Brian Abides

It’s been a year since one of my best friends Brian died. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. Brian was one of my best friends. I really think he was the coolest, mellowest, friendliest guy I’ve ever known. Still one of the greatest people I’ve ever known, hands down. I met him when I was in my impressionable early 20s, and learned a lot from him.

This year, I really got into the film “The Big Lebowski.” It’s a great film on a first viewing, but you really need to see it repeatedly to appreciate it. It’s really a philosophical film. The main character, The Dude, is a very go with the flow guy. He abides. He gets by but doesn’t impose his views on others. He’s mellow and cool, just wants to live, bowl, drink White Russians, get high now and then, and hang out with his friends.

The Dude always reminded me of Brian, and even more so now that Brian is gone.

In many ways Brian was the most Dudelike person I’ve known. The things that were important to Brian were friendship, family, a good time, music, and reading.

The first thing Brian ever said to me was “you’re not as bad as everyone’s been saying.” The last thing he said to me was “I love you man.”

Brian and I met on the job as janitors at MiraCosta College, in the early 90s. Brian was working his way through school. I started as a student, then media services guy, then a sub custodian, then a full time custodian while I went to school. I hated being a janitor, but Brian never seemed to mind it. I mean there were always tough times, people and job gripes, but he always seemed to make the best of it. We had a lot of fun on the job.

Brian was always writing lists. We began working on lists together, and started writing songs about being janitors. We’d write the songs on blackboards while we worked, and Brian would transcribe them and stuff them into his overstuffed backpack. 
 We talked about a public access “Brian and Doug Show” where we would interview people in his backyard over cans of Coors. Our biggest aspiration was to get the mayor of Oceanside on a couch in his backyard.
 We talked about filming or writing something called “Brian and Doug Save the World” about two dim witted janitors saving the world from an alien invasion launched from a college campus. This eventually morphed into “TP Diaries” after we realized how bizarre so many of our experiences were.
 As a joke we started a band with one of the other janitors called Sleiber’s Kids. We were named after the former night supervisor who got demoted for pulling another janitor’s pants down in front of a secretary. The band started with Brian and Dave on guitar and me on an electronic drum pad thru an amp. Brian’s young kids eventually got into the band, and his friend Dan as well. Eventually the band warped into something more serious and Brian quit. 
 After Brian and I left the job we emailed stories back and forth. I have years of hilarious emails from Brian. Stories, songs, anecdotes. A lot of one liners where we gave each other grief. Brian was a bizarre walking encyclopedia of things we’d been through. He had recall of dates, events, and people that was scary. He’d email me out of the blue now and again with something cryptic like “congratulations” then follow up with the date of something. I think he kept everything in the same ratty backpack he lugged to work and school each day.
 We wrote “TP Diaries” about our experiences as janitors. A lot of it was true; including the fact that we actually did have “janitorial commandments” we worked by.

Brian taught me a lot about coming out of my shell, humor, sarcasm, friendship. Life. Family. And very little about cleaning. “Never take your work home with you” he used to tell me.
 I’m glad our last words to each other were “I love you man.” I have a picture of him pinned over my desk, and miss him every day.

RIP man, keep abiding, and I’ll see you again someday. We’ll crack a cold one and have a laugh. I’m looking forward to it.

Originally published at on April 13, 2016.

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