I’ll never forget this particular day when my childhood friend Chris was just being, well… Chris, and this guy we didn’t really know too well looked at him with utter disgust and said “you’re weird”. I was horrified and quite tired of people treating him so rudely just because they viewed him as different, as was often the case when we were kids, but Chris didn’t care, in fact he didn’t even skip a beat, he looked right back at the guy with equal disgust registering on his face and said “you’re normal”, then he giggled his mischievous little giggle and bounced right along leaving the guy speechless in a way that only Chris could do.
I was 11 years old when I moved into the house across the street from Chris Haven Peck and I guess I should have known by the way he exited the school bus, he liked to shimmy himself out the window rather than wait in line and exit out the door like everyone else, that this new neighbor of mine was going to teach me a lifetime of important lessons about how to dance to the beat of your own drum and be okay with it.
Chris was a part of every phase of my growing up from the awkward pre-teens, to my crazy teens, to my confusing college years, idealist 20’s and into adulthood and through it all Chris consistently took the road least traveled.
I swear there was nothing that man wouldn’t try, eat, play with or experience. He didn’t just live life, it seemed more like he drank it, swirled it around on his tongue and sort of savored it.
He wanted to do it all and he always made whatever he was up to sound like the most fun and cool thing ever. Like for e.g. when he was a teen and he somehow managed to convince people that being on the High Schoolcheerleading team was cool at a time when (at least in Orlando) “real guys” played football. Period. Or as an adult, his explanation of why he was traveling the world in search of the perfect ingredients so that he could eventually fulfill a new goal of saving the world with chocolate. I’m pretty sure if anyone could save the world with chocolate it would be Chris.
I think the greatest love of his life though was his music. I don’t know if it’s possible to count up the amount of hours he clocked in his short lifetime playing music but I am sure it was most of it. I will forever be grateful for all the times that he would call me up and say “hey, come over…I just wrote a new song.” “But Chris, it’s 1 o’clock in the morning on a school night.” “So…I’m coming to get you” “I’m in my pajamas” “And you’re point is?….Meet me in the street. You have 10 seconds” Click.
Just by the luck of my close proximity, and my willingness to listen for extended periods of time, I had the honor of attending years of concerts for 1 with Chris as the headliner. He played every instrument, wrote countless amounts of songs and literally blew me away with his ability to Improv songs right on the spot (and I mean blew me away, I know nobody that was better at that than him and I know a lot of talented people)
After years of this routine, I finally said to him one day… ”this is great Chris, but when are you going to get out of your bedroom?” To my surprise, as courageous and out there as he always was, sharing his music made him a little nervous so it was my true privilege in this lifetime to finally get to return the favor and give him that needed shove.
At the time my Dad owned a bar called Tanqueray’s and they had live music. I worked it out so he could play on Tuesday’s and he excitedly got his equipment together and put together a set list and naturally made me listen to it over and over again.
I will never forget how nervous he was that very first night he played out (somewhere back around 1990). I helped him set up and then sat there and cheered him on as if he was the biggest rock star on the planet (which he definitely wasn’t quite yet), but he played his heart out to that tiny little crowd of mostly friends and that was it, he was hooked. There was no putting him back in the box.
This of course set up a scenario of years of endless discussions he wanted to have with me about how he could improve his performances and better ways to entertain the crowd, but being a closet artist at the time, I loved every single minute of it. It gave me the creative outlet I needed too.
I ran into Chris recently at the grocery store. He gave me that deep Chris stare, the one that goes straight through you, gave me a deep hug and then thanked me for the one millionth time for what I did for him pushing him out of his bedroom and then for the first time thanked me for being me and loving him unconditionally the way I did. He said he didn’t think he would have survived his childhood without me but now, in reflection, I wish I would have gotten the chance to tell him that I don’t think I could have survived my adulthood
Even though we didn’t spend time together like we used to, the lessons I learned from him about being yourself no matter what, about going after what you love, about what it means to be an artist gave the artist in me (which happened to be very very shy) the courage to finally come out of my shell and let that light shine too. There is no way to thank you enough for
I am going to miss you so so so very much. You’ve left a big hole in so many people’s worlds. I know if you had it your way you would be challenging all of us to try to see death in a new way. You would be bugging us while we’re trying to cry, saying to remember the happy things, to celebrate our wonderful times together, possibly even have a big ole party at your funeral and of course to play lots and lots of music. You would be all geeked out and find it spectacular all the amazing people you had the power to bring together.
I really don’t know if we can do that just yet. It kinda just hurts too bad right now and its so hard to not feel cheated out of what could have been. But if you give us all time, I’m betting we’ll come around and celebrate exactly as you would want us to.
You truly are a one of kind Chris Haven Peck! And will never ever be forgotten. I am truly blessed for having known you.