It bears repeating.

He was wearing a paisley scarf on the chilly spring day I finally spoke to him.

2626525279_62825c8dff_bI’d watched him board my train at the same time every morning since I’d started my job; in the afternoons, we got off the train at the same time — at the same stop, a different one from the morning train — and rode the same bus eastward toward civilization.

He was tall, dark and handsome, a bit flinty. I never saw him speak to anyone.

But channeling my inner high-school freshman, I approached him one afternoon and told him I noticed him every day at my stops. Thought I should say hello. Oh, and that I liked his scarf.

And just like that, Doug Bastianelli and I were friends.

Months later, I was in the middle of a tailspin into the wildest, most emotionally turbulent summer of my life, and he was suddenly my best friend. Reveled with me throughout my escapades in dating, hung on my every hung-over word. And knew when to offer advice as I embarked on one of my many “man fasts” — or just leave me alone. He remained tall, dark and handsome, but the flinty wore off quickly. He got gayer by the day, loud and flamboyant, all air kisses and flagrant innuendo. And, as it turns out, he’d speak to anyone with ears to hear. I loved him like I’d never loved anyone I’d met on the bus. The prospect of seeing him in the afternoon was often my only motivation to get through a day in the suburbs.

We harassed our conductor on the Metra, nicknamed him Sunshine. Some days, we drank as many beers as we could put back on our way back into the city then rode the bus across town. And made up arias about our heinous commute and our fellow passengers, singing at the top of our lungs. And sometimes we did that even when we hadn’t been drinking.

We were freakishly tall 12-year-olds around each other.

We went out one beautiful summer night for tapas in Chicago’s gay neighborhood. We each drank about a pitcher of sangria, and after we’d finished our bacon-wrapped dates and Spanish omelets, we wove among the tables, hand in hand, toward the exit and spilled out onto Halsted Street looking for trouble. For the next two hours, we stumbled through every tawdry sex shop in Boystown, slapping each other with dildos. We bought matching black T-shirts printed with “Lady” and “Tramp,” with a big checkmark next to the “Tramp.” He forgot his on the bench as we rushed into our cabs home.

That’s just Doug.

He had so many stories. I heard many of them many times; he was a notorious repeater.

Every story was about people. His drag-queen hair stylist. His brother the dentist. His boss. His ex-boyfriend. His flavor of the…hour, who he’d met some Sunday afternoon at Sidetrack, while show tunes played on the bigscreen TVs. So many of the stories were lewd and shocking to my innocent-white-girl sensiblities — I’m not a badass; I just play one on TV — but they were all kissed with this guileless glow that made them somehow acceptable, unabashedly Doug. And for the repeat: There was always one anecdote, word for word, that tipped me off to the fact that I’d already heard it; I could stop him then. Kindly.

He sent me e-mails, apropos of nothing, with stupid photos and videos to distract me during a long day at the office. Shoes. Muffins. Lucky Bitches. When there were words, they were often contained entirely in the subject line. Case in point: a message I received on Sept. 1, my final day at the office in the suburbs.

Subject: LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAST DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Body: [None]

A few months ago, long before an end was in sight for me, Doug was laid off from his job in the suburbs. I knew he’d be fine: He was well connected in his industry and could network himself into a frenzy. True to form, I was more worried about myself: He was leaving me, just like that. I hated my job, my relationship was falling apart and I needed his spirit to distract me, buoy me, more than ever. And he left me. Not by choice, but he left me.

And I was a pouty, petulant child about it.

It was a hard spring for me — and an even harder summer — and I retreated into myself in a lot of ways. I screened his calls, knowing his guileless glow would be more annoying than endearing given my state. He had a tendency to gloat jokingly that he was sitting in his office staring at Lake Michigan; I had developed a tendency to take jokes far too seriously in the months before I quit my own job.

So I put him off. For weeks. Months, really. I apologized halfheartedly and promised I’d make time for him soon, but I rarely made good on it. All he ever said was, “That’s okay. We’re going to be friends for life — I’m not going anywhere.”

Except that last night, he died.

I was finishing my last wine flight at Bin 36 when I got a text message from a mutual friend that he’d gone into cardiac arrest and collapsed in the bathroom at the restaurant where he was eating dinner.

They took him to the hospital and tried to resuscitate him, but they were too late.

I don’t know anything else. Just that he’s gone.

He’s gone, at 44 years old. My friend for life, cut down in the prime of his.

Jesus Christ.

