I remember an old classmate, who knows why…

The brain is a funny organ.

When it gets injured or otherwise goes haywire for whatever reason, people can seem trapped inside otherwise healthy bodies that aren’t responding because their brain won’t fire correctly.

So many people suffering from some sort of dementia can’t remember the names of their loved ones, but could tell you the rules to a card game, or remember the address to their childhood home they haven’t visited in over 65 years. It’s craziness.

The brain is even a mystery when it’s working normally. For me, I don’t have the slightest clue why I’m able to remember some things from long ago in fairly intricate detail, but I oftentimes can’t remember what I did just weeks or even days before (alcohol jokes not appreciated, thank you).

Sometimes, I’ll just see something and it’ll trigger a memory about a person or place instantly, such as during my jog this afternoon when I saw a banner in front of a Mexican restaurant flaunting a not so great margarita special (in my opinion) every Thursday starting March 12th.

I guess something in my brain associated March 12th and Mexican with Mark Martinez because I spent the next two miles thinking about Mark even though I hadn’t for years and years.

Who is Mark Martinez?

On August 13, 1991, I was 18 years old and living in a college dorm because soccer practices started before most people had to report for classes. It was mostly the soccer players and other fall sport athletes on campus, so it’s possible that I had practice twice that day and spent the rest of the time screwing off or getting drunk. I’m sure I was doing something stupid for sure. It was my freshman year and I was just stepping into an exciting new chapter of my life.

On that same date, 45 or so miles to the west, Mark Martinez was in a section of St. Louis City that I’d be patrolling only eight or so years after this day. In 1991 though, Mark had been partying with a friend and wasn’t ready for the night to be over, even though it was after 4 am.

Mark was also 18 years old, and by this time, I hadn’t seen him in several years. I didn’t know the Mark who was trying to buy drugs from a group of people in a dangerous neighborhood at the same time I was probably sleeping off a night of drinking myself, safe and sound in my dormitory bedroom.

I was at the cusp of beginning the best years of my life, and while I was probably dreaming of a bright future, Mark died in the driver’s seat of his 1987 Dodge Charger. Drug deals can be very hairy, especially late at night and into the morning when everyone involved has been boozing all night. Shit can happen real fast, and it did to Mark. A bullet tore through his chest and did what bullets can do.

It occurred to me, during my run, that Mark’s birthday is today, March 12th.Β 

I remember this because my birthday is a few days before his and we shared parties at school. Every year, I’ve remembered Mark on March 12th.

I went to a Catholic school for four years of my life, and Mark was a classmate and a friend. He was an excellent athlete and could always give me a run for my money when we competed.

The Mark I remember invited me to his house for a birthday party the likes of which a young DOAT had never seen. He was very Mexican and his family was large and liked to have fun. That’s all I’ll say about that party.

He also had a bike that I coveted. It was a Mongoose Bike, and it had mag wheels. I always wanted a bike with mag wheels instead of spoked wheels, but never did get one. Once, at a fish fry at the school, I fell down on the playground and Mark accidentally rode his mag wheeled bike over my head. Literally, he rode it over my head like a speed bump. It’s no exaggeration to say that the knot on my forehead was the size of a baseball.

I was 10 years old and remember walking the mile or so it took to get to my baby sitter’s house crying the whole way. One of the sitter’s older daughters finally found me and comforted me until my mom picked me up. It’s a silly thing to remember, but I can remember the exact place on the parking lot where it happened.

My brain has also just reminded me that I get to do happy hour tonight to celebrate the birthday/going away to Afghanistan of a friend of mine, so now I’m super happy! I’m going to my favorite law school bar! I haven’t been there to drink in geez, months and months for sure.

So that you too will be happy when you leave this ridiculous post, please watch the video below.

My friend Stephanie from Mommy For Real is one of those people who has musical talent. She started a thing she called Parentz Bop and asked her blogger type friends to send her a song parody about parenting, so I wrote a quickie that I hope you’ll like! It’s worth it just to hear Steph sing and play the piano!


