Basketball is alive; Kyle is dead
Basketball’s alive Basketball is my favorite sport, I like the way they dribble up and down the court —Kurtis Blow
Arts DEVO has worshiped basketball since he was in the eighth grade and his parents gave him his first TV. It was a little black-and-white set with rabbit ears and all I could tune in to was PBS and CBS. That first night—May 31, 1983—I sat with my face 1 foot away from the screen, mesmerized by what turned out to be the final game of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and 76ers. My jaw was on the floor as I watched players with superhero-sounding names—Magic, Dr. J, Moses, Kareem—do superhuman things. I was hooked.
I latched on to Magic and the Lakers at first, but when the much-less likable Kobe came along at the same time as the fun-loving Kings of the Vlade/Webber/Peja/White Chocolate era, I committed myself to the local team. Things haven’t been that fun with the Kings in a while, but basketball—both pro and college—is more amazing than ever, and there are new superheros coming up every year—Curry, the Greek Freak, The Brow, Zion, Bol Bol (Manute’s son!). There’s even a new hero on my lowly team, point guard De’Aaron Fox—aka Swipa the Fox—a basketball artist whose superpower is video-game-level speed, so maybe it’ll be good to be a King again soon.
Kyle’s dead I am not a fan of poems written to the dead/As if their ghostly bodies could hover over the reader/listening to the words and snapping their fingers like/haunted assholes at a Dead Poetry Slam
That was not a poem written to the dead. Kyle Bowen—local writer, comedian, poet, mortician and one-time ice-cream man—died Monday, Nov. 5, at the age of 59, and those four lines open a poem called “A Note Before You Leave, Kyle.” It was written and performed for Bowen by his friend, San Jose poet/comedian Mighty Mike McGee, while Bowen was sick and dying but before he was gone. The idea, of course, being that “the person who deserves to see and hear it most,” as McGee says in the piece, could actually enjoy the words along with everyone else.
It’s a great way to go about things and is a mindset that Bowen, a mortician by trade, was intimately aware of and intent on not shying away from when he sweetly and frankly brought us along for the experience via social media over the last month.
Death is a rad and messy finale to a rad and messy everything else. (Another excerpt from McGee’s poem.)
Bowen was a friend and source of inspiration for McGee and a lot of other artists around the world, most recently in Chico, where he lived for the past 15 or so years. He came to town on the heels of a successful run as a slam poet (was a member of San Jose’s 2001 national team), took up work here as an ice-cream man before returning to his work as a mortician, and along the way hosted spoken-word open mics, performed comedy, wrote and performed for NPR’s Snap Judgment storytelling series and even won the CN&R’s 2015 Keep Chico Weird Talent Show. And he definitely did that—kept Chico weird and a little more honest with his uncompromising approach to art.
Rest in power.