Reid Diamond, 1958-2001
THERE WAS NO ONE ELSE LIKE REID DIAMOND. FOR ONE THING, HE ADMIRED ME. FOR ANOTHER, HE DEFENDED ME. THAT'S ENOUGH TO MAKE HIM PRECIOUS BEYOND MEASURE.
But a special case indeed was Reid, always cooking up some new idea. The music of his Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet featured on Kids in the Hall was still making TV sets ring when Reid was creating words-on-the-wall art shows.
His sharp wit flavoured everything he did. Who else would put a box on a string so that he could present "Tonight Only! The Singing Frog"?
His enthusiasms were multiple, his musical taste a treat. He had a six-string bass like they used on some Glen Campbell song. He always made Super 8 movies, and most recently was running them during performances of Danny And Reid's Motion Machine, with Reid on electric guitar.
Maybe you followed the stories Reid chalked on sidewalks in Spanish and Chinese and English last fall through the little streets between the Cameron and Grossman's. That's when his back started hurting and he found out the stealthy, rare cancer that stalked him was in his spine. But he kept quiet about it.
The thing about Reid was that he really believed in community, and worked at it -- with arts groups, canvassing for local politicians like Barbara Hall, helping bring out-of-town musicians here to play, donating his time to good causes… like drinking!
We were supposed to go for a beer.
We never got the chance.
Reid and Rebecca, his wife, took a train trip to Philadelphia to see the Marcel Duchamp show not so long before Reid passed away at home last Saturday.
When I hear the news on Sunday, I head for the Island. Running for the ferry, I see a brilliant rainbow in the spray as flocks of wintering arctic ducks take flight.
I pick up a pint and a half of homemade vodka at the ice bike race and slide out to where the surface is clear as glass and the seams are creaking on the edge of open water.
Nearby is the clubhouse where Reid and Rebecca tied the knot. I remember how they secretly planned to have me interrupt the minister with, "Stop the wedding!" followed by my rendition of Yes Yes Yes, a song about the horrors of marriage. Certainly made an impression on Reid's people from Calgary.
Rebecca, whose radiance and strength are awe-inspiring, says she and Reid had the chance to fall in love all over again in the last while.
Berries staining the snow red look so stunning, I can't resist putting one in my mouth. I'm still here. Reid is gone. Where?
I made him a collage the other week with photos of me and my doll-like companion Reina Luminosa in Mexico -- I got the maid to take the picture when I was halfway through cutting my braids off with nail scissors (still-life with hair) -- and quite a few old shots of Xochimilco.
Xochimilco, 20 kilometres south of downtown Mexico City by public transit, is where parties of people rent long boats with names like Lupita and Carmelita. Ladies poling little chalupas cruise the canals selling beer and food. Everyone has a good time, and strangers wave at each other as they float by.
Boatloads of mariachis are on hand for requests. I once hired the divine sound of a tune played on hammer piano.
Maybe this is what heaven is like, I suggested in writing to Reid. I also like the idea of Hillbilly Heaven. Reid and Handsome Ned jamming with Hank Williams on fiddle. Out on the frozen lagoon, there's just me belting Conway Twitty at the setting sun.
Reid and I didn't have to see each other all the time. Just knowing he was around was enough.
Now the streets look different, and I hear this song line in my head -- I turn the corner/And I want to see you there.
Glasses will be raised to honour Reid Russell Diamond on Friday at the Cameron from 6 to 9 pm. I started yesterday. *
NOW | FEB 22 - 28, 2001 | VOL. 20 NO. 25
From Now Toronto