Volume 4, Issue 9: Darryl Kile
"The entire organization is in shock."
Here is a button where you can subscribe to this newsletter now, if you have not previously done so. I do hope that you enjoy it.
My grandfather, the previous human to be named William Franklin Leitch, had four heart attacks. He was in his mid-40s when he had his first one, a couple of years younger than I am now. After his second heart attack, the doctors at Mattoon Memorial Hospital, the now-demolished hospital where I was born, told him his heart was “out of rhythm” and that they were going to try a “new” technique to get it back on track. They put him in a dark, silent room and told him to sit there. After about eight minutes, one of the doctors sneaked behind him and clapped two textbooks together as loud as he could right next to my grandfather’s left ear. This prescription, done in my lifetime and probably in yours, did not stop him from having two more heart attacks and dying at the age of 69. He was still smoking his unfiltered Pall Malls on his deathbed.
Last night, Taylor Hawkins, drummer for the rock band The Foo Fighters, died suddenly at the age of 50. Hawkins was known for his exuberant energy and surfer-rock-bro personality, one of those people who was so obviously in love with being alive that it made him feel immortal. The Foo Fighters are a band I have always appreciated more for their enthusiasm for rock music than necessarily their creation of it—(most of) their songs aren’t necessarily all that great, but the vigor and joy with which they play them more than makes up for it. The band, and specifically Hawkins, along with Dave Grohl—the lead singer of the Foo Fighters who just happened to be an otherworldly drummer for one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and who thus regularly served as both a totem and the unattainable rabbit for Hawkins—made playing music seem like the most exuberant thing a person could do. They felt, then, forever young. But Taylor Hawkins wasn’t forever young. He was 50. And sometimes when people are 50, they die.
A close, lifelong friend of one of my close, lifelong friends died last week. I really liked that guy. He was one of those no-bullshit friends, a smart, funny guy who seemed to have the exact right attitude toward the world, a sort of open-hearted, wise bemusement, like he was in on a joke the rest of us weren’t, one he’d happily let us in on, whenever we were ready. He was roughly my age. He got cancer out of nowhere and it took him pretty fast. He had a wife and children—kids about my own kids’ age. I hadn’t seen him in about 15 years, I’d bet, but I can conjure his lopsided grin from memory in a second. I don’t remember the last time I saw him. The last thing on my mind, I’m sure, was that it was the last time I would.
My cousin Denny, whom I’ve written about extensively here, turns 47 years old next week. This is frankly impossible. I have known Denny nearly as long as I have been breathing air. We crawled in diapers across the floor of his grandfather’s motorcycle shop together, we awkwardly fumbled in middle school together while talking to girls at the skating rink, we drove across the country together, from Los Angeles to Effingham, Illinois, in my old 1993 Toyota Camry, we’ve spent countless nights laying in the back of his truck together listening to music and just staring up at the clear, cold Midwest sky. I’ve spent most of our conversations over the last year trying to persuade him to get vaccinated, with little success. He’ll be 47 years old on Tuesday. He’s healthy and in shape and has no serious ailments, not that he’d ever go to the doctor to find out what they were anyway. But he’ll still be 47 years old. Jack Kerouac died at 47. So did Zelda Fitzgerald, and Adam Yauch, and Frida Kahlo, and Edith Piaf, and Manute Bol.
My wife went to the funeral of an old friend’s father this week. He was an extremely nice man. At the funeral, back in her hometown, she talked with all the friends she grew up with, told stories of the father, of all the good times they had, of how their lives were all better because he was in them. Some of their favorite stories were of times the kids had all gotten in trouble, and how nervous they were to have to face him, not because he was mean, but because they liked him so much that they didn’t want to disappoint him. His lectures always came with a twinkle in his eye, and they all still remembered every word of them.
My son and his best friend get to walk home from school together once a week, it’s a little way for them to earn a little bit of responsibility, but yesterday, they were 40 minutes later than usual, to the point that I had to get in the car and go look for them. When they returned, I read them both the riot act, letting them know that more was expected from them, that they have to earn the privilege of my trust, that this was unacceptable behavior. I tried to have a twinkle in my eye when I did it, though I was pretty mad: I can’t be sure. Someday, they may be parents of their own, and perhaps at my funeral, sharing stories, talking about getting dressed down by William’s dad for being late. After all: I’m around the same age her friend’s father was when he dressed them down. As my wife and her friends shared all the old stories at the funeral, they couldn’t help but shake their heads: It all seems just like yesterday.
