Yesterday morning i was rolling around downtown with some friends who were handing out sack lunches to our friends living on the streets. We drove over to Mackie's old camp under 45 and after asking around about him, i got the bad news. My good friend of 7 years, Mackie Choice, Dallas' Mayor Of Boxville, left this world for the next one just last week. It was the cancer that got him.
The first time i met Mackie we went for a walk together and after about 10 minutes he asked me if i had ever met someone and felt like i knew them right away. I asked him if he meant like the way we were both feeling in that moment and he said yeah and he had tears in his eyes. I swear i like most everybody but man, i LOVED him right away. And things like that only happen once in while.
The second time i hung with Mackie we listened to Sam Cooke, threw the football back and forth and shared some chicken wings. We talked about the moments of resolution that precede change in a person's life and he said he felt like a change was gonna come pretty soon. Said this might even be he year and i think he told me something about his mom too, something she said one time. I cant seem to recall it.
The third time was with Melissa Meaow and the fourth time he was all lit up on Thunderbird and after that i lost count of what happened when. I just know his place, the bridge he lived under for almost 20 years, became a regular stop when i was in South Dallas or when i wanted to go sit and talk for a while. The small fires, the dusty ground, the rotating cast of friends with soft and shifty and defeated and hopeful eyes... Mackie's was always a real special place to me.
One Christmas, Lyric and i took him a new down coat on the way down to Kaufman. She played with his dog Salt N Pepper and thought the box he lived in looked like a cool fort. Another time i took a girl i thought i was in love with down there and he said i better scoop her up and keep her or he might try to. He never let me give him any money and would pull out an old coffee can with change in it when i was leaving and ask me if i needed any. When i would get back up to the car he would yell out and point at the sky and then point at the ground and just smile for a minute. That was just him signaling what he'd probably already said twice in that visit, what he said EVERY visit. "When praises go up, blessings come down." I keep thinking about that now and what it means. I dont know that there's a force in the sky that gives us our way if we praise and sing and pray and act the way we imagine it wants us to. Im pretty sure i don't believe that at all. But i do think there's some force at work in the universe that seems to honor those of us willing to smile through difficulty. And maybe that willingness to find happiness in what is now... maybe that is the gift.
The last time i saw Mackie was over 6 months ago. I heard through the grapevine that he'd gotten a job and made it off the streets and i stopped by his work to hug his neck on his birthday. We talked for about 10 minutes and i messed with him about his short clean haircut. He messed with me about my long curls. He passed me a phone number i could use to find him and we promised to make some time and catch up soon. As i drove off i put the number in the console of my car and unfortunately it didn't come out again until today. I understand there is some sort of order to this world and because i believe that, i rarely spend too much time on regret. Morbid reflection does more harm than good most of the time. I do wish i'd made that call though. One more visit is never really enough but in most cases it beats one less. Having to live with one less is another reminder of the space between the kind of friend I hope to be and the kind I actually end up being in every day life.
And still... the praises will continue to go up.