dear kelly…

dear kelly…

we were together for 14 years. we accomplished so much, had so many adventures, and enjoyed each others company for all but the last 3 years that we were together.

we met back in the olden days before cell phones, computers, and online dating. i had placed an ad in the san diego reader, and you answered it. you said that you had a girlfriend and that you were just looking for a friend. i tossed your letter, because i wanted more.

a year later, i placed an ad in the same paper. i once again received a letter from you. you once again stated that you had a girlfriend, but i was more than happy that time, to have a friend.

what developed between the two of us, quickly became much more than a friendship. you treated me so well. you made me necklace and a mix tape, put it in a card and left it in my mailbox. 

evelyn finally contacted you and she wanted you back. you were very torn, but you chose me. at the time, i worked two jobs and had a two bedroom apartment. i had one cat, john rotten, and you had four…otto, rosey, wanda, and unfortunately i forgot the other one’s name.

i didn’t ask you to move in with me, but somehow, you and the cats appeared there. we lived in la mesa, california…a suburb of sunny san diego. it wasn’t long before melissa, david, and paul joined us.

we went to the beach several times a week and always had a blast with our nephew, paul. you were a real estate photographer, before i got my hands on you and turned you into a picture framer.

at the time, i had a corporate job with michael’s, as a district framing trainer. i was in charge of 18 stores. i trained you myself and put you in charge of the frame shop and staff, of the escondido store.

you shot beautiful black and white photographs…many of them portraits of me or paul. you played guitar, wrote songs, and sang in a band with marc and rich, both of whom i trained and installed as frame shop managers…one in la mesa, one in clairemont. 

i will never forget the night that you sang me the song that you had written for me in marc’s living room. i was shocked, amazed, and deeply touched. i had absolutely no words.

i will also never forget coming home on the one year anniversary of kurt cobain’s death, walking in the door, seeing you sitting on the floor, surrounded by candles, playing guitar, and singing, “jesus doesn’t want me for a sunbeam.”

i used to tell you that you had, “mona lisa” hands. when you used to tell me that you loved me, i used to ask you, “still, after all these years?” you never forgot a birthday or anniversary. you gave of yourself always.

i talked you into saving with me for a vacation to the pacific northwest, as i was already prepared to move there secretly, at that point. we drove up the coast of california and oregon, camping the whole way.

when we came back, david and melissa, had gotten wanda the cat, into the habit of eating ice cream every night. melissa wanted to get rid of david for awhile, so we sent him to seattle to work on a crab boat, in alaska. 

you, me, and melissa flew to portland, oregon to look for our new home. we found nothing in portland, but on our last day, we found an awesome place in vancouver, washington…101 east 39th street, 98661.

me, melissa, and paul picked up our brand new ryder truck and car trailer. i was driving when we were struck head on. i could no longer drive. we got a new truck and my dad drove, with paul and melissa. courtney car was on the trailer, full of framed artwork and all of the cats.

i’ll never forget us driving behind the truck, leaving san diego, and watching the back of the truck roll up, and watching the vacuum cleaner dance around, and nearly fall out. i remember the lights reflected off of the kitties eyes.

we arrived in our new home and that first year was such a struggle. melissa was depressed and didn’t want to be there, money was tight, and paul missed grandma and grandpa. we persevered and made it.

melissa and paul went with charles, and that opened a new can of worms. we found that paul had been abused and my parents came, and got him. we began living our lives together, without interference from my sister.

you surprised me in 1998, with a big, fluffy baby…dieter solomon mango louise. he was the biggest, sweetest, most mindful, goofy boy. he was a german shepherd/great dane mix. he was our first of three boys, all of which we adopted in 1998.

1998 was a year of great abundance for us. i went to la grande, oregon…with my grandma, my mom, my sister, and paul to a church camp. i was sleeping in a teepee one night, when i was awoken by something soft and furry, trying to burrow into my sleeping bag. 

i shot out of bed, grabbed a flashlight, and found a black fluff ball, which we aptly named samson. samson was happy and prancy. he was a border collie/samoyed mix. dieter and samson hit it off, but we were still in an apartment. 

we looked for a house to rent and were given an opportunity to buy a recently remodeled flip. i used my settlement to clean your credit and you qualified. we bought the two bedroom, one bath house on grand boulevard, in front of the beautiful old cemetery. 

we bought martha stewart paint and painted each room differently. we planted many fruit trees…apples, pears, and cherries. we planted a tiny sprig of a spruce that grew up to be giant, strong, and mighty. you planted 67 different varieties of roses. you planted iris and tulip bulbs.

unbeknownst to me, you put a request into the shelter for a boxer. they called you soon after and you told me. i tried to talk you out of going to look at him. i said that we had enough dogs and that one more, would be a bad idea. i made you feel bad. i made you cry.

i nearly lost one of the greatest joys that i’ve ever known in this life…a dog named, “world famous gunther the painting boxer dog.” we took dieter and samson to meet the little 6 month old guy and when i looked into his eyes…it was instant love, recognition, and validation. 

we were very happy with our boys, our house, and our single copy news business. we could afford nice things. i bought a brand new ford f-150, double cab truck. you bought a nissan quest van. later on mother’s day, we went down with the boys, and bought a brand new ford escape.

we had friends and employees like john, robin, and neil. i had many surgeries; carpal tunnel right and left, ulnar nerve release right, and digital dorsal release right. you were by my side for every single one. you always brought me a stuffed animal and took me home with you, where i always knew that i would be safe, warm, and very loved.

we went to so many concerts: sarah mclachlan, tori amos, concrete blonde, melissa etheridge, joan jett, ani difranco, the pretenders, jars of clay, bare naked ladies, the sex pistols, the foo fighters, soundgarden, metallica, ozzy, alanis morrisette, boy george, kd lang, and many more. 