Click here to listen to my lyrics parodying the popular song Brave!


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50 Responses to I remember an old classmate, who knows why…

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    It’s always tragic when someone so young dies. I was recently reading the alumni newsletter from my high school and couldn’t believe how many people my age or younger have died in the past six months. Very sad.

    On a lighter note, I’m thrilled to hear you’re still jogging! You must be a svelte, lean, mean, fighting machine by now!

    • Carrie Rubin says:

      Yay, I was the first one to comment! Which probably means I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

      • Yay first!! Don’t worry if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, there will still be sick little ones when you return to it. Thank you, Carrie! I was pretty svelt there for a bit, but I’ve gone on a two month drinking binge that’s beyond even making fun of right now. I’m hoping to stop that and get down a few pounds again.

  2. Ned's Blog says:

    I’ve found myself thinking about past friends lately, and how life intersects us before coming to a fork. And not just at the family buffet. I appreciate the fact that you take the time to remember Mark, and the part he played in your younger days. My birthday is Aug. 16 by the way, just in case you’re out jogging again in mid August.

    Well said, Don β€” and important I think.

    Cheers to you both πŸ˜‰

  3. markbialczak says:

    Sorry to the sad and tragic end to your friend Mark’s life, Don, but I’m glad that you always mark his birthday by remembering the good you two found together.

    Off that sad one …

    Happy birthday, belatedly. So that’s what your flog at me on CBXB’s blog had to do with. I friggin’ forgot your birthday. Oh, wait, I never knew it in the first place, I don’t think. And I didn’t even get my noggin’ run over by a mag wheel.

    I gotta know because this is how I am, why is the listed Margarita special you ran by not very good?

    And, lastly, if that cop thing doesn’t work out, keep writing funny songs, my friend.

    • Lol, right, you mentioned that you missed it somewhere so I rubbed it in a little bit! The margarita price was too high and the glass didn’t look jumbo enough for my liking, that’s why it sucked!! Thanks for the well wishes, my friend! I’ll look into that song writing for sure.

      • markbialczak says:

        I’m with you on this one, Don. When you advertise a margarita special, make it cheap and huge. And, speaking of drink wishes, when is that hometown brewery of yours going to start selling Bud Light Lime in kegs so I can go to a bar and chug me a pint of it on a hot day?!

      • Hahaha, I’ve seen it on tap every now and then. I bet it’ll be more prevalent in the spring or summer. I prefer it in the bottle myself, but you can’t bring bottles everywhere, sadly.

      • markbialczak says:

        The kegs of the good lime stuff have yet to roll out in my neighborhood bar … or any other I’ve noted in Syracuse, anyway. Bottles are good. I sure ain’t complaining.

  4. Maggie O'C says:

    This is a good one! I have always said if I ever get autism, my superpower will be remembering things like birthdays, phone numbers, stuff like that. So I’m ready.

  5. claywatkins says:

    Nice song! I think I’ll be singing that song tonight, or tomorrow. But I’ll be singing it.

    I have similar recollections of friends from way back when…. It is sad what happened to your friend Mark, it is disappointing that when faced with a fork in the road some take the easy road, the one with the bad choices that leads to no where. We had a local kid – 19 year old – OD on heroin last weekend… Maybe if more folks sang your song…

    We all do what we can to make sure our kids grow up making good choices….

  6. It is truly funny how our brain triggers memories. I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your old buddy. Tragic.
    I’m super bummed because I can’t listen to your Brave lyrics because the speakers on my computer don’t work. Boo. Hiss. Have fun at happy hour!

  7. LOVE your song. It’s perfect. Although I’m surprised by the lack of swear words. πŸ™‚ I was just thinking the other day about this kid I knew in high school. We weren’t even friends. He accidentally hit a kid on a bike while driving and killed him. For some reason, that incident popped into my head the other day, and I have no idea why. Yes, the brain is a funny thing.

  8. thedadontherun says:

    The brain is a funny computer indeed, Don. Thanks for sharing, great story.

