September 22, 2013

Les Plesko--This will not do you justice, I'd rather stay silent, but I'm doing it anyway.

On Tuesday, I got some shocking news that my friend and long-time teacher, Les Plesko had died. Amanda Copeland posted it on my wall. I didn't have her number, she didn't have mine. That's the way it is sometimes. You know a person but don't have their number. Anyway, I pulled over and she called me to tell me my friend and mentor had died yesterday----this last Monday, September 16th. I posted something on Facebook immediately as I'm prone to do because I know lots of our mutual friends see my wall. I said something about Les listening endlessly to my suicidal ramblings. This is before i found out he took his own life. What I want to get across here, is that no matter what I say, or what I am feeling, it will not do proper justice to the impact this person had on my soul and heart. In fact, my life was quite aimless before I met Les and probably changed its course because of his encouragement and support of my writing. He was my friend. He listened to my tragic boyfriend choices, my suicidal tendencies, my total self-indulgence with rapt attention. Les was a person who liked me as much as I liked him---he found me interesting during a time that was an extremely important thing. He didn't want anything from me and I didn't want anything from him---and in any setting that is a rarity.

We are meant to write something for our friend and teacher--a booklet is being put together, but everyone has already turned stuff in and I'm late because I'm not doing great in my head about this. A backward swan dive off a building? I guess there's a romance to it, but it wasn't supposed to happen to him. Not our Les. The reason I am late is----How does one write a thing for a person who was the most influential to them as a person---how do you write something for someone who maybe gave you the courage to be the type of person you have become--a person with balls and opinions and an I don't give a fuck if you like me or not attitude? I have no fucking idea. So, I'll tell a story or two. Tell you how we met and how like all people I meet that I have an instant affinity for, Les Plesko meant something to my heart. We looked at each other and knew. You know how that is. It happens with lovers and friends. A bond is made and it is permanent even if you don't know why. Like you just know the person as if maybe if souls are energy or chemicals last lifetimes, that you might have known them before this. It was like that.

This next part is boring, even to me, but it seems like you might want to know it. So, I'm saying it for you and to honor Les.

I was just starting out writing again after years of not doing it. In fact, I had been doing other stuff, stuff that didn't inspire my soul--stuff that kills the soul, inch by day, by incredible inch. I took a class and the first thing I wrote got published. It was a short story about me and my friend getting picked up by this old lady who had cocaine and Les was not my teacher at that time---Les was my second teacher. For anyone who knows me I have the sheer blind audacity to apply for the advanced novel class, novel 5 wanting to skip the other classes.  I think and Les told the administrator that his class was full but that my writing was good and to try next time. I am a jaded cynic, full of innocence at times but mostly I just think everyone is lying to me. Whatever. I still applied again and was allowed in.

I was writing a book of short stories about my life doing drugs with trust-funders and with trannies. It was boring but flashy. A total cliche, but Les liked it and like he does told me what was working which was my sentences not the stories. One day, I came in with something else. Les told me to abandon my book and work on this thing. It was called No Tell Motel. I trusted him but was mad because i had 200 pages of the other thing. Les said--fuck the other thing, those stories will always be there. This is special. Then, I won an award for the first chapter of that book. Then I got the first chapter published---all before it was even a book. Whatever. I told you this part is boring.

Lets get to the meat.

The only time I have ever cried in front of a man is during sex or after sex because of the beauty of it, not because someone touched me funny when I was little. But, I had never written a sex scene. It seems too intimate to write down, you know? But, as an exercise, I remember writing this sex scene where this dude fell in love with this girl's asshole. It was worded better, but to tell you now seems too trite. The thing is, is there was this dude in class it really upset. And everyone thought it sucked, but Les LOVED me for it. Because I was brave. I was being brave enough to suck openly on the public stage in a class of people who might have judged me. Some people told me that my bravery helped them, but there was one dude in particular who would say mean stuff and throw tantrums--eventually we got along, but it was long after my sex scene phase. So, a few times after class, I drove home crying. The point was not that someone stared into someone's asshole and fell in love there. The point was not the cottage cheese ceilings, the point I needed to learn by failing. And I needed bravery to do that. Les was safe that way. I felt like I could try things and he would laugh, but still find the shining thing inside of the clot of dirt.

