One year ago. It has been one year since Walter Blankenship died. It seems incredible that a year has passed. A year has passed since one of the most vibrant and colorful personalities I’ve ever met died. Crazy.
February 4, 2012, I was laying on my bed/fouton, getting ready for my evening. Candace was in town visiting from Morgantown. We were going out for dinner. She was in the bathroom getting ready. I was killing time, goofing off on my phone. I received a text message from my friend, Harry. I didn't know him before he started working at Pizza Hut and I had only briefly seen him once after I quit working there. But, in those few months we worked together we got along really nicely and became good friends.
The text said, "Hey man did you hear about Walt?" I hadn't spoken to Walt since the previous November, and had only recently thought about him when I noticed that he had started tweeting again. I said no. He told me that Walt had died.
I didn't know what to think. I just stared at my phone screen for a second, not knowing what to do. I thanked Harry for telling me and asked if he knew anything else. He told me he didn't. Candace came out of the bathroom and I told her. While she didn't live in the area, she knew all of my coworkers and would hang out there while I was working. She didn't like Walt at first, but after she realized he wasn't as chauvinistic as he seemed, she warmed up to him.
I got on Facebook and tried to see if anybody was talking about Walt's death. I found a couple of my friends who had posted simple "RIP" messages, but nothing substantial aside from confirming what I had just heard. I was staring at my phone again trying to figure out who would know and who wouldn't. I knew Walt's inner circle would all know at that point, but I thought of a few Pizza Hut names who knew Walt but likely hadn't been informed. I texted them and filled them in on Walt.
In the next couple days, I kept my eyes posted to Facebook, trying to find out more information. I was trying to find a central place to get updates, but I wasn't finding much. Then I started to notice that one general spot where people were grieving Walt was on the Facebook wall of his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Kristian.
I've known Kristian for a couple years now. I've never had a problem with her. I've always enjoyed being around her. But, I know some of Walt's friends didn't like her. I don't really know any of the details behind any of that, but whatever. I could see some issues with some of Walt's friends not wanting to go there for updates and to post grievance messages.
I wanted to post some thoughts about Walt. I also had that video on my phone that I wanted to upload. I knew my blog could be seen as a more neutral place for his friends to go to. I posted the blog, simply titled Walter Blankenship. I posted the link to Facebook and tagged an assortment of people who I thought would be interested in it. With the exception of a wrestling blog that shows up prominently in search engines and a Concord blog that gets a lot of spam comments/views, my blog about Walter is the most popular I have ever written.
I was blown away by the reception. You can see the comments that people have left on the blog itself and also on the Facebook link to it, but there was so much more. I had people I hadn't talked to in months texting me to tell me that they appreciated that blog. A few members of Walt's family had sent friend requests and started talking to me. Four or five months after his death, I was at a bar and was introduced by a mutual friend to a guy I hadn't met. He studied me for a second before saying, "I don't wanna bring the mood down, but didn't you write that blog about Walt?"
A couple Walt stories…
If you frequent the blog here, you'll notice that I occasionally post a random music video, with little or no explanation. It's not quite as random as it seems. Every entry that looks like that has some sort of meaning to me. Either the lyrics have some sort of bearing to some situation in my life, or the song reminds me of a time in my life I want to remember. Usually, a post like that means that I want to say something but didn't know what to say. People who read my blog get to listen to a nice song. I get to listen to a nice song and also commemorate a time in my life that I don't want to forget.
Here’s a story behind one of those songs.
Sometime in early March, I saw a couple mutual friends for the first time since Walt's death. While that wasn't why we got together, the conversation eventually turned to Walt. We were sitting around drinking, shooting the shit. We were listening to music, set on shuffle. Queens of the Stone Age came on with their song, "Tangled Up in Plaid." I was bobbing my head along, listening. One of friends noted, "Walt loved this song." The other friend added, "Yeah, sometimes when he would get fucked up on drugs again he would sing the first line, 'I slipped. Didn't mean, didn't mean to do it that way.'"
The next day I posted a video of that song in my blog. The actual video that I posted is no longer up, so it just looks like a blank entry. But, here's a fresh link to the song - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAs-UPKm3FE
That takes us to kind of a related story…
I've written in the past briefly about my flirtation with snorting pills. It was something that I tried a little bit and didn't like it. It either made me extremely tired or made me puke. I don't like either of those feelings. It's a month of my life that I'd like to take back and do over again. There were, however, two occasions where the drugs had their intended effect - I felt that incredible sense of euphoria, that "I should do this more; where have you been all my life" feeling.
I had gotten off work and did it out in the parking lot. I felt amazing, on top of the world. I didn't do it with Walt, but he was there working. He told me to hang out with him. I sat in his car and rode around with him while he was delivering pizzas. I guess, in a weird way, he was trying to look out for me. As I sat there, he kept asking me how I felt, he kept telling me to relax and not worry about anything.
At one point, Walt looked at me and said, "Chris?" I looked over at him. He continued, "Don't become a junkie like us." I nodded my head. He looked away and so did I.
It took a lot for Walt to admit that he had a problem. It took a lot more for him to tell me to not wind up like him. And I didn't. I think he would like that.
I don't think about Walt every day. But when I do, I miss him. He was only in my life for a short period, but I'll never forget him. He was a good friend and I have a lot of happy memories associated with him.
I guess if there's one thing I want people to get out of this is that people who do drugs aren't bad people, they just have a bad problem. They either stop or they die. Walt died. Hopefully, if you're in that same situation you'll assess things and get out of that situation.