Friday, December 16, 2011
In Memoriam: Sebastian Quezada
Sebastian Quezada, one of my best and dearest friends. Thank you for your friendship, I learned so much from you, see you on the other side, hermano. Cuídate.
The stories of the times that Sebastian and I have had together since our first meeting in 1992 could fill a book, although likely one of the transgressive literature variety. Even when we had gone without seeing one another or speaking on the phone for months, I always counted Sebastian as one of my best friends, the kind of person with whom, when you meet up again, you pick up as if no time at all had passed, the kind of person who would open their door, their wallet and their heart to friends in need without a moment's hesitation and without having to be asked twice. If it wasn't for Sebastian, I would never have been able to even begin living in New York for the seven years I was there, as he was the one who opened up his door to me until I found a job and a place to live just after we had both graduated from college. Given how long that took, most people would have been standing by the door drumming their fingers and waiting for me to leave, but with Sebastian one always felt like a welcomed guest.
But, perhaps ironically, two of the most vivid memories of I have of Sebastian are also among the most wholesome.
One dates back to our days at Bard College. I believe it was the autumn of 1995. Sebastian and I had for some reason ventured down to a set of dorms known as the Ravines, built, as the name would suggest, between a deep ravine and a field that would become a soggy lake at the slightest hint of rain. The weather was overcast and moody, the kind of fall-bleeding-into-winter weather that one so often encounters in the Catskills around that time of the year. We were standing by my car, which was a green 1976 Plymouth Valiant at the time, just enjoying the pensive atmosphere, the wind on our faces, the hint of precipitation in the air. At once the sky was full of several, then dozens, then what looked like hundreds of migrating birds, flooding the grey sky in search of a path to warmer climes.
I don't recall Sebastian and I saying much to one another at that moment - perhaps just an "Oh wow" or something like that - but I think it was a sight that affected us both powerfully. Here we were both nearing graduation and entry into another facet of life and the sight of those birds flying loose and free into the unknown somehow evoked the journey that we both were about to commence on, away from an environment that had become familiar for four years - if only as a point of reference - and into the as-yet-unwritten future of our new lives, with no telling where they would take us. As I write these words that was 16 years ago.
My second vivid memory is from the spring of 2003 when I was living in a nice-and-too-expensive loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn just south of the bridge. You could stand at the window during the cold months and watch the boats go up and down the river, carefully navigating their way past chunks of floating ice. As the weather got warmer, it was decided that a house-warming party was in order and when there was a party to be had, there was no better person to ask cook for it than Sebastian.
We decided to make feijoada, that delicious Brazilian beef and pork stew (Sebastian is probably more responsible than any other single person for my first trip to Brasil in 1999, a country I have since been back to several times and count as one of my favorites). We then went out to buy a suitable pot, which is looking down upon me from my mantle here in New Orleans right now as I write these words. Our system was that I would do the chopping and dicing and Sebastian would do the cooking. We bought the white rice, the black beans, the farofa and Sebastian - who I never tire of telling people was the single best cook that I have ever met - blended it all together perfectly. There was more than enough when we were done to feed the 20 or so people in attendance and suffice to say that I was eating feijoada for many days afterwards.
This memory is for me one that evokes a lot of elements of Sebastian, someone who was as excessive in his generosity as he was in anything else, someone who always wanted to make sure that everyone was fed, everyone was happy, everyone was included. That desire for community is one of the nicest traits anyone can have and on that day my friend Sebastian displayed, as always, that he possessed it in multitudes.
The sound of his laugh - booming, boisterous, all-encompassing - was one of the great things to experience in this life. I still hear it in my ears and with it comes the memory of my strange, generous, extraordinary friend.
Cuídate, Sebastian. Wherever you are, I hope that you are cooking a big pot of feijoada and listening to Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 in the sun right now.