Les was the type of person you could tell anything to and I am the type who since I knew Les had a swat team with guns drawn on me at my door combined with a terrible loneliness that comes from not being able to tell anyone that would understand the story or why it happened. Les heard my stories and he told me to write them down. But, to lose the self-indulgence, cause someone had to eventually read this crap. If I could lose the self-indulgent emotionality, I could be good. I took that note to heart.  The writing comes first, put your suicidal thoughts into the writing and it will heal your soul or at least you'll have something you are proud of.  But don't write about it cause that would be boring. Write about almost anything else. Which is what i did.

At the time, i thought i was the only one who wanted to kill myself. i wanted to so much of the time most of my friends thought i was crying wolf or lying. But, i wasn't. Les knew this because he was like me, he felt that way too. We had a pact that if i was really going to do it I'd call him. If he was going to do it he'd call me.  But, obviously that didn't happen.

My friend Patricia reminded me once that we all talked about the ways we'd off ourselves. I had a broken heart at the time. We laughed and joked, but i was really hanging on by a thread. We told each other the ways we'd die.  Not to be selfish, but to get rid of the intense pain i was feeling that i can barely articulate, but that I feel in my bones. Many people feel this way at times and no one ever says anything. But, I am that annoying. I'll call people and cry to them and make them talk me into staying here. I'd tell Les him how bad it was inside of my mind and he'd say, "Who cares? you're a pretty good writer."

Les had the sensibility of a well tuned junky. The kind that can get anything they want not by asking but by not asking. He and I were similar in that way. We liked our independence. Les wasn't fancy. He was cool. He'd say totally inappropriate things and eat a ton of chocolate and say stuff like, "Who needs teeth, anyway?"

Les told us to write everyday, but i didn't. I was in UCLA trying to get my degree. I was a mess, trying to hold a relationship together. I'd write my ten pages that day, like an hour before class. Les never judged me and he heard a LOT of my bullshit. My sadness. My self-pity. My crap. But, here's the thing, he knew what I know, that while we might want to, no one can actually understand the depth of another person's pain. We can lie down in churches. Make snow angels in the dust. We can hold hands. We can be a silent witness to each other. We can press our bodies together wherein our skin tells the story that our words can't. Humans are hobbled this way. Hobbled by language and its limitations.

We knew stuff just by looking into each other's eyes. When i could find his good eye-- a constant thing he made fun of----"Look at this one!" he'd say, but I couldn't remember which one i was supposed to look at.

As for what happened. Les made it into my dedication for my thesis for grad school and I didn't tell him. Janet Fitch told me I reminded her of him when I met her at Squaw and that we should meet. But I didn't tell him either of those things. At the time, I was too depressed to think of anyone else.

Les made it clear this was his choice and I will honor it as I honored everything about him. It might seem heartless to not say goodbye, but goodbyes are so fucking hard aren't they? Les was close to the soul and in my estimation one of the smartest people I have ever known and one of the most inspiring. He was a hero to many of us in life and will remain so in his death. If he couldn't go on, it's okay. I understand. I miss him and I'm mad but just because I think I could have talked him out of it doesn't mean he wanted to be talked out of it. I'm sad I won't hear him laugh or make fun of things or say how much he loved my writing. But, he is out of pain and for that I am happy.

I love you Les. You gave me some kind of direction to an aimless life. I will never forget you or the last words you spoke to me even if I can't say them out loud.

Take care and don't be a stranger. Amen and goodnight my friend. I'm deeply sad that you left us. Your friend always, Lisa.


  1. Beautiful, Lisa Douglass...
    You have a gift.
    A heartfelt tribute that touched my heart.
    Thank you for sharing this lovely piece of your heart.

  2. Thank you Lisa. I hope to meet you on Thursday. You really are a great writer.