we went to many comedy shows: margaret cho, ellen degeneres, janeane garofalo, louie anderson, kathy griffin, and many more. we met famous people like sarah mclachlan, johnette napolitano, louie anderson, you and gunther met ellen degeneres and anne heche when they were fighting in the streets of portland.

we went to seattle and drove around lake washington until we finally found kurt cobain’s house. we walked over to the park that was right next door and we took photos, and tried to look over and under the fence, until a security guard chased us away. we went back to the park and picked up a rock, which i still have.

we bought and collected art together. we went to galleries and museums. we attended art openings and bid on art at art auctions. we bought and sold on ebay. at one point in time, you sold thousands of dollars worth of your own paintings to an old guy on ebay. i was in charge of photos and posting everything.

i received another settlement in 2004 and we decided to embark on a huge mission, our dream at the time. we walked through the skidmore fountain building, in downtown portland, right in the heart of the portland saturday market. it was the perfect location with built-in foot traffic. we found the perfect space inside and setup shop.

we opened the first of two art gallery/gift shop/frame shops. we named our places, “art for dog’s sake gallery and custom framing.” our sign was very creative and i loved it. it was your idea, you created it. it was a photo of the mona lisa, with gunther in her arms. it still makes me smile to think about it!!

our first little shop lasted until 2007. people loved coming there, they always found something unique and cool. we sold gunther’s paintings, accoutrements, clothes, body jewelry, and your art. i did all of the custom picture framing. you became the spokesperson/rockstar and i was content to be in the background…for awhile.

in 2006, we opened our second location in historic downtown, gresham, oregon. it was in the perfect spot, right on main street…in a three thousand square foot building. we stopped by the location on a whim one day and pretended like we had  $5000 per month to rent the space. we of course didn’t, but we enjoyed playing, “what if,” sometimes.

the rental agent took our card and called us everyday for a month. finally, i called back and told her that it just wasn’t in our budget. i will never forget what happened next. the owner of the building asked us for a meeting at our original store. he wanted to see a business and marketing plan, which was very fortunate, because at that time, i had just completed a business and marketing plan, as my final for a business course that i was taking at school.

by the end of the meeting, we had a check for $13,000, keys to our new store, and six months of free rent. we were absolutely ecstatic on one hand and not at all surprised on the other. we were both very confident in our skills and powers of persuasion. we worked well as a team and played perfectly off of one another. well, what would anyone else ever expect from us…two leo’s, born five days apart, in the same year. 

so, we setup another bigger and better shop. chipotle came for our grand opening and served burritos, as a cross branding event. we had a new artist opening each month, with wine, cheese, and music. we even flew gus fink out for a huge show of his original art and comics, he did a signing as well. my parents and paul even came out for that. it was awesome and we did it. 

it all seemed so magical on the surface, but we had been fracturing since about 2005. in 2005, i began having odd sensations and weird neurological ailments and you stopped sleeping in the bedroom. there were walls between us, but i wanted them down. i asked repeatedly what we were…friends, roommates, or partners…you said that you just weren’t happy with yourself and didn’t know. i asked you for a year.

the two of us being so close together, so similar, and so leo…made us both the best of friends and the biggest competitors. those last three years felt like perpetual competition. it felt less fun for me and the more i had to ask you over that year, the more sad and lonely i became. i made the decision to go back to school in 2005, purely for financial reasons. i had no intention of liking it or even graduating with either an aa or ba. 

in 2006, i met a girl in geography class, it was sarah. at first, i just thought that she was my straight school friend, but i realized that she was interested in me as more. she had never had a girlfriend or been with a woman. i never had any intention of acting on anything, but i did. i knew that it was wrong at the time and i know that it’s wrong now. i fucked up and did the wrong thing. if i had it to do all over again, i would’ve dragged us to therapy.

the last truly great thing that we pulled off as a couple was the, “it’s a dog’s life festival.” we single handedly created a successful event for dogs and their owners. we had 50 vendors, 5 rescues, 2 radio stations, raffles, events, contests, and news media coverage. it was something that we had never before done, it was a labor of love, and our baby. 

i left you in a bad way. i thought of no one but myself. i hurt you. i hurt the person that i loved the most. i hurt the person that loved me the most in my lifetime. the one who kept me safe and warm. the one who came and checked on me when i was in the hospital, after we broke up. it’s a fact that i’ve had to live with, for the last 9 years. there’s not a day that goes by that i don’t regret it… that i don’t think about you and wonder how you are doing…what you are doing. 

here’s the thing, i know that you went on to find the love of your life. you deserved to find her, to marry her, to make her your wife. you two deserve all of your success in the portland/vancouver art world. you deserve backyard chickens, indoor dogs, and big beautiful tattoos. you deserve a long life, full of love, friends, and laughter.

i don’t know how many years it’s been now, i think maybe two or three…since you beat ovarian cancer. sarah told me one day a few years ago that you had it, when she and i were still together. i felt really bad, but i knew that you were still young, and a fighter. i guess that i still hadn’t felt the full ramifications of what i had done, or how badly i had hurt you, but i still tried to get in touch with you. i remembered you in my prayers.

and now here i am, sitting here sobbing for my old friend, my old love, my old partner in crime. and i shout at the top of my lungs, “you don’t deserve this…but, i do.” i read the news today and it immediately reduced me to tears. the cancer is back, in your lymph nodes and possibly in your lungs. and yet, you fight on and stay positive, and roll with the punches. i only wish that i could take this burden from you and carry it myself, because I DO DESERVE IT!! you deserve to enjoy your life with your wife. i wish that i could do this for you, because when all is said and done, i do love you, i never stopped loving you…I FUCKED UP!! i’m so sorry…please never stop fighting…

thank you for forgiving me,



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