Monday, September 11, 2006

In Commemoration

I try to write at least one blog every day. Given that today is the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I wanted to acknowledge that in some way. I do try to keep this blog light-hearted, generally, so I thought a lot about what to say that wouldn't be too down, yet would be fitting to the day. I had a good friend who died at the World Trade Center, five years ago. So, I have decided that the best way, for me, to commemorate that day is to write about him. Not to focus on how he died, but to share a bit about how he lived and how I experienced him.
His name was John Perry. I met him sometime in the early 1990s. I don't remember the exact date. In 1990, I became a political activist with the Libertarian Party, in New York City. This led me to attend a lot of libertarian and Objectivist oriented events. That is how I found John. I started seeing him, here and there, at various events I attended. John stood out as he was very tall. He looked of a "mixed race" ancestry, with medium brown hair and eyes, and light skin, somewhat similar to mine. I don't know if that's one of the reasons we became friends, although years later, we would occasionally pretend to be brothers.
John always seemed to have a smile on his face and was friendly,and outgoing. So, of course, it was he who first spoke to me. In 1993, while I was the Libertarian candidate for Mayor of New York City, I was welcomed as a guest to a libertarian and objectivist oriented club, hosted in the Manhattan offices of an investment fund manager. After addressing a meeting, as a candidate, I was so impressed with the group that I became a member and regular attendee. Independently, John came to also be a regular attendee. It was there that our friendship seemed to develop. I learned that John worked as a New York City Police Officer.
As an advocate of liberty, I have a tendency to look upon police with suspicion. John was one of those rare exceptions and he became the one policeman whom I was happiest to call a friend. John also was a lover of liberty. I remember, one day, being in Central Park on some special day...a holiday of some sort. I ran into John, who was working in uniform that day. He was sitting on a police scooter and we had a nice chat. While we were talking, John caught the whiff of marijuana smoke in the air. John figured out from whom in the crowd the smoke was coming from. He walked over to the individuals involved, with a big smile, and suggested that it wasn't a good idea to do that in front of a uniformed police officer. That's it, just a friendly word. He shared the same view as I had, that people should be able to ingest whatever substances they choose in their own bodies.
John was the person who first got me involved in acting professionally. He had been doing extra work and suggested that I give it a try. He got me signed on with his agent, in New York, and helped me get my first work, in the filming of "Godzilla," in 1996. He had an apartment in Manhattan, but his family lived out on Long Island, a little further east than where I lived. Sometimes, he would ask me to give him a ride out to his family's house, after one of the club meetings. One time, when I had come by motorcycle, he asked me for a ride. I pointed out that I was on motorcycle and I only had one helmet. John's hair was a bit long at the time, in the style of an afro. He suggested that, in the dark, no one would notice his afro wasn't a helmet. He promised that if we ran into any trouble from the cops, he would be able to get me out of it, as he was a police officer. Sounded good to me! I rode with him on the back of my bike, to his parents house; he minus a helmet. We were not stopped.
On another occasion, I was giving him a ride to his apartment in Manhattan, in a car this time. Suddenly, he pulled out his pistol and said, "hold this." So I am heading up 8th Avenue with his pistol in one hand and a puzzled look on my face. He laughed heartily and said, "you just committed a felony." I returned his gun to him and he put it back in his holster, amused with himself. John shared my view that humans have an inalienable "right" to bear arms. At one point, he got it into his head to move to France and join the Foreign Legion. He tried to convince me to go with him, but I kept coming up with objections. In the end, neither of us did that. Then I met my wife. While she and I were just dating, and I was still living in New York, and her in England, she was over for a visit and I took her to the club. John was there and I introduced him to her. Ironically, I ended up moving to Europe, to be with her. She ended up being a stronger draw than the French Foreign Legion. After I moved to England, John used to keep in touch with me via email. That was how I first found out that John was missing, after September 11th, when a friend of his used his email account to contact people in his email address book.
These are the things I remember about John Perry. If I could ever choose to have a brother, he's the person who was most like the kind of brother I would want to have. I shall always have these fond memories of him, so long as I don't suffer from Alzheimer's, or some other debilitation that causes me to loose my memory. While I don't only think about him on this day, no September 11th shall henceforth pass without me thinking of him.


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