a beautiful tribute to anthony, from jamy.
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this is a beautiful tribute to anthony, written by my friend and book-doula jamy ian swiss. he only got to meet anthony briefly, but was infused with anthony-stew and anthony-isms from working with me on the book and, as you’ll see, shared my experience of having a hard-to-explain mentor.
thank you, jamy. he’d have loved this.
to all the rest of you….thank you, so much, for all the love pouring in. it’s helping. your stories are like little corks that plug up leaking holes in my heart.
it may sound terribly corny, but i am so glad i launched this patreon page when i did, in march, in time to re-establish the connection with my blog readers that i really started to miss when all the traffic moved to twitter and facebook. it feels more like home, it feels more like a family.
i am so, so grateful you are all here.
today, i started thinking about music again, for the first time in a long time.
part of healing includes getting back to work. especially before all these feelings fade.
i love you all so much.
keep paying attention.
Jamy Ian Swiss
June 23, 2015
My friend Anthony died yesterday.
I didn’t know him long. We actually spent about two days together, all told. But I felt connected to him, and I think he shared my sense of that.
I remember something he said the first time we finally met face to face. “If you’re not crying from time to time, you’re not paying attention.” He was sort of translating a Sufi saying, remembering it from the book, “The Tavern of Ruin,” about the whirling dervishes.
Today is one of those days for paying attention.
The second time I met Amanda Palmer — first introduced by my old friend and her then fairly new husband, Neil Gaiman — after seeing her perform with her band in a Los Angeles art gallery, I asked her a question later that evening: How did you get to be you?
She said: “Anthony.”
And that’s when I began to hear about her lifelong relationship with her childhood next door neighbor, Anthony Martignetti, a therapist by profession, and a loving friend and mentor toAmanda from the time she was nine years old.
Many of those stories that I first heard from Amanda can now be found in her book, “The Art of Asking.” You might know about Anthony from that book, or if you’ve read either of his own collections of stories from his life, “Lunatic Heroes” or “Beloved Demons.” I recommend all these books, I spent about half a year helping my friend Amanda with hers, andI know those Anthony stories inside and out, and some of them still make me cry. I’m paying attention.
Amanda often spoke of how she never quite knew how to explain or describe her relationship with Anthony to other people, especially when she was a child, and then an adolescent. I know this feeling well, as it turns out. When I was 17, I met a man named James Norman, a painter living in Manhattan who was 15 years my senior. We became best of friends, and like Anthony, he quickly became an indescribable oddity but above all a profoundly important friend/mentor/teacher/other to me throughout my life.
So I felt I understood a lot about Anthony right from that first night I heard about him. And by the time we finally met, on June 28, 2014, in his home in Lexington, Mass, I already felt like I knew him well, and I know he felt similarly. By then we had been in touch by most available channels, email and text, and you can find a review I wrote of “Lunatic Heroes” up on Amazon, and some comments of mine right on the back cover of “Beloved Demons” and also inside, because Anthony insisted on including the entirety of what I’d written, and I thought it was too much, butI’m still pleased he liked it.
Between us we had Amanda, and so we both understood a lot about one another, and instantly cared a great deal for one another, because we both knew how much the other one cared about her.
And then, too, I understood and delighted in the odd blend of facets in the personality that comprised Anthony, a sensitive boy turned professional therapist, a tough-talking philosopher, a self-defense aficionado who you wouldn’t mind having your back in a fight. I saw myself in him, this same odd blend of street-smart Buddha. He quoted Sufis to me. He gave me a link to buy a weighted monkey-fist sap that goes on your keychain. (He knew I’d know what it was. I think I’m going to finally go buy one.)
While Amanda and I were working on the book, from Manhattan to Los Angeles, from San Diego to Woodstock, we took a field trip to Boston to see Anthony, and to tour some of her old haunts, visit her apartment at the Cloud Club, connect with old friends. I got to meet the people and see the places that she was writing about for the book. It was a whirlwind and powerful exploration, but the most potent was the time spent with Anthony.
He couldn’t drink because of the chemo, but he served me an aged Irish Whisky in a gorgeous rocks glass with a sterling silver rim, poured over a perfect giant ice cube. We spoke of the day when we would be able to share a drink like that.
I’m paying attention. I remember a description he offered, andI think he may have been quoting his old-world Italian dad, about whom he wrote so powerfully in “Lunatic Heroes.” In telling a story, Anthony described the protagonist: “The guy is so slow he spends his time sucking one thumb, with the other thumb up his ass. And every five minutes he’d switch.”
Fucking poetry, if you ask me.
It sucks that Anthony and I won’t get to share that cocktail together. We won’t get to tell each other stories that I know each of us would have enjoyed both hearing and recounting.
But I know that it’s truly marvelous that we did get to meet, and acknowledge our commonalities and connections. I was glad he hung around and made the planet a little more interesting every moment he was here. It hurts that it didn’t last longer but goddam I was lucky to meet him.
The last words he said to me when I bid him goodbye at the hospital while he was taking a chemo treatment: “I think my soul and your soul are very old friends.”
Spoken between two people who didn’t really believe in souls, I knew exactly what he meant, and he knew I knew.
I will keep paying attention, my friend. And I miss you already.