This morning as I was ingesting my first cup of coffee of the day as I was greeted by an email from my friend, poet/writer/dj Darren De Leon that our mutual friend, the fantastic Chicano poet, George Tirado was dead.
Man, I can’t say that I was surprised. George shot dope for a lot of years. He lived life about as hard as it gets and weighing in at around 400 pounds on top of all of the drinking, weed, speed and junk, well let’s just say that we were all collectively waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still, knowing all of this doesn’t make his passing any easier. To say George had his demons is an understatement. He indeed had his demons but writing the truth and pain he experienced in his 44 years on this planet wasn’t one of them. His memorial was today in the Tenderloin at the Ambassetor Hotel, which is located literally right on the next block from the hotel I used to live in 23 years ago, so I had no problems finding my way there.
Darren apologized for the short notice but I wrote back and told him no worries, I’ll be there.
I got to Eddy Street a little early just so I could walk around and look at what may or may not have changed since my days in the TL and to reflect a little about George and what he meant to me. I took a lap around the block past my old hotel, the streets still teeming with America’s thrown out and disenfranchised. A line from a Dave Alvin song came to mind, “Everything is different but nothing has changed.”
I thought about George and his poetry, what he and I used to talk about and the artwork I did for his chapbooks and what not. I can still hear him talking about Oscar ‘Zeta” Acosta, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, Aztlan, the Chicano movement, dope and music and all the other stuff Chicanos like us used to talk about.
When I got to the memorial at the hotel they ushered us into a small back room filled with about 30 folding chairs and a TV in one corner and an alter with a huge photo of George looking back. “Aw, yeah. There he is.” I said under my breath because that was how I always greeted Tirado when I saw him.
All sorts of people nervously milled about, eyeing the donuts, candy, chips, salsa and guacamole. There were people from the hotel that were friends with George, people from social services that worked with George and in the back were poets and artists who worked with George. On the phone they had his mother calling all the way from Houston, Texas as she listened in to the memorial.
People read poems they wrote about George or they read Georges poems or they just talked about him and said goodbye. On a TV a DVD played showing George at readings.
Afterwards I left with Darren and Josiah Luis Aldarete and we laughed about our favorite George stories as we walked around the Tenderloin.
No matter what is said or written it’s always the bottom line that is forever. George is gone now and I’ll never forget him.