Friday, August 15, 2014

The Pimp Daddy Blues



The title might seem trite, but its the name that seems to best describe the deep melancholy malaise I seem to find myself in since learning my cherished friend Greg Griffin aka Pimp Daddy had passed away.  Suddenly, the air seems a little heavier and the world feels a bit darker. Outside of saying that, I have struggled with how best to speak of Greg, because he's not easy to sum up in a few words.

In a feeble attempt at this summary, I searched through the muddled but merry wealth of memories I shared with my old friend. Greg and I first met when I worked at the Levee House in Marietta many moons ago.  He didn't actually work with me there but once you're into those local hospitality worker circles, the bonding begins and Greg and I would become fast friends. We would eventually work together as servers at the Becky Thatcher restaurant. This began a few wild, riotous, twisted, laugh-filled years of joining a crew led by Greg and the equally-beloved Dean, who we lost several years ago to illness. The two of them had me frequently convulsed in tear-filled laughter with ribald tales of their wayward youth and colorful lives. While their wicked wit was always on display, their friendship was invaluable to me as a young man who had just came out.  They were like guardian angels, always dispensing witty wisdom while doing what they could to help me stumble and bumble my long, arduous journey to becoming comfortable in my own skin.  Greg and Dean were far better friends to me than I was to them, and while they always knew how much I adored them, I wished I had thanked them properly instead of posthumously.

Later still, I would become roommates with Greg and our friendship deepened. I would learn more about Greg as a human being and the more I learned, the more my admiration grew into respect for this man and his character. I would learn the fun stuff early on: his impeccable taste in music, his ability to whip up a mean egg sandwich, our mutual love for John Waters films. That love of music created an astoundingly diverse soundtrack to our time as roommates. We would dance to the Boogie Nights soundtrack and sing along to mix-tapes given to us from friends. Our conversations would sometimes get heavy and the Elton John song The Last Song would often be wafting in the background. I would come to learn how meaningful this song was to him. We soon would share tears as easily as laughter.

Tears may have flown on occasion, but were certainly not the norm for ol' Pimp Daddy. He was a tall, smiley light in the room and that's what made him such a welcome sight in the many area restaurants where he served.  A lifetime in the hospitality business can be difficult for the heartiest of souls, but he faced adversity the same way he faced everything else: with a laugh and by simply moving on. In retrospect, I realized why hospitality came so easily for him as his life was the very definition of hospitality itself.  After all, we became roommates because he opened up his home to me without a second thought.  Our neighborhood was a bit sketchy, but you would never know to enter Greg's home which was always open and bright and welcoming, just like its owner.

As I would learn more about Greg, that character I spoke of became more and more apparent.  I would become aware of his powerful health challenges and would marvel at how he handled every gutting twist and turn in his care with aplomb and grace.  Oh, don't get me wrong, Ol' Pimpy could bitch and moan with the best of them, but the ever-changing list of roadblocks and attacks to his health and well-being, not to mention the many struggles he endured in his younger years would have broken many a sturdier soul, but he stood eye-to-eye with all of it and scared it off, no matter how daunting it may have seemed.  Greg would frequently joke that his health regimen would have him outliving all of us and I absolutely believed that, which made his recent passing that much more shocking to me.


The one character trait of Greg that I was pea-green with envy over was the fact that he was utterly and completely his own man.  I was forever in awe of that.  Further, by his and others recollections, he was ALWAYS his own man, even in his younger days from Marietta to L.A. and back again.  No pretense, no cover, no falsehoods, no regrets.  He was very much out, loud, proud and didn't give a damn whether anyone else liked it or didn't.  By being that self-assured calm in my ever-growing storm in back then, he saw me safely through some of the roughest seas my life would ever know, right up to the day I left out the door with Keith to the rest of my life.  He held me together at a time when I didn't know how to hold myself together. I will be eternally grateful to him for that.



So, I have a monstrous case of the Pimp Daddy Blues.  I think Greg would appreciate the name of this mysterious malady, though, with its musical connotation.  I have many a friend who are music lovers, but only a choice few understood music as an extension of the deeper connection that we share with each other. That's why he sent me out the door with some of our favorite CDs in hand when I left, knowing nothing would evoke a treasured memory more than some of our favorite tunes. Greg helped teach me about that music connection and and moreso, how to be my own man. Thank you, Greg, my beloved Pimp Daddy, for your friendship, love and guidance.  As the passing of loved ones become more and more our norm as we get older, I choose to deal with the loss by picturing my loved ones in the Great Beyond in a way that makes me smile....

I see Greg reunited with Dean, hoisting a cocktail to us still here, wickedly laughing at the rest of us stumbling our way through our Earthen lives. As it should be. Thank you both and I miss you every day.

I love you, Pimp Daddy.  Rest in peace.