15 November 2002
I had a call from "Tree Davis" today. The tree is in. Shortly after Paul
died, I noticed that a large pine tree sitting in front of the theatre where Paul (and the
other kids) spent so much of his time, where the band Lawsuit got its start, where Paul
and Audra were married, was looking very dead. I talked with Paul's old boss, who heads up the Department of
Parks and Recreation, to let him know that if they ever took that dead tree out, we would
like to plant a memorial tree for Paul in that spot.
Around the side of the theatre is a tree which my (then) office planted in David's name
after he died--which was what gave me the idea. Bob told me that since the tree was so
large it would cost a lot to take it down and he didn't know when the city would get
around to it, but he'd keep my wishes in mind.
Earlier this year, I was riding my bike past the theatre and saw that at long last the
tree was gone. They had just removed it that day. I immediately got on the phone to Bob
and reminded him that we still wanted to put in a tree for Paul. He directed me to
"Tree Davis." I made arrangements with the woman who runs that department, sent
her a check, we conferred on what the plaque should say, and she told me that it would be
planted in the fall, after the heat was over.
It ran into a snag because she was told that an expansion of the theatre was planned
and would wipe out that area entirely, so we agreed to wait until construction plans were
final before deciding where the tree would go. But then I got to thinking about it and
realized she was thinking of the wrong spot. For the theatre to expand to where I had in
mind, they would have to totally remodel the thing, tear out the lobby, etc, etc. I called
the Tree lady back, she said she'd go over there with the planner, they went, and today I
had the news that the tree had been planted.
It's not on the top of the hill, as I'd hoped, but now that I see it, it's even in a
better place, at the base of the hill, directly opposite David's tree....
As the trees mature, they will be "brothers" to each other, as Paul and David
were in life, and as their ashes rest in the same plot in the cemetery.
This makes the fourth on my tour of "memorials to the dead Sykes children" --
a gazebo at the Art Center, called "David's Place," the two trees, and the
performing area at the downtown plaza, which is dedicated to Paul and which is built with
engraved bricks purchased by people, many of them with sentiments about Paul or David.
Kinda makes you feel embarrassed--and proud at the same time.
There's something about having something be "permanent," or at least
permanent enough that it will probably survive you. Years from now, when we have joined
Paul and David, there will be people who will come upon these memorials and wonder about
the people to whom they are dedicated.
In some way, the Internet is like a living permanent memorial, especially journals,
which tell the joys and woes, the ups and downs, the good and the bad of our lives. We
begin these journals as records for ourselves, and as we discover we have ...gasp... readers,
then it becomes something that is more than a journal, less than a newspaper column. It is
very personal, but at the same time it is very public. We look for the clever twist, the
entertaining way to tell a story.
Recently, a journalist friend of mine (whom I will not name) who spends quite a bit of time saying
exactly what comes to mind, minces no words, and frequently gets very personal in subject
matter, was busted. Though names were never used a co-worker who is referred to in not a
very flattering light (more than once) discovered the journal, recognized the references,
and brought it to the attention of the powers that be. The journalist went through the
tortures of the damned waiting to find out if the journal would be the cause for the loss
of a job. (As it turned out, the boss was understanding, felt that basically nothing wrong
had been said, but that perhaps some of the references were ill-advised, and the journal
was "cleansed" of offensive references, the job remains safe, the journal
While I sympathized with the plight, I was grateful that I was not in the same
position. "Everyone who knows me knows I keep this journal," I said, and added
that I did edit myself and tried not to be too open about people when I knew that
it would either reveal their personal secrets or would in some way hurt or offend them.
Or so I thought.
I have been quite open in my feelings on some things, and not entirely
flattering--though truthful. And I've been busted. Someone has found the unflattering
things I've said, they've been circulated around the people involved, they've been
reported, I've been called "evil," and I'm wondering if there will be
ramifications where I'm concerned.
While I thought I was being circumspect in not using names, I was not circumspect
enough. And while I stand by everything I wrote--because those were indeed my true
feelings--it is an uncomfortable position to be in to realize that people you never in
your wildest dreams imagined would be interested in this journal have spent the day
scouring it trying to find all the bad references.
The people who matter in this scenario are not upset. They understand. They even, to
some extent, agree with things I wrote, but do feel that, like my fellow journaler, I was
a bit unwise to be quite so blatantly honest.
So I don't know what happens now. An apology is not in order because, like the
permanent memorials to the kids, all those things are out there floating around cyberspace
to be seen by whoever can write a clever "google" query. They may, in fact,
survive my own existence on this earth (and if the people about whom I wrote have their
way, perhaps that day may come sooner than anticipated! --just kidding).
I've been sitting here trying to assess how I feel. I wish I could feel sorry, but I
don't. (I also wish I felt freer to be more specific, but no point in compounding the
situation) But by the same token, I'm sorry for the furor that this is causing...and also
not a little uncomfortable at the thought of running into any of these people
Maybe sometimes semi-permanent memorials aren't such a good thing.