My friend and co-worker C2 called me a few hours ago with shocking news.
Our friend and former colleague, John Ingram (known on this blog as J-X) passed away this week. We don’t have too many details yet; C2 said he got a call from another friend of John’s. Apparently, he was found in his Santa Monica apartment either yesterday or today.
C2 and I talked for a while tonight on the phone; we’re both in shock and quite upset. C2 says he spoke to John last this past Sunday. John said he wasn’t feeling well (he wouldn’t say what was wrong, just that it was “bad”) and that he had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday. C2 encouraged him to go to the doctor on Monday; not to wait until Tuesday. Very typically of John, he didn’t want us to worry about him and refused to say was was wrong and said in the sarcastic way he says most things, “Don’t worry C, I’ll call you if I’m about to die.” C2 had been calling John all week to see if he’d gone to the doctor, but never got a call back. Understandably, C2 is a mess. I’m not in much better shape; I’ve already broken down and cried and will probably cry again. Knowing John, I’m guessing he had some serious health problem that he didn’t want to tell anyone about because he didn’t want anyone to worry about him.
John has been on my mind lately, like when I got trapped in the elevator earlier this week. John and I met a couple of years ago when I started my job at my current company. He was my first friend at the company and we went out to lunch often. He was also my source for inside information regarding the building facilities… that’s how I could get reliable information about broken elevators and such. I knew we were destined to be friends when he accidentally found my blog (in a rather circuitous manner, via a strange Howard Stern connection) about a week into my new job. John never wanted to comment on my blog, so he would read it and call me on the phone with the comment. They almost always made me laugh. Or want to debate him. I tried to convince him to start a blog of his own, or to contribute to mine; he didn’t want to bother, but told me he didn’t mind if I re-published what he wrote on my blog (I just might do that).
John and I had a special friendship. We geeked out when we were together; we had a special fondness for all things Star Trek and George Takei (there used to be a special post about George Takei until my server ate it, must try to reconstruct the story — The day before George Takei came out in Frontiers Magazine, John asked me a strange question: “What celebrity do you wish would come out?” I asked, “Do you mean ‘Who do I wish that was gay?’ or ‘What closeted gay celeb should come out?’” He said, “The second one.” I said, “Are you saying my gaydar is so strong that I can tell if a celeb is gay or not even though they’re closeted?” He said, “Just answer the question.” I said, “George Takei. In the gaysian community, it is common knowledge that George is gay.” John said, “George Takei isn’t gay!” I said, “Ok, fine, I don’t KNOW FOR SURE that he is gay, but I’m pretty sure he is. Regardless, to answer your weird question, I wish George Takei would come out.” (I swear this is a real conversation that happened. In fact, C2 was there when we had it.) So when news of George’s coming out started hitting the internet the next day, John immediately called me and said, “Can you please wish for $40,000 this weekend for me? I could really use it. You have the power of the wish.” I asked John why $40K and not a million. He said that he didn’t want to be greedy and that $40K could pretty much cover any debts he had and that it would provide enough for him to live comfortably. I told him I’d wish for him, but that he had already made me waste my one wish on George Takei coming out. Needless to say, my wish power didn’t work for his $40K.) He loved the picture of dorky me in a Starfleet uniform with George Takei. John was the one who told me that George Takei had been in the office and that I’d missed him by minutes. And thanks again to Howard Stern, I got a stream of “George Takei on The Howard Stern Show” updates from John. I shared with John some of my secret ambitions (no, I won’t share them here) and he encouraged me to pursue them. He gave me guidance frequently and when we were still working together, he would check on me often. Sometimes he’d swing by my desk just to make sure I had eaten; he would feed me if I hadn’t. He introduced me to (the existence of) Treet; thank goodness he never fed it to me.
Whenever I saw his extension ringing to mine, it was always a joy to pick up because he liked to tell me things that he knew would amuse me. We argued about what the heck a “Hollaback Girl” was and whether or not I was one (I’m not!). We plotted and planned field trips to exotic places to eat like Sizzler and Baja Fresh. Sometimes we’d “splurge” and go to CPK. We made sarcastic comments about the company and some of the people who worked there. John knew that I worked really hard and could appreciate this cartoon.
John would also invite me to screenings and events in the evenings, and generally try to drag me away from my desk to do interesting things. He referred to Yoshi as “The Mole” because he was never able to get me to drag Yoshi out to do anything with us geeks. He told me he always pictured Yoshi hiding in a hole, only occasionally popping out for some sun. Just before this past Christmas, he’d emailed me to remind me that we needed to schedule a weekend lunch and to bring Yoshi, that is if I could get The Mole to leave the hole.
John loved traveling and experiencing new things. Whenever he planned a trip, he would send me links of cool places he wanted to see… always things off the beaten path. And of course, I always looked forward to his vacation debriefs. I enjoyed his ruminations of his adventures in L.A., too. He didn’t believe in owning a vehicle and is one of the few people I know who actually enjoyed doing the 2 hour commute from Santa Monica to Hollywood via a bus everyday. I know it was partially because he loved the characters and crazy stories he could talk about later. Because he didn’t have a car, it gave us a chance to have a few adventures on our own… like when I drove him to Target at lunchtime so he could buy a new electric shaver. And how we got in the car to drive 2 blocks over to the Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru and came back to eat at my desk.
John was an avid fan of movies, literature (especially poetry), comic books, and music. He’d come over and tell me about his latest purchases at Amoeba. Once, I even got a personal musical talent show at my desk from him.
After he left the company, we saw each other much less often. But we still kept in touch via email and I know he still read my blog from time to time. When John read about my Dad’s passing, he called me and we talked for a long time about it. He listened. He let me cry. He told me that he could relate to the shock of watching your Dad leave you suddenly; he told me about how his own Dad had died in his arms of a heart attack right in their kitchen. I was so grateful for this call.
In the grand scheme of things, John and I didn’t really get to spend that much time together, but we always had fun when we did. I think it’s actually kind of funny because when I first started at the company, John was hitting on me when he invited me to lunch… not that I realized it at the time. In fact, he told me later that he thought of our first lunch as a pseudo-date… I thought he was just being friendly and charming. At the end of our pseudo-date I realized his intentions when he asked me out on a dinner date. I told him about Yoshi and he was disappointed, but gracious… always a gentleman. I meant it when I said I wanted us to be friends… I’m so glad and grateful that we did, because I was lucky enough to find out what a true gem he was. Later on, he reminded me often of his (serious) offer of a $2000 “finder’s fee” if I set him up with a girlfriend who lasted longer than a year. (I told him I’m not in the business of matchmaking!)
I’ve already combed my computer and can’t find any pictures of us together. I seem to remember him refusing to let me take one the last time we lunched together with C2. In fact, if it wasn’t for John, I’m not sure C2 and I would be as chummy as we are now.
I don’t know how to wrap this post up, but my heart aches to lose John from this world. I know better than to hope for answers to questions like, “Why so young?” (I think he was in his early 30s). Even though I don’t know her, I am sending love to John’s mother because I know that John was very close to her and loved her very much.
I met him just two short years ago, but he’ll always have a special place in my heart. I’ll miss the bigs hugs I’d get from the big guy. And I’ll always imagine that it’s John sending me a message whenever I get any George Takei news.
UPDATE 1/26 @ 9:30am: I just found out from two of my co-workers that John’s Mom just found out this morning. They had both called her this morning to check on her; the police were there telling her what happened. I have her number but am going to wait until the evening to call her.