I know it is a trope to say that life is fleeting, that the person standing next to you in line today at the supermarket could vanish from the planet tomorrow, that you must cherish every moment of your life and every person in it because someday it will be gone and you will miss it—I know this is the sort of thing you expect to see on your aunt’s Facebook page. But that does not make it less true. When I was 22 years old, I never really had to think about death. In my 30s, a little more; in my 40s, a little more. It creeps in around the edges, lurking, always waiting. It is shocking, always shocking—even when I’m in my 90s it’ll be shocking. But it elbows in, every year, until someday it will remain shocking, but also common: It will be part of the normal run of things. It could be me. It could be you. It could be the chef at your favorite restaurant; it could be that Little League coach that annoys you; it could be the one kid you sort of remember from middle school, Thomas, was that his name, it was probably Thomas, maybe Terry. It could be any of us. Eventually, of course, it will be.
You try not to think about it. But sometimes there are weeks like this one, when you have no choice but to think about it. Sometimes it’s OK to think about it. Someday the seven-year-old in this room next to me right now is going to be telling stories about his dad, and all he will have is stories, because I will be gone. I do not know when that will be. I do not know how much time any of us have left. That’s why I’m going in that room, right now, and hang him upside down by his feet, and throw him into some pillows, and let him jump on my head. I’m going to give him another story to tell. Someday it will all seem just like yesterday.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality.
Your Men’s NCAA Sweet Sixteen Rooting Guide, New York. My one NYMag column every year where I just try to make a bunch of jokes, mostly at Duke’s expense.
“The Worst Person in the World” Is a Great Generation X Film, Medium. Seriously, go see this if you haven’t yet.
Your NL Central Preview, MLB.com. These things are back too!
Your AL Central Preview, MLB.com. This means the season is getting close.
For No Reason Whatsoever, Here Are Five Great Movies About Nuclear War, Medium. No reason whatsoever!
Your Women’s NCAA Sweet Sixteen Rooting Guide, New York. The women’s tournament is a day after the men’s, so I have to do this (less rigorous) listing in the comments.
The Thirty: Reasonable Goals for Every MLB Team, MLB.com. Pretty nice to have these things back, actually.
Your Friday Five, Medium. Everybody’s working for the weekend … everybody just needs a little romance.
The Long Game With LZ and Leitch, one of the best shows we’ve ever done, we did an entire show about Deshaun Watson with Michelle Beadle and Lindsay Jones.
Grierson & Leitch, we discussed “Deep Water” and “Windfall,” and previewed tomorrow night’s Oscars.
Seeing Red, no show this week, sorry.
Waitin' Since Last Saturday, no show this week.
LONG STORY YOU SHOULD READ THIS MORNING … OF THE WEEK
“Every MLB Transaction, Analyzed,” Mike Petriello, MLB.com. Little home team stuff here, no doubt, and Mike is a friend of mine (and former colleague on the old MLB Plus broadcasts), but in the whirlwind of transactions since the lockout lifted, I’ve found his analysis a total lifesaver. Fangraphs and Joe Sheehan have been just as vital, but I always end up thinking Petriello is probably right. Even when he’s wrong, which is the sign of an excellent analyst.
ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!
This is your reminder that if you write me a letter and put it in the mail, I will respond to it with a letter of my own, and send that letter right to you! It really happens! Hundreds of satisfied customers! (And I’m finally all caught back up on these.)
Write me at:
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
“Among the Ghosts,” Lucero. I’m seeing Lucero open for Jawbreaker—a band I like, but not as much as I like Lucero—in May in Atlanta, and I kind of can’t get over how great they are. Why did it take me so long to get into this band? (This happens to me, uh, all the time. It happens to me all the time in this newsletter.)
Remember to listen to The Official Will Leitch Newsletter Spotify Playlist, featuring every song ever mentioned in this section.
We are all St. Peter’s.
Have a great weekend, all.