Christopher Burns – The Most Interesting Man in the World. Truly.

It’s been a hell of a week.
Andy Griffiths, Ernest Borgnine, & Christopher Burns.
please say it with me:
Christopher D. Burns, Esq.
Who are these people?
The first I never met; the second I met several times; the third was my brother.
I have to tell you I am absolutely in no frame of mind to do this but I can not suffer to remain quiet, my fingers are of a mind all their own.  If I am to frame my grief, better to do so through memory and catharsis.
So, a few words then for a poet, writer, genius, kin. A man whom, at the top of his game, saw none better.
In the passage of death we are often forgiving of the character flaws of those we lose.
Christopher was angry, passionate, and with a heart that knew no boundary.  He was truly an idea man.
He and I often reflected on how “we have heard the chimes at midnight.”
So many adventures, so much heartbreak, so many incredible memories.
No two could be closer had they drunk from the same DNA pool, sibling rivalries notwithstanding.
We would drive three and a half hours to drink nickel beers and dollar longnecks at the Cheyenne Saloon at Church Street.  That was living.
I never deserved his unrequited love, his enduring affections, his sage wisdom.  Yet, he persevered, refusing my stubborn efforts to alienate the world and on occasion, him.
I never had to defend his actions; he was never afeared to tell people what he thought.  In later times, when he kept getting kicked while down, I felt the need to let the world know what I thought. When the judgements would fly with much alacrity, how great a man he was.
It always began with the same sentence:  “I’ve seen Chris at the top of his game, and you’ll never meet a man better.”
He turned me on to Kahlil Gibran and The Prophet (and subsequently, to Kehlog Albran’s The Profit).  Buckminster Fuller, Alan Parsons, and Man Goat.  There was nothing this man did not know.
It was at The Dream Weaver Ranch he discovered his totem, nature, and through the sight of glowing eyes at the forest’s edge, the nickname BBBM.
You see, Chris was a big huge man.  Yet I never saw someone so terrified of something he couldn’t see.  I guess there’s a little of that in all of us.
I could fill a novel with our stories. No nuance or detail escaped his notice.
We never opened a pub, but we sure closed a few.
He was forever forgiving of my practical jokes.  Like the time mom insisted I take him shopping because he had little fashion sense (he wore black on black with black).  We walked into one of those boutique stores in Orlando years before I moved there and I convinced him the shirt he was trying on was perfect for him.  It was this screaming orange and yellow monstrosity which required a strong personality to wear.  He had the personality, but was convinced people were laughing at him (they weren’t).
Then there was the time I duct-taped a one gallon can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew to the rear bumper of his car.  He stopped at a fuel station to gas up and noticed a couple of girls looking at him and smiling.  He told me, “there I was looking at them, looking at me, and thinking, ‘I still got it.’  But then I wondered if there was another reason they were smiling.”  He told me he walked around to the rear of the car where he saw the big can of ready-to-eat stew.  All he could do was shake his head as he got in his car and drove off.
I snapped a photo of him one day, brushing his teeth, wearing nothing but his tidy whiteys.  And then I later taped said photo to the rear license plate of a friend’s motorcycle, who got pulled over by Gainesville’s finest. Fortunately the officer had a sense of humor and approached my friend by saying, “I think someone is having a joke on you.”
Chris had seen military service and action, yet just about climbed into my lap when we went through The Great Movie Ride and one of the Aliens appeared from the ceiling.  He was practically peeing from fear and I was peeing from laughter.
I taught Chris how to drift a car; the first time he did it was around a curb.  When I first demonstrated this, he was in the passenger seat and his son was in the back seat.
And his wife was on the curb ready to lose her mind until she realized I was driving. Oddly, she was okay with this arrangement.
His little boy said, “do it again.”
Chris simply got into the driver’s seat, and asked me to talk him through the physics and mechanics of the action.  He executed it perfectly.
And you never saw a greater hero that day than a father to his son.  Benjamin loved his daddy, and it didn’t hurt he had an uncle willing to help his pop get crazy.
Christopher saw practically every show I had ever performed, seen me do many of the stunts professionally for the first time, always proudly beaming.  He read my galleys, went to film festivals to support my early efforts and was always present with a smile and story.
I never have known anyone who could hold court on the nuances of Hamlet while simultaneously field stripping a weapon.  In fact, he knew a whole lot about everything whereas I knew just enough about  few things to appear smart.
Yet, for all his brilliance, I never understood why Chris held his own father in such high esteem. Any father would pray for such a son as my brother, but this father was unworthy. Chris always failed to live up to the man’s expectations, no matter how amazing his accomplishment. The man lorded over him some bizarre psychological ordnance that was a battering ram to his psyche, a bludgeoning instrument that slowly, inexorably chipped away at Christopher’s glimmer and greatness, until all there was left was tarnish.
But guess what? Even the finest art shows itself well with the patina of age and experience.
We had a falling out (my fault, naturally). But we managed to reconnect in short time. And it all began anew with no special words or acknowledgement I had fucked up.
That’s how he was. Never held a grudge. Someone or something would sabotage an honest effort and he still insisted on putting his best foot forward.
One night, on the roof of The Beacon, drinking some god awful piss of a beer, we had one of those epiphany moments. We made a point to go to this dive that carried the greatest variety of beer ever seen, and we would buy the worst named, nastiest looking bottles, and go back to his place, where his lovely wife would send us off to the roof with a “you boys have fun” wave of her hand and off we went.  And we would do the opposite of what any barley and fermented hop connoisseur would do.  Where the average imbiber would drink something delightful and say, “you really must try this,” he would take a swallow of some tongue curling liquid, make the most inhumanly grotesque face possible, curl his lips and say, “Snap. You have to try this shit.”
And it was that night I learned about one hundred proof truth.
From that point forward I ripped my chest open, so he knew my heart by its merit.  That was all it ever took, as if mundane conversation had transcended the ordinary, to become something greater.  It was one of those rarified times in my life where I realized I could talk to him about anything.  And I did. I have sought his wise counsel on a great many things and realize at the risk of apparent selfishness I have no idea who I will turn to with future questions from here on out.
Christopher – You were always a general in my army, always a beacon of light, always more than a shadow of hope.
A lifetime of experiences, and yet yours has been cut short.
And your absence is a vacuum upon that organ in my chest that tries to beat yet sounds more like a banging drum marking the time and passage of a great soul lost.
A Gibran quote for you, my brother.
“Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
 That is One Hundred Proof Truth.
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7 Responses to “Christopher Burns – The Most Interesting Man in the World. Truly.”

