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Feature Marty Selby-Kennedy, 1972-2009
Tragic death of a great friend.
July 3, 2009
One of my best friends died this week.  Single car accident, he ended up at the bottom of a limestone quarry.  Un-fucking-believable.

I feel like a fraud claiming Marty as a best friend, I haven't been in touch with him for probably ten years (I'm notoriously bad at friendship, ask anybody).  He was survived by a 3 year-old son, something I should have already known but only learned after his death.  Still, for 6 of my most formative years, spanning high school and college, I had only three very close friends: Tom, Eric, and Marty.

Marty and I were more like brothers than friends.  Not in a trivial "BFF" sense, but in the way real brothers are brothers.  We didn't always get along or have the same priorities, but we stayed loyal and loved each other anyway.  We challenged each other, purposely stepped on each other's toes, and pushed the other to be more.  More intelligent, more of a lady killer, more of a friend, more of a man.

That's what it meant to be Marty's friend.  He expected more of you.  Constantly.  Sometimes to the point where you just wanted him to back off, most of the time to your own betterment as a person.  He taught me things I didn't learn anywhere else.  Chief among them: loyalty.  Many times I stood behind Marty when he pulled a boneheaded teenage maneuver, because I believed in him.  Many times he did the same for me.  Hell, I once quit my job in his defense when he was falsely accused of something I had done.

Obviously we had a lot in common.  Matching tastes in music, video games, movies, clothes, and humor.  But openness and loyalty were the hallmark of our relationship.  Open to a fault, he'd hold nothing back, and extracted the same kind of openness from me.  I told him things that I would never tell anyone else.  Only with my wife have I had a relationship that open.

One of my defining attributes in high school was my car.  1976 Chevy Camaro, sky blue, broken-down 305 V8 engine, rusted body.  Not the most economical or practical car to own as a 17 year-old living in a town covered in snow and ice 4 months out of the year.  But fuck it, I wanted a cool car, and that's what I could afford.  The amazing thing about that car was its ability to finagle my friends into rebuilding it for me.  They wanted me to have a cool car as much as I did.  So Eric went to work under the hood, rebuilding the engine from the ground up, and Marty handled the body work while his father sprayed on a couple coats of glossy black.  Tom tinted the windows and that machine was ready to roll!  I have extremely fond memories of that car, in great part because of the love (in the form of elbow grease) my friends put into it.  I doubt I ever thanked them properly.  Sometimes I think that car was as much Marty's as it was mine.

Marty was unofficially adopted by my family.  He lived with us for periods of time when he was between homes.  He was always welcome as long as he and I followed my dad's rules.  Which we didn't always do.  Which got us into trouble.  In fact, we used to get up to all kinds of trouble.  Most of the time we got away with it, sometimes we didn't.  Other times we went too far, but that's how we rolled, and I'm not about to apologize at this late date.

The last time I saw Marty in person was September 1992.  My family and I were leaving New York, moving back to California.  On the eve of our departure we stayed overnight at a family friend's house.  Marty dropped by to make a point of saying goodbye that night.  We hugged, he said he loved me, I said the same, he choked up and cried a little.  At the time I thought he was being silly and overdramatic.  But I suspect he knew he wasn't going to see me again (as I said, notoriously bad friend).  Me and my family leaving was probably sadder for him than I understood.  I wish I had understood better.

When relating his death to crocoWife and explaining who he was to me, I choked up and cried a little.  Maybe now I understand better.  In death, Marty still teaches me lessons.

Martin Anthony Selby-Kennedy


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