Ode to Kevin Lawrence

Kevin and I crossed paths in June 2011. He was a newcomer to the sleepy cowboy surf town life, having moved some distance away from the location and sting of a recent divorce. I had just departed from grad school and taken on two barista jobs. I met him at my afternoon gig, where he would stop by for a break from his various passion projects to get a bagel, coffee and talk life.

When we first met, I had no idea who he’d been in any of the previous chapters of his life, other than a truly romantic husband (how many guys do you know who would get their wife’s name tattooed to their ring fingers?). He appeared to still be smarting from the exhaustion of divorce, and we initialized our friendship over shared divorce stories.

Kevin soon became my confidant. Although I had only known him for a couple weeks of desultory coffeehouse talk, he had a way of wrangling the truth from me that made him the first to learn that I was on the verge of a big, overdue break up from an intensely toxic relationship. (His advice throughout the entire process still resounds truth for me.)

As I got to know him better, I learned that Kevin was a staunch supporter of animal rights, which made for some interesting conversations when he learned I grew up with a dad who was a hunter, trapper and hunting guide. We would debate the issue, diplomatically, from time to time–always knowing the other person would not budge on their position, but would be open to listening to the views of the other side.

I would argue for the need for population control in the wild. He would say something like, we need to let nature work itself out.

I’d known him for months before he mentioned the name Bill Bailey to me. Perhaps he thought he’d already glossed over that chapter of his life with me, but up until then what I knew of Kevin was that he was a pescatarian who loved lox and that he was reaching out to Bukowski’s widow (regarding the preservation and promotion of the author’s digital archives). He’d also been toying with the idea of creating a dating website for the local area only (because no single person wants to date someone 100+ miles away, he was certain, and that’s what the larger dating databases would have you do to find love or action).

By then, I was head-over-heels in love and engaged to Mat, who he’d also befriended that summer. He got us to agree that if he ever got that dating site up, we would provide a testimonial that we had met at his site and subsequently fell in love and set a wedding date as a result of that online match up (an embellishment to the truth for a good cause). I looked forward to writing it; I would’ve loved to help Kevin with that particular project. I fully support a small eco-footprint when dating.

That fall, when he mentioned Bill Bailey and his lawsuit with him to me like it was an old topic for us, I was flummoxed.

“Bill Bailey…” I asked, “Do you mean Axl Rose?”

He said, “Of course. But I don’t want to call him that, remember? Wait, haven’t I mentioned this to you before?”

I guess, given that I was fresh from withdrawing from the pursuit of an M.A. in English, we’d gotten to talking far more about Bukowski and literary theory than anything else. I thought viscerally in that moment that he was punking me, and I said as much, because it doesn’t take a person long to learn that I can be quite gullible (trusting to a fault). He walked straight to the shop’s public computer and pulled up a webpage with a picture of him with Axl Rose, with the headline: Rapidfire. It was at that moment that I realized I was standing next to Axl Rose’s former bandmate, my friend Kevin. So he wasn’t just pulling my leg.

Kevin told me how ol’ Bill was trying to block him from releasing their early recordings, which I said sounded typical of that punk ass baby. He seemed surprised that I had any opinion on the former rock star, given that my musical tastes were more punk rock than heavy metal. I said, “That asshole lost his shit infront of Kurt’s baby. Who does that? He couldn’t keep his cool in front of a baby?”

I’d already had a strongly biased opinion against ol’ Bill as a result of that award show snafu, but that quickly turned to scorn when I learned that he was actively fucking with my friend simply because he didn’t want the public to have access to his early works.

Without thinking, I announced: “I’m so glad I got to know you, Kevin, and not that shrivelled old dickbag who thinks he’s a rock star. I am certain you are far more amazing to talk with than he is any day, that narcissistic fucker!”

Not the pearliest of compliments, for sure, but I think he got the gist.

Later on, after being out of work and out of social life due to a serious R.A. flare up, I lost touch with Kevin (and just about everyone else locally who I’ve come to call friend). Last I had spoken with him, he was ready to leave bucolic life and head back to L.A. to pursue his passions with more fervor than he could here in tiny town.

I’m so glad he won that lawsuit. In your face, Bill Bailey!

I hope that his dogs are okay, and that in his final chapter he touched as many lives in L.A. as he did here in Cayucos. Rest in peace, Kevin, you Bukowski-est of dreamers.

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