Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Goodbye Posso

While I've posted several over the years, for friends, neighbors and the odd public figure, let it be known that I don't especially enjoy writing eulogies. There's something highly discomfiting about aestheticizing death. Nevertheless, I wanted to share a few clumsy thoughts on the passing (a stupid euphemism; he shot himself last week, in the middle of the day, in a downtown Minneapolis office building) of my friend Nate, commonly known by his surname Posso and loved by many.

The requisite disclaimer: I didn't "know" Posso very well, nor can I cast much biographical light on his life; but he was my friend. For the last two Octobers, I worked and lived with him at the sugar beet harvest in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Along with six or seven other itinerant punks, Posso and I shared quarters in a cold, spartan outbuilding, built for the annual county fair and known affectionately as the Chateau. This past year Posso and I were next-door neighbors, I in my pathetic little pup-tent, and Posso, tentless, in a sleeping bag just north of my feet; on more than one chilly night he crawled inside my tent and suggested, half-mockingly, that we cuddle

How can I describe Posso without making him a caricature? Especially when he seemed, at times, intent on making a caricature of himself? I confess that I always thought of him as a bit gnomish; small, slightly hunched, with a thick, sculptural beard and manic, soulful eyes. He'd lost much of an arm in a freight-train accident, a disability which he managed somehow to downplay to the extent that I often forgot it completely, though he frequently asked me to roll him cigarettes. To be honest, I'm not sure how he carried out his taretaker duties, which in my experience required two good arms; I can only conjecture that his considerable (if twisted) charms and caustic humor were enough to endear him to his crew. Posso was hands-down one of the funniest people I have ever met. Not just his back-catalog of dark and offensive jokes--none of which, curses on my porous memory, are coming to me at the moment--but his round-the-clock attitude, the scathing way in which he confronted the world. 

I could say, euphemistically, that Posso 'lived on the margins;' more to the point, and I don't mean it disparagingly, he was a fuck-up--that was the basis for his profound sense of humor. Liquor, drugs, stints in jail, perpetual poverty. He was the only punk in Wahpeton without a tent; he never had his own smokes or booze, and was always cajoling lengthy swigs out of my half-gallon of bottom-shelf vodka. I could rarely refuse him; this last year especially, when I was suffering insane toothaches and headaches and was in a black mood throughout the harvest, Posso's humor was one of the few things that kept me afloat, and sharing my stash seemed the least I could do.

He was an avid, obsessive dice-player, a game which I found incredibly stupid, while acknowledging its value as a time-killer; at any rate, Posso somehow made it fun. I suppose I assumed that Posso, too, was having fun--I certainly wouldn't have thought him suicidally unhappy. I still want to assume that he was having fun; that the bullet he put through himself doesn't negate that fun. He did, it's true, jump ship fairly early on in the harvest; things weren't going well, there was a fight about one of the dogs pissing on his sleeping bag or something, and a few hours later he was gone, back to Minneapolis. His abrupt departure depressed the hell out of me, actually. The Chateau seemed more grim than ever after he left; a day or two later I too bailed. 

Why? is the first question suicide often begs. Why--when he had so much to live for? Somehow, I don't feel very troubled by Posso's wherefores. A friend described Posso to the Minneapolis City Pages as "sad, lost and tired." "He lived in his shoes for the past 15 years," added another. Literally, perhaps--at the beet harvest he seemed to always be sleeping with his shoes on. I can't imagine that sort of life being anything but exhausting, and his decision to end it doesn't seem far-fetched or incomprehensible. Nor, despite all the hearts that are broken over his death, does it strike me as a selfish act. He'd had enough; the kid wanted out. On the other hand, I do wonder why he chose the second floor of a shitty skyscraper as his last vista, or a Thursday morning in January as his final hour; it all seems so arbitrary. 

Posso's numerous friends in Minneapolis have been raising money in his honor--more than $10,000, most of which is being donated to a homeless youth center. Which is wonderful, though I can't help but wonder what Posso might have done with that kind of money while he was alive--some serious partying, at the very least. And while donating money feels like a slightly tacky way to grieve for a friend, the many heartfelt comments on the memorial fund's website do attest to the impact of his life in Minneapolis and beyond. I'm lucky to have met you, Posso. You owe me a drink on the flipside. 

1 comment :

  1. It's been four months since my son took his life. Reading this makes me glad that you were a part however small, in his life. You don't know how right you were when you said the kid wanted out. Thirty two isn't very old, but, Nathan put in a lot of living in those years. Most of them being very unhappy. People that didn't know him before the train accident don't know how different he was afterward. After that he was known as "Posso" but before he was and always will be my sweet Nathan. It was hard watching him burn out his light but he did what he thought was the only way to stop the pain. Physically and mentally. Thank you for writing this wonderful tribute to your friend.

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