  9. Paul says:

    Great song Don! Your two person band did an excellent rendition! Kudos!

    My belated condolences to your young friend who passed away. Some stories are so sad. When I was trucking, I had a friend – we called him Gilligan. Gilligan was the spitting image of his namesake from Gilligans’ island and he even adopted the funny little hat to complete the picture. He loved that hat and was never seen without it. He was so open and always cheerful and full of life. Whenever I pulled into a delivery or a truckstop or a motel and saw Gilligan’s truck, my day brightened immediately. Gilligan, like his namesake, was a very simple man (although I often saw a serious intelligence glimmering from his smiling eyes) who always brought his excitement to everything that was going on. One day, shortly before Thanksgiving, he was hauling a load of frozen turkeys to Cape Breton (Nova Scotia) when his truck left the road on a sharp turn entering the Seal Island Bridge. The turn is heavily built up with stone to meet the much higher bridge entance. The truck rolled down the slope and broke apart killing Gilligan. Frozen turkeys were scattered all down the slope and people lined their cars up at the side of the road to scramble down the slope and steal frozen turkeys from the load, while Gilligan’s blood ran over the rocks. Every time I pass that turn I remember Gilligan and what a good man he was.

    Places can do that to you. You’re right Don, the human brain is a mysterious organ. Thank you for the memories – it’s all that’s left of your Mark and my Gilligan.

    • Unbelievable that people would scavenge or turkeys during the midst of such a tragedy. Gilligan sounds like a good man, the kind of man I’d like to have known. It’s funny how some people just make us happy. Not everybody does that, but some can and it’s a better day when they’re in it. Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. tric says:

    How strange the way a date can make you recall a memory, unbidden. I have a childhood friend who also made terrible choices who randomly comes back to my mind out of the blue. I suppose it also helps us be thankful we had better chances in our lives.
    As for your song…… don’t give up the day job!

  11. Laura Lynn says:

    Sorry to hear about your friend. Sometimes it’s just wrong time, wrong place. Maybe he was just there as a bystander. God knows I should have been killed 20 times over given my insane behavior when I was 18. And 19. And 20…etc…I made it, but some good people I know didn’t. How stupid I feel now, to think I could have missed all the great times ahead of me because I was seeking a short term thrill. Glah! Kids can be so thoughtless. I think he must have been a good guy if you remember him after all these years. Cheers to Mark…
    Love the song btw. I don’t think I’ve heard the original but yours is better. har!

    • Oh Brave is a very popular song! I think Sarah Barellaise?? Sings it. Anyway…You nailed it with your young people comment. I know there are many times that I got lucky to escape a situation unharmed, oh but for the grace of god or whatever, right? I’m glad you made it to enjoy your life beyond 20. You make the world a better place.

  12. You have such interesting stories to share, Don. I love reading your adventures, they’re very different than mine, so it gives a peek into a whole other life. It’s frightening how one small bad choice or wrong decision can make such a big and terrible difference in someone’s life. I worry about my own kids…..

    • Thank you, Claudia, I appreciate the thoughtful comment. These kids are definitely worry worthy, that’s for sure. We can only do our best to help them make the best decisions for themselves. It’s interesting how life is so unfair for some while others escape spot free no matter what they do.

  13. I find my brain works quite similarly to yours, memories are attached to random things I see in my day to day life. Enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you so much, Sarah, I appreciate it. Certain sights and smells and even certain temperatures or humidity levels sometimes bring me back to certain times, if that makes any sense. It’s a wonderful thing, these brains of ours.

  14. barbtaub says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. My daughter’s birthday is also March 12, so I heard about a special way to remember people on that day. Every March 12 is Katie Fisher day, when people send cookies to those they love. [Katie Fisher was a beautiful young woman who sent her brother homemade cookies every week that he was away at school until she was killed in a car accident. See: http://katiefisherday.org/about%5D That might be a positive way to remember your friend’s birthday.

