I first met Tyler when he was 17 years old. He proudly sported a nose ring and a mohawk. The nose ring was obvious but the mohawk he hid under a touque. I needed a roommate for a three-bedroom on Bonaventure, and this young kid knocked on my door. He was young but convincing. I gave him the apartment, and so began our friendship. Sometime afterward, he told me he was nervous when we first met. Nervous because he thought I would judge him on a count of his mohawk and piercings. If I had one word to describe our first meeting, I would say electrifying. Tyler's energy, excitement, and personality simply grabbed you, I know it grabbed me. I loved him immediately.
Years later we talk about these times. I attended his parent teacher nights, helped him get his High School GED and philosophized about the meaning of life, intelligence and adversity. Tyler was a sponge, even at 15, he wanted to soak it all in. Knowledge, life, friendships, and music. He took things to the extreme and even danced a curious dance with the law. Yes, he broke rules but the rule breaking is an important part of the story. His rebellious youth was fueled by booze and babes. He was old enough to know heartbreak and young enough to only pretend not give a shit.
Imagine two middle age men, workers, standing on the side of the road in SE Calgary. They are hunched over what appears to be a dead rabbit! I was in a vehicle with Tyler having a conversation about nothing when we approached this scene. I rolled down my window and heckled, "RABBIT KILLER!!". Tyler almost pissed himself, especially because he had no idea what I was doing. The two men stepped back from the rabbit, their hand shot up into the air and they said, "no, no, we didn't...". It was the reaction of these two guys that was so comical. It became an inside joke the two of us shared for decades.
I knew very little about Tyler's life in Toronto. I briefly visited Tyler in Toronto when I was traveling for business. We picked up exactly where we left off. He showed me a great time for sure! He loved his friends, lifestyle and the music scene. Tyler had a love/hate relationship with Toronto. As a bartender and musician the late nights, parties and lifestyle may have been the catalyst for his underlying health conditions. It didn't matter. Living was more important to ever get in the way of life.
It was on Tyler's 30th birthday that he came to Vancouver. I remember a picture of him, that was, for years his Facebook profile picture. It was Tyler standing on the beach in Kits with the ocean on his back. He grew up in Kits and this was his ground zero. The relationship he had with his mother may have had it's ups and downs but I know he had good feelings about the apartment (now a coffee shop) in Kitsilano where he spent his early childhood. By this time he had a cane and his body knew all too well the ravages of an infection with life. Tyler would tell me about the horrible health issues that he was battling. It's truly horrifying what he went through. I think anyone that knows Tyler and knew what he was going through would really question their own ability to face the same set of circumstances with the same positivity and love of life. I would like to think that his struggles and courage in the face of adversity set an example for all that knew him.
Tyler gave me an amazing gift. He gave me the gift of literature and a confidence that my voice matters. I think it was a gift of reciprocation for something that I unknowingly gave him years earlier. If you were close to Tyler you know of his sincere love for Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris (among others). On his 30th birthday, we sat together and he Enlightened me with perspectives of atrocities, barbarism, and science. From this day forward I emerged myself in good writing, literature and an open mind (even more so). This was Tyler's gift to me and I cherish it with every fiber of my being. I love him for this gift and for just being Tyler.
We all share the wounds of Tyler's absence. Let's remember his laugh and all the memories.
Good night my brother.