final exit. I keep hoping the next day will be easier, but each day I feel his presence in my memory a little more distant. Every molecule in my body struggles to hold on to him. It’s up to all of us to keep the flame of his life alive. Biting the bullet, closing our eyes, putting our heads down and charging into the next day. That’s how Bryan did it. That’s how he lived.”
While we were speaking, we also took communion. His sister poured him a final beer… she took a sip… she passed it to me. I took a sip and passed it to my friend. He took a sip and… so on.
After everyone seemed to be done, there was a long silence. Then we ended the ceremony with another Om in the Namaste asana, just as we had begun. It was amazing to hear the entire theatre filled with that primal sound. We all hugged and talked and drank and gradually wound our way through town back to that house in which we’d been mourning.
This was Luken’s first friend to die. He almost could not believe it. He kept saying, “I keep expecting him to show up now that it’s three days later explaining his elaborate prank… or just barging in through the door shouting, ‘Here’s the beer, fuckers!'” Because he would always be there for you at the end of the night to provide more alcohol- just when you thought you’d run dry.
I believe I know now what he meant about Gabriel… I look back on things now and wonder if I should have done things differently. But one of his many other lovers assured me that everything happened correctly. She said it would not have been right for Bryan to be with any one person for too long, and it was especially good he was with no one at his death.
I realized as I was keeping company with friends in another apartment that everyone in the room had been his lover at some point except for Luken. Although it wasn’t for lack of Bryan trying. Bryan was very aggressive in his pursuit of men- like a warrior ready to jump off a building into a tree for you. I was told he kept himself very reserved and polite with me, however- perhaps he thought me more delicate. I could accept him no matter what, but all the time? Like I said, it was too much for me then.
We watched some videos of him performing with friends… as we were doing so, one of our friends said that when you’re with Bryan, you’re just going to have to accept that you just suddenly woke up in the morning with his penis in a hot-dog bun shoved in front of your face. Yes, he flashed a lot- there was a wonderful Christmas picture in which everyone was crossdressing, and he dropped his pants at the last moment, unbeknownst to anyone else in the photo, to display an impressive tucked mangina, now in digital format for us all to share.
Bryan, you crazy fucker. I do love you.
I have had three dreams about Bryan now, since his passing. I had never dreamt about him before. Now he shows up in my dreams- I see him, and I hear his voice. And he does all the same normal things he would do- setting up a stage and joking around with me. And I remember in my dreams that he had died… and then his attitude toward me is, “Well, what did you expect?” As though it were perfectly normal for him to be alive again. And then I later awake and know that he is alive- but not in a way I can touch in waking life as I used to do. He only haunts us in whatever form he holds now- I went to the first meeting for planning next year’s Fringe, and, as we sat down to begin in the lovely seats at Fringe Central, in our mainstage theatre, someone’s seat immediately broke, the bottom falling out from under him. We say this was Bryan.
He really did believe that improvisation could save the world. And we his companions know this to be true. Now that he is gone, it is up to the rest of us and those like us to save the world.