Arts Devo

Missing Dave

Dave and Jason in Chico, 1989

Dave and Jason in Chico, 1989

Missed I want to talk (“Oot.”) about Dave. He was my best friend during some (“Ooooot!”) of the most crucial years of my life, yet most of the (“Oot?!”) people I know today never met him, so I’m going to try and paint a picture (“Ooooooooooot!!!).

Actually, that’s a pretty good start. Above all else, Dave was hilarious. He had an offbeat, perfectly timed sense of humor fueled by in-jokes and his own invented lingo, with a personal dictionary of esoteric nicknames (McBelly, the beer-bellied neighbor who mowed his lawn shirtless) and left-field expressions designed to make his friends laugh—such as loudly repeating “Oot!” (the sound the horse from Animal House makes right before it keels over … you had to be there) while someone was trying to say something serious.

Dave McManus died this past Christmas. I don’t know how exactly. He’d been sick for a while, then he got really sick, then he was gone. The reason for my uncertainty is the fact that, before we reconnected on Facebook last summer, it had been 24 years since we’d spoken. Which is crazy. He was the best man at my wedding, and the following day I drove off for my honeymoon and he flew back to the East Coast, where he was living at the time. And that was it. As I remember, there were a few missed connections and the trading of phone messages (this was before the ubiquity of emails and way before the convenience of smartphones), and then the ties between us unraveled as we went in different directions to lead our separate lives.

On Monday, there will be a memorial service for Dave, and as I anticipate joining his family and some of my childhood friends in a cemetery near our hometown of Redding, I’m lost in memories.

We met in ninth grade at that weird long-gone institution known as Nova High—a school filled with nothing but freshmen—and quickly bonded over our love of music. After Nova, we went on to different schools, and would reconvene during the summers to do nothing but screw around: sleep in till noon; bathe by jumping in Dave’s pool; make the long loop around the blazing-hot cultural desert of Redding, from the old mall to the new mall and back to the pool; shoot hoops in the driveway; grab snacks at 7-Eleven; settle in to watch Night Flight all night; repeat the next day.

After high school, we went in different directions for a few months before locking paths again. Between the start of 1988 (when I was 18) and the middle of 1992, Dave and I were inseparable. We roomed together as we followed friends and our whims to different cities—L.A., Chico, Redding, Boston—and pretty much did nothing but buy music, talk about music and go witness live music: U2 on The Joshua Tree tour at the L.A. Coliseum; The Cramps in Boston; The Pixies in San Francisco; Fugazi in Olympia, Wash.; and every great local and touring act that played Chico’s tiny venues at the time—from The Downsiders and Vomit Launch to Camper Van Beethoven and The Flaming Lips.

We had a big crew, and Dave was always the wild heart burning at the center of things, so brave and magnetic, loathe to sit still and prone to unpredictable acts of public silliness in the name of cracking us up (wearing ridiculous thrift store hats; taking a bite from a half-eaten doughnut on the sidewalk; acting like a mannequin in department stores).

Our Facebook reconnection was limited to a few very brief interactions, and I’m bummed we didn’t get a chance to meet up again. I wish I could have told him I missed him, and that I’ve held him close to my heart all this time. I often look back fondly at those wild years when we navigated the transition from high school to the adult world together. Thankfully, we never acted very adult, always choosing fun over responsibility, doing nothing but hang out, explore and devour all music that came our way.

Of course, my feelings of regret are fairly insignificant compared to the pain his family is experiencing having lost Dave much too early, and I send my condolences to his lovely mother, Diane; his brother, Jason; and the rest of his loved ones. Rest in peace, Dave.