Just like that. He left me again.

Left me, left his parents, left his crazy bird Conrad, left an organization that had only begun to recognize his talent, left a city he adored, left countless friends all over the world to crawl out of the woodwork of Facebook to lean on one another for support and a way to make sense of it.

But I was not petulant. I was not a child.

I woke up this morning, shook off my flinty shock and wrapped my own paisley scarf around my neck before biking off for a big breakfast. I spent the day living like an overgrown 12-year-old and reminding everyone that I love them. If you’re reading this, I love you, too.

And now here I am, repeating stories about my friend, stone-cold sober, because some stories are just worth telling over and over.

Waving

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45 Responses to “It bears repeating.”

  1. Carla Says:

    I love you too, Paige! I’m so sorry about your friend. I wish I could say something that would make you feel better. Also, thanks for reminding me to make sure everyone knows I love them. Shanti.

  2. Deb Elston Says:

    Fucking brilliant, Paige.

  3. Rachel Says:

    I love YOU.

  4. Kyle Rohde Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about Doug – how terrible. Thinking of you my dear…

  5. Kim Says:

    This post made me smile. The way you describe Doug’s essence is just…..perfect. I think I understand why he loved you so much.

    I’ll always remember our sing-a-longs at the Saloon, our hours of kvetching about how the boys were doing us wrong, how he hit on every cute boy who crossed our paths (including my boss’s boss – whoops!), how he introduced me to Buddy the Cat, as Buddy the Cat taught me that not all cats are bad, how we’d wake up early and watch the marathon from his place when he was living downtown, how he’d come race turtles with me and would always be yelling louder than anyone else there.

  6. Gabriel Says:

    As a wise woman once wisely said, “Ah, Life.” May it continue to make us all appreciate and recognize and love each other, for as long as we possibly can.

  7. Brian Says:

    🙂

  8. Philip L Says:

    He lives on in your memory and now in the minds of everyone who reads this. Through you he has achieved a kind of immortality. That’s the best anyone can hope for and this distant Englishman applauds you on his behalf.

  9. Adrienne Says:

    As a friend of Doug’s, I enjoyed reading this tremendously. Thank you for the smile it brought to my face.

  10. blakeart Says:

    @LisaP via Facebook: Paige, so sorry the loss of your friend… in the very best sense of the world, parting is, literally, the sweetest of sorrows. And your telling the tale brings back in all of us the aching we all have felt within the depths of our electric soul that resides in our heart.
    For me, I remember when one of my bestest of pals succumbed to cancer at the too soon age of 42. At the service I shocked myself by weeping uncontrollably, and it was so painful, but a memory I can only imagine being like childbirth… a good kind of pain, for I remember the event now incredibly as such a brilliant feeling, ultimately sweet. It’s absurd in a way, makes no sense.
    But In the Having of that Immense, Beautiful, and Powerful of emotions will always attach you to your pal… as I am attached to my friend even today, 8+ years past. It is shockingly hard to realize this now, but your friend is and will always be, because scientific evidence is now revealing that we are remembering and discovering what has always been. Energy never dies, it literally just changes form. Do not doubt – Doug lives on, and draw strength from that absolute fact.
    My Best to you in your time of grieving.

  11. Lisa Gergets Says:

    Paige, you don’t know me, but from the day I met Doug 10 years ago on Craigslist, he talked about you. He adored you. He thought you were the greatest thing since cheese, and if he thought that highly of you…wow, what a person you must be.

    Much love and healing to you now.

  12. Laura Says:

    So sorry to hear about your friend, but you’ve brilliantly and beautifully immortalized him here.

  13. Megalicious (as Doug would call me) Says:

    Paige – thank you for sharing in such beautiful and PERFECT words. Brought me to tears in a humbled way to have known our friend. He was a great friend to everyone he knew…Godspeed Dougaloo.

  14. Jason Haddad Says:

    What a beautiful memorial to a beautiful person. I’m so sad, but this post made me smile. Thank you for writing such a great story about a dear friend.

  15. Gina Says:

    Paige: Thank you so much for writing this about Doug. He and I met in grad school. I visited him frequently in Chi-town, and he always had Paige Worthy stories to tell. He called you his train friend. I still cannot believe there will be no more funny and random emails, voice mails, and the sound of the laugh. Stay well.

