PROLOGUE: About six months ago I started having this reoccurring image of my cousin Nick, dancing with a smirk on his face. He would always get that look like he knew he was on fire. These days that’s all I see when I think of him. And I see him more than ever. His face, handsome like a youth parade, pops like glitches (play the song as you read on).
This is part one of a two-part piece on my cousin Nick Grumeretz (aka Trip 101), who “beamed” off this planet almost a year ago. The first part will be here, the next over on DJ Frequencies, a blog dedicated to Electronic music, which Nick spent half his life exploring. It’s not by accident these posts are hitting the web the same week as Movement in Detroit. I’ve enlisted the help of Mathew Angelo (Uncle) for part one. You could say Mat has been the person we always turn to, but most importantly the friend who has always been there. Mat’s comments will be in quotes and italics.
PART ONE: It’s true that invincibility is fiction. But we still believe we are invincible, especially when we are young. I know until recently I was under some spell thinking when we “go” we’re able to prepare ourselves and everyone around us, it enabled me to ignore reality, even if it was only just a little. Truth like that reaffirms my belief in nature, and the wondrous gifts we earn when we pay it forward, or when we nestle ourselves in a moment and let that be what defines our character for the day. I have no idea what happens when this existence ends. I believe in believing: simply, resting your heart and thoughts somewhere between passion and logic. A natural system where we become good citizens of Earth, and take care of her. We do this by not only being better at sustainability on some level, but also in how we treat people: how we better ourselves through creativity, love, and our individual abilities to contribute to a community.
Looking back on Nick’s life, he had so many of these qualities. Mainly overlooked because many of us allow society’s definitions of “success” deter our clarity toward a person. He likely didn’t realize he was contributing to something in a big way. That’s not his failure, but ours. Western culture is so damn manipulative, plastic, and relentlessly making us subscribe to an unnatural persona. Death doesn’t have a bank account, and it certainly doesn’t wear pants. I wish he was here to talk about all this. But he’s not, and that’s what makes life realistic. The only thing we can do is let this experience get us closer to accepting our own reality.
“The last time I hung out with Nick was May 29, 2013. He and his fiancée came over for dinner. Nick was excited to be getting married in July of that year, and he planned a nice honeymoon in Tennessee. I noticed the dark cloud that often times hung over him was gone. He looked genuinely happy. He was getting his life together, and you could see the change in his demeanor. He seemed more confident, and yet, his sensitive nature made sure that his self-assuredness would never turn to arrogance. That evening, I put my arm around him and told him how proud I was of him. I said, “You’re starting to figure things out.” He nodded and flashed his trademark grin. We both talked about how we wanted to get in shape, and I remember each of us lifting our shirts and bumping our bellies together. He gave me a big bear hug before he left. The whole night was a great time, and I remember it vividly. I play it back in my mind often. Obviously, I had no idea at the time that it would be the last time I ever saw him alive.”
We spoke less than a week before he died. We talked a great deal about music, his hope to come back to it. He’d been on a hiatus for a bit, he called it a “block.” We discussed getting together, maybe working on something: but overall, just hanging out, being good cousins. He was planning a trip to visit me in Tennessee a month later. I wanted to show him some things I love about this place and catch up in person. Our conversations at that point were very productive, but all on the telephone. Other than a hilarious face chat months before our last call, I haven’t seen Nick in five years. I hear his voice today, his infectious laugh, that darn giggle, and his constant leaning toward his sense of humor. I miss being able to call him, he helped me in a number of ways. And we both would confess how good we each felt after we spoke.
“It’s funny, but I find myself really missing the simple things about Nick. Things like talking about music, movies, and television with him. He was always in the know on the latest and greatest in arts and entertainment. To give you an idea, he introduced me to Napster, Google, and one of my very favorite electronic bands, Air. And he clued me in on all three of those things in the same month (way back in 1999)! I also miss watching him play and bond with his son, Ezra. From video games to super soaker squirt guns, Nick was a kid hiding in a man’s body, and he was a lot of fun to be around. He is deeply missed at family get-togethers, and the unmistakable void is felt by everyone.”
I can’t help but see life as an experiment in contrast: two worlds running parallel, one of which is like a pause from the other, but both give each the character to live in today’s times. Nick to me, spent much of his time in the creative, free spirit zone. If you’re left there too long, you can create your own monster. Its good practice to keep one foot on each side. But complicated to see them both as equal, even more so if your spirit comes natural to free expression and free emotion. Nick rejected a lot of modern expectation, even if he expressed a yearning to find some level of conformity. He was on the verge of really being comfortable in his own skin, almost as if he finally was going to stop fighting himself and let the good things just become regular.