  1. Tammy Washington Says:

    Thank you for this. I grew up with Chris; my mom was his babysitter before I was even born. He and I are together in most of my baby pictures. I live right next door to his childhood home. When we were little, Chris could “walk on water” to me. I have never, and still haven’t, met a more knowledgeable person!! I was devastated to hear of his passing yesterday. I lost my husband the same way 11 years ago. My heart weeps for Jennifer and Benjamin, the best things that could have ever happened to Chris. I unfortunately know their pain.
    Reading this makes me smile to know that someone experienced the Christopher D. Burns that I knew and loved so dearly. Thank you.

  2. Jen Says:

    Thank you Ron, I feel the gaping hold in my heart like an ache that will never go away, he is everywhere yet I cannot hold him, hear him…I feel empty and I feel your pain. This is a beautiful tribute I will read it again and again xxx

  3. Ton van Zwieten Says:

    Beautifull

  4. Steve DeVore Says:

    Thanks for this, Ron. I think you really got to the heart of who Christopher really was.

    When he said “Long story short…” you knew it was never going to be short but you knew that whatever he had to talk about was going to be captivating for at least the next hour. And when he said “Bottom line is…” followed by a quick summary of what he’d told you, you knew he was finished and it was your turn to offer something.

    He inspired me to read quality literature and to write my own works. He taught me to admire art and be open-minded about movies I wouldn’t normally watch. He was like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey which appears only when you’re ready to advance to the next step in the evolution of your thinking. I laugh to think one day they’ll be digging up the surface of the moon and out will pop Christopher saying “You know, the thing about Arthur C. Clarke is…”

    No one deserved to be happy more than him.

    I imagine he’s now in a place with an unending library of books, a perpetual theater playing great movies, a giant ipod playing the awesome music and a vast humidor stocked with the best cigars…a place of boundless epicurean ecstasy.

    The world has lost a true original.

    Christopher, I will always be in awe of you.

    I wish you eternal “peace, love, and hash cookies.”

  5. Amanda Says:

    I knew Christopher years ago, introduced to him through you, Ron.
    I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember all of the books he read to me or how many times with the exception of “The Little Prince” (of which, out of all the possessions that I have lost or abandoned, I still have).
    When I told him that I was incapable of love and that I was poison for those around me, he said that he had love enough for all of us and was immune to poison. It was some 18 or so years later that I understood that you and I were that “all”.
    I thank you for letting me in on your secret weapon against life’s slings and arrows that was Chris and I weep that I was not a better friend to him.
    I am more for the association and the world is less for the loss. He generously showered respect and love on me as I am sure many also received but I did not deserve. I will endeavor to be worthy of it.

  6. Andrea M Says:

    Dear Ron
    I just wanted to say how sorry am for your loss. I know Christopher meant so much to you. I think your words are wonderful,amazing and a great tribute to your best friend and brother. Thinking of you at this time. Best wishes Andrea Motil

  7. Denise Laws Campbell Says:

    Touching tribute Ron. So very sorry for your loss.

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