  16. Dave Isbell Says:

    Dammit Paige, why do you always make me weep like a middle school girl at a Justin Beiber concert? I am so sorry for your loss! Doug sounds like a special guy, and I hope you will always treasure the memories that you built with him, instead of dragging around the guilt from having stepped away for awhile. Thank you for sharing Doug, and your heart, with those of us who read your words and are changed by them!

  17. Dysfunction Junction Says:

    Holy fuck.

    Scratch that. I’m sorry to be so uncouth. I’ve recently been surrounded by too much “leaving us too soon” so I apologize for my…uh…lack of couth.

    I’m sending you all my very best & shiniest interwebs thoughts and hugs and I’m so deeply sorry for your loss.

  18. Tweets that mention It bears repeating. | paigeworthy.com -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paige Worthy, Dave Isbell. Dave Isbell said: From @paigeworthy dot com: It bears repeating. — http://bit.ly/atTVoN […]

  19. Karen Haithcock Says:

    Brilliant Paige….and beautiful…..I was a “freakishly tall 12 year old” with Doug (for real – we played clarinet together in high school)…..I know that he was the bestest buddy a girl could have….and I know that he loved you very much…he doesn’t mind that you stepped away – he is/was the perfect gentlemen and he understands; gets it…..I love how you captured the essence and heart of your friendship……now who is going to clean the damn bird cage ???

  20. Bonnie Says:

    Thank you, Paige. I only knew Doug briefly at MSU, but he sounds so much like the wonderful ‘girls’ who saved me during some of my darkest hours, like only gay men can. It’s a wonderful tribute to his memory and spirit, and to you, for sharing it with us.

  21. Maggie Says:

    I only spent time with Doug via other friends a couple of times, but I remember how much fun he was, and he made a point of telling me within about 5 minutes of meeting me how pretty my hair was and that I had a nice rack. (I have a feeling plenty of people can relate!!) What’s not to love? Thank God there are guys in the world like him.

  22. H. Says:

    A shoutout to all the freakishly tall 12-year-olds in the world. Everyone knows we need more of them.

    Sorry for the loss of your friend.

  23. Nancy L Says:

    Beautiful tribute

  24. Michele Says:

    Thank you. You captured his essence. I met Doug in 10th grade. He was wicked smart in math, and a really talented musician without having to work too hard at it. I have many memories to treasure of 30 years of friendship. My heart is broken for his parents who really are the sweetest people on earth.

  25. Elena Christopher Says:

    Dear Paige, I don’t know you and I never met Doug. Not even sure how I ended up on this site. But, I’m glad I did. It was a beautiful story. Saddened and happy at the same time, I say to you that I am so sorry for your loss. Focus on being happy to have known him. Many people never, ever get to have such a priceless friendship.

  26. Cathy Says:

    Hi Paige – you have captured Doug perfectly here. I have also known him since high school, and my path is quite similar to yours. I will always treasure the fun times – the times we laughed so hard I felt sick, and his enjoyment of his too short life.

    So, in Doug’s honor, I raise a glass of scotch, neat. Thank you for the lovely tribute.

  27. Paul Says:

    Paige:
    Thank you so much for your words, I was glued to them as I read them, I smiled, laughed, and cried after scrolling down and seeing Doug’s picture. I related to everything you said about Doug, and will miss himdeeply. Gods speed our friend….

  28. Nancy Jo Austin Says:

    I loved Doug so very much; I know you did too. And no matter how near or how far, he loved us both right back. We have been very lucky to have such a friend, and he will be missed every day.

  29. donna Says:

    Paige,
    I worked with Doug in San Francisco years ago, and drifted apart when he moved away. A couple of years ago he ping’ed me on IM and rekindled the friendship. I found out the he had passed only through the grace of facebook, and felt like my stomach was ripped out. I found your post by goggling him to find out what had happened.

    You capture him tenderly, viscerally, perfectly. You brought him back to life for me for a moment. I am grateful to you for that.

    My condolences, and thanks. ~ donna

  30. Dianne Says:

    What a Beautiful tribute to your friend…………
    …………a friend of his family

  31. Robert Endres Says:

    Doug and I met when he was 19 years old at a party I threw for his brother, Dave. Over the years we would run into one another and say hi…. About a year ago he found me on facebook and told me that since we met all those years ago, he had a huge crush on me and how handsome he thought I was. I was beyond flattered, coming from such a handsome man….We chatted on FB and on the phone making plans to meet when I was in Chicago and / or when he was in Detroit…time passed we didnt quite hook up. I had to be in Chicago the week before Labor Day on business and was scheduled rather tight. I didnt let him know that I was going to be in town because I wanted to be able to spend “enough” quality time with him to make it matter for both of us. Then this morning I read his obituary in the Detroit paper….I had to read it several times for the content to actually sink in…I was in a state of shock and needed to know the details of his death…my mind raced……I drove to his brothers dental office and as I got there I thought …what am I going to say?…so I stopped and went to my office and called Dave to find out that it was a coronary. I had one 7 years ago and survived it…I feel very blessed. I am so sad I will never get to know more about that “crush” The beauty of it is that I DID have the time I had…he was a very special man and I won’t forget knowing Doug…..