“Nick definitely had a dark side, which I think played into the whole sensitivity aspect of his personality. He struggled a lot with his addictions, like many of us do, and he didn’t always make the right choices. But one outlet that I truly believe was a healthy release for him was his music. He was a gifted musician, and I marveled at all of the vintage electronic equipment (synthesizers, sequencers, samplers, etc.) and old school setups that he had, and the way he would mash old and new technologies together (Apres M.i.D.i. was an appropriate stage name for him). I wish I would have seen him perform live more often, but from the several times I did, I could tell that he was doing something unique, challenging, and most importantly, something that he loved.”
“I think the toughest part about death is the finality of not being able to talk to that person ever again in your lifetime on Earth. There are a lot of things I would have liked to have told Nick in life – – words of encouragement. I don’t think I ever told him what a “glue guy” he was for our family, but he was just that. His presence was a staple at family gatherings, and he made it a point to spend time with everyone. He kept those he cared about close, and the size and scope of his heart was immense. He’d give you the shirt off his back without hesitation, and knowing that someone as big and strong as he was had my back was always a very comforting feeling, even though I didn’t tell him enough. “
“To call Nick Grumeretz my nephew belies the true nature of our relationship – – he was like a younger brother to me. I knew him his entire life. Outwardly, Nick was the strongest person I knew…physically strong. He never lifted weights, and yet, he looked like Charles Atlas and had the strength of an ox to back it up. I used to joke that it wasn’t fair, as I’d spend several hours a week in the gym. But aside from his physical presence, Nick was an extremely sensitive person…sensitive and thoughtful. He took everything to heart, sometimes to a fault. But no matter where he was in life or what state of affairs he was in at any particular time, he had a sense of humor and a childlike wonder that could make you forget your troubles for a bit. He was goofball for sure.”
Life rolls on, you shift, you become aware of new things, you lose or leave people, those comforts, those friendships. We leave behind the period in which we were that thing, the way we looked, that hat, and all those cool accessories. But Nick will be forever young, forever cemented in those pieces of time, and always beautiful. His smile, facial expressions, unknowing charm, laughter, and the impact he had on all of us, it’s forever. Good and bad, its forever. I have never felt the way I did when we lost Nick. He was our first tragedy. So we are not exempt from the reality of life; the very simple truth that it all ends. Here’s to who we have known, and who we will get to know, including ourselves. We love you, Nico. Your 30 years on this planet gave me some of my fondest memories. From music to conversations on philosophy, you always represented your own star; your own self. I’m stoked that I got to be a part of your life and know you, be in the same family with you. It won’t be the same without you, Cuz.
“If I could tell Nick one more thing, it would be that he was a very special, very talented, one of a kind individual and an inspiration to me. And he was undervalued…big time. The fact that he was finally finding peace and happiness, while starting a wonderful family of his own, is both tragic and comforting to me at the same time. Like everyone, he had vices and demons, but he was on the road to finding his absolute nirvana, and to read some of his final thoughts on his Facebook page was all the proof I needed to see that he was getting his life in order. He is absolutely irreplaceable and in his passing, I’ve made some promises and set some goals that I intend to keep. If I can bring more positivity into this life with Nick’s legacy in mind, then his memory will not only live on, but will continue to grow and give me peace and comfort for the rest of my days in this world. The love I feel for him is infinite, and while my sorrow seems never-ending, my memories of his compassion for people, his knowledge on all things hip, his sharp sense of humor, his infectious laugh, and his childlike wonder when something really inspired him; those are the things that I will hold onto for the rest of this life with much affection. I feel so blessed to have known him in his way too brief time here, and I will continue to try my best to emulate that wonderful spirit and share it with others as often as possible. I believe that someday we will be reunited and soar through the astral plane together, and I just know that when that time comes, Nick will introduce me to a whole other level of awesome things. Rest in peace, dear Nicholas Joseph Grumeretz. – Uncle Mat”
That concludes part one. Click here to read part two.
I want to thank Mat Angelo for his help capturing who Nick was, and how he feels. I know it wasn’t easy, but like he always has before, dude comes through. Thanks again, Mat!