    Laughing so hard at your song lyrics. Our first daughter came out talking in full sentences, sleeping through the night, and eating vegetables. We knew it was because we were such excellent parents, and that we owed it to the world to continue improving the gene pool. Daughter #2 was… a surprise. She popped out saying, “Okay, here’s how it’s going to be. You can just forget about sleep for the next four years, and I’ll only eat beige stuff.” Okay. That was just a blip. We tried again. When my son, Child #3 was born, the doctor apologized to me in the delivery room. “Nobody deserves to have their boy as the third child.” By the time we figured out what he meant, it was too late. We spent the next years just trying to head off his relentless attempts to cause the deaths of himself and all around him. (I know I’m not the only parent who regularly started statements with the words, “If you last long enough to grow up…” ).

    • Hahahaha, Barb…you win at commenting! My middle son eats pretty much the beige stuff, so I’m glad to hear this is not uncommon, and boys? Yeah, they’re a different animal aren’t they? I still chuckle as my wife learns this the hard way.

  15. It doesn’t seem a coincidence that you thought of him on his birthday. He sounds like he was a nice guy:)

  16. For me, Music usually triggers my memories…but not always.

    In fact, I have my own “Mark,” also named Mark. He died Dec. 22, his senior year in high school. I remember because the 23rd was our last day of school before the holiday break…when we heard the news. He took his own life. As far as any of us can tell, it had something to do with him being caught doing something stupid and lightly criminal. Normally, it wouldn’t be enough for a kid to hang himself in his garage, but in this case he also had a physically abusive stepfather. Between fear of those consequences and having to face his mom, he chose some very permanent consequences.

    I always remember Mark around the time of his death, and my brother around his birthday (9-11). I say a prayer. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Gah, so sad for your Mark too. Life can be tough and when it overwhelms a person, suicide seems the only option and that’s sad. I think it happens a lot more than people realize since it’s not generally something that makes the news unless there’s something unusual about it. Maybe it should be so people will take notice. Thank you, Kitt. I hope you’re well!

  17. PinotNinja says:

    That the amazing thing about people — no matter how briefly they are in our lives or how long ago, they manage to find a way to become a part of who we are, change us, and always live on in us. It’s a good reminder that we all really are a sum of all of the little parts of our life, even if we can’t always remember all of them or figure out how we remember what we do.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I heard a quote once, some people come into your life and quickly go, some people leave footprints on your head and you are never the same…or some shit like that. I guess that applies to you.

    PS: The lyrics-brilliant. I want to recruit you to write some for me now. love them.

  19. findingninee says:

    Isn’t it amazing what we do (and don’t) remember? I’m really sorry to hear about your friend though – that sucks. But yay for favorite law school bar and drinking and dude. Your song lyrics were brilliant and kindof made me want to change the ones I sent her because yours might be better and I prefer winning.

    • You are winning, Kristi. Winning at being awesome! lol, how dumb was that. (Kudos to me because I typed “how gay was that” but changed it to dumb for PC reasons.) I went all Richard Simmons on you there. Thank you for visiting and classing up my blog with your presence. Hope you and the boys are doin’ well!

  20. Deanna Herrmann says:

    I really enjoyed this because I agree, the brain works in pretty mysterious ways. I’ve lost some friends in some pretty tragic ways and it never leaves you. I’m always amused by what I can remember in such detail from childhood, yet some things from my teenage years are an absolute blur. Hope you had fun at the happy hour!

  21. bethteliho says:

    Memories are weird. I’ll remember some random fact a waitress told us 6 years ago, but I can’t remember friggin yesterday. WTF?

    Sorry about your buddy. Tragic. 😦

  22. dishofdailylife says:

    First off, that song was hilarious! LOVED it! Brilliant! It’s weird how things hit us, isn’t it? My husband and I have both lost some friends in tragic ways, and sometimes a memory hits you at the strange times. For years, I could not drive past a cemetery on a main road without almost ending up in tears, because one of my husband’s childhood friends (and an adult friend for me, because I didn’t grow up here) committed suicide there. I’m so sorry about your friend.

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