  32. Gia Says:

    Doug sounds like he was so colorful and alive… People like that never leave our hearts and I’m sure he’s going to continue to live on through you and all the people that loved him. I’m sorry to hear about your loss but I’m sure drinking sangaria and acting like a 12 year old in his memory will continue to help.

    xoxoxoxoxoxoxox.

  33. Paula Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like the world has lost an amazing person, and you have lost an amazing friend. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.

  34. Rae Says:

    Thank you for this post. I rode the train with Doug too (albeit for a much shorter time than you) and we met once or twice. You have described Doug so well that it made me tear up a little. I didn’t know him as well as you did but the things you said brought his personality back so vividly. I just learned of his death today and your post helped me. I wish that I could do something for you in exchange. All I can offer is that he talked constantly of how wonderful you are as well.

    I miss him too.

  35. JB Says:

    I just read your tribute. I worked with Doug at his last position at a non-profit association but never really got to know him. Thanks for filling in the rest of the story – and I’m sorry that most of us here knew much about him. Seemed like a great guy.

    Sad, indeed.

  36. Tim M. Says:

    I’m sorry to be so late in commenting, but I just found your essay in tribute to Doug. Nicely said. His death still doesn’t make any sense to me. Aren’t Italians supposed to grow old and wise and pass on secrets of life and sauces to the next generation? It’s ironic that that life would be so short for him who took so much joy in his days. I miss our pal, and we will laugh again but it may be a bit harder to do so.

  37. Snow, snow and evil glee. Says:

    […] This one’s for you, too, Doug. Cancel reply […]

  38. Puppies over Pride. Says:

    […] I didn’t want to deal with the crowds; I didn’t want to get smashed. And I didn’t want to go without Doug. […]

  39. Pjlikus Says:

    I just was doing a search for Doug today and came upon his obituary. Upon further search I found this amazing tribute. Words cannot express how stunned I am.

    I met Doug during the Summer of 1996 while I was bartending at Gentry on Hallsted street. It was during Hallsted street days and Doug walks right up to me with that dazzling smile and says hello and asked what time I was getting off? Needless to say he came back and met me at the end of my shift.

    That was Doug, direct to the point and always followed through. Doug was passionate, loving , kind and always right. He was probably the first love of my life and for that I am grateful. He was the first person to say “I love you” to me. Again I will remember that always.

    Our timing in life always stunk. When he was starting a new relationship I was ending one and vice a versa. We reconnected often all over the country. Always emotionally charged, fun and within my heart I always thought some day our timing would work out.

    Now that day will never come. I will always remember his smile, laughter and dus dancing on Wellington street one night for all the world to see…

    • Pjlikus Says:

      This has really opened the floodgates for me today. I’m not the type to think of the road not taken, to look back and what if… Yet this news has opened my heart and soul to the possibilities. What a great man Doug was.

      • Pjlikus Says:

        Was catching up on his Tweets. Love that his last tweet he was slamming the Judd’s. Lol. Perfect.

  40. Your heart is an empty room. — Paige Worthy Says:

    […] does go on, even as it ends. And I’m comforted to know that Doug has a kitten to play with. Heaven is softer, sweeter and much, much more adorable […]

  41. "You are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life." — Paige Worthy Says:

    […] the main event: drinks, dinner and a movie with the man I will now offensively refer to as my Gay Boyfriend. We met last year, just before my 25th birthday and the weirdest summer ever, on the bus. After […]

  42. Thankful: seatbelts and saddles. — Paige Worthy Says:

    […] like my dear friend Doug who I miss very much, is a story repeater. My favorites are his anecdotes about owning his own bakery, BTrue: […]

  43. Doug Bastianelli | Intellect Run Amok Says:

    […] are in Australia.  These two people write about Dougie more eloquently than me: Andy and Paige.  Read them.) Edited with BlogPad […]

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