"A cynic is just a disgruntled idealist." ~ Ian Orteza, 2006

* *

I was born in San Diego, California, in the United States of America in nineteen hundred and sixty-one. My father was in the Navy and we lived in a very small apartment just east of Lindburgh Field. With no money for anything more, my parents rented that place because they couldn’t afford anything better. Jet airliners screamed overhead, merely hundreds of feet above our heads. My parents told me that even before I could walk and talk that they would carry me outside and when those loud flying machines would come tearing up the sky above, in for a landing, I would point up to those monsters and stare in wonder and smile. One natural fear we are born with is the fear of loud noises, and apparently I had missed out in getting that memo. It was therefore no surprise to my parents I would wind up somehow involved in aerospace at one point in my life.

And so it goes, I was involved in the shock and awe business when I met Ian Orteza.

I left aerospace at around the same time that Ian left the United Nations. Ian found it ironic that the U.N. would even have offices in Geneva. "When you enter Switzerland, and you present them with your U.N. passport, they look at you and say, ‘Right, show us your real passport.’ And they act like you’ve insulted them," he once told me. Ian also held a Filipino passport. Geneva honored it.

Another irony: Ian worked in war reparations, while I worked in making the hardware creating the necessity for that reparation job. We acknowledged this several times. We figured that if we kept it going that we would simply keep each other in business. Like true cynics, we decided that since people would kill each other anyway, there might as well be the means to an end, and inversely, the end to a means. The dog could wag the tail or the tail could wag the dog. Our reading glasses would simply slide down the end of our noses and we would enter numbers on a spreadsheet that ultimately makes everything balance out for everyone else.

This is what happens.

* *

The internet was so shiny and brand new, there wasn’t even a glimpse of a social networking site. Meredith’s place was hand-coded, and she had a threadless forum, and that’s where I met Ian, along with Sammy and Heath and Michael and Gina and Terry and Chris, and a host of people I still know to this very moment. Ian brought in Katriona, too. So, for a good few years, I would get to work and wonder what everyone was up to, and daily we would post something in there, and from those comments we learned much about each other. How we all wound up on Meredith’s site, well, I imagine the universe attracts misfits to a certain point on its own accord.

I considered us all explorers.

After a couple of years, then, it came as no great surprise that some would venture forward in order to expand their knowledge and to experience another place. Sammy and Ian both flew in to San Diego so I went up to meet them there and to bring them back into my world. If I had it to do all over again, perhaps we would have unwound down in Popotla. But we were young and they were single and the nightlife of Tijuana was too good to pass up. We grabbed it, because we had to. It was an ice-cold beer right in front of us. Or perhaps, a mountain to be climbed. And so we did.

"The church of the naked Madonna’s," Ian called it, the premiere strip joint in Tijuana at the time. We had fun there, but we didn’t stay long. We weren’t interested in hookers. The reference, obviously, was toward what we would experience the next day - the big giant Jesus; or as I called it then, the Church of the Big Giant Jesus. We went up there and played around with that statue even before it was mounted on the dome where it now rests. I don’t know where Ian’s photos wound up, but the photographic angles up into the lattice were amazing. He was amazing.

Ian Orteza died last week, in his sleep. This World weighs far less today than it did when he was alive. I didn’t cry the day that Ian died, it took me a couple of days, but then I did finally bawl like a hungry child. I got real mad at God. I still am. So, apparently, God is a cynic, too. You’re in good hands then, Ian. Put in a kind word for me, I reckon I’ll need it.

* *

There is a depth to some men that surpasses anyone’s ability to ever reach the bottom, and that was Ian. Somewhere in there, a vast chasm of patient knowledge and lasting wisdom resided, and you could sit with him and wait and prod him and maybe you would get lucky and this soft-spoken man would open up. Rocio got mad at Sammy and me, that if perhaps we would just shut up every once in a while that she could hear Ian. After the first night of drunken foolishness, I took Ian and Sammy up the street and we ate tacos de birria because there isn’t a much better way to quell a hangover. And because, after all, birria tastes wonderful.

"This place is a lot like the Philippines," Ian said, cupping his taco masterfully above the plate.

And of course, we went to Caliente, because there is so much history there, Seabiscuit and others, it was at one time – along with Tanforan – the only track on the West Coast. I have pictures somewhere of Ian and Sammy in the old rusted starting gates, until a security guard tried to take a bribe for me taking those photos. I talked my way out of it, like I’m prone to do. We went to the old cinco y diez bridge and took more photos. Then, the Church of the Big Giant Jesus. And so on.

Ian brought me a gift from Katriona, it was a pocket knife with my name engraved on the side. My gift to her, then, was a machete. It was engraved with images of harvesting agave. Fitting, since I’m sitting here drinking tequila. And so, Ian wrote me, "She sleeps with it," and you know how I felt about that. Maybe there are no other four words that are more erotic than those words are. Ian knew. No man writes those words and doesn’t know what they mean to another man. And no woman sleeps with a sword and doesn’t know what it means to the man the sword came from.

* *

Ian’s talents were not limited to writing. He sketched a comic strip for some time, called "Orgasmic Chill". Basically, feet out of the bottom of the bed. That’s all we are as lovers, really. He knew. It was so completely clever. It was so completely human.

Ian climbed mountains. Maybe in more ways than Mother Nature set forth, Ian decided that there were more important things to do than to wait for some nefarious challenge from God. I never wondered for a minute why he climbed, I knew. Just like he never wondered how I wound up in Mexico. It’s my own mountain. To Ian’s mother: Your son was my brother. Maybe not in blood, but certainly in spirit. To Ian’s daughter: I cannot be your father, but I will be your friend, perhaps one day you’ll have a question that only a father could answer.

Ian was not the person who inspired me to write; he was the first person to encourage me. I wrote a piece on Christopher Columbus and Ian loved it. If you like what I write, then thank Ian, otherwise I imagine I wouldn't have bothered. It was, I reckon, my own mountain. And, you know, Ian just told me to do it. Sammy will undoubtedly love this next thing:

"There's nothing to mourn about death any more than there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don't live up until their death. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can't hear it. Most people's deaths are a sham. There's nothing left to die."

~ Charles Bukowski, The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship, 1998

And Ian, Bukowski would be proud of you. You did live your life and you never swallowed anything without tasting it first. I can’t imagine that you ever believed anything without examining it first, that is the way of us cynics, isn’t it? For you, whatever is there once we’re gone, if wings are given out in heaven, I can’t imagine you flying until you’ve had a good chance to evaluate those feathers. And then, once you’re convinced, I can’t imagine that you’ll ever land again. Some people were born to fly. You are certainly one of those people, my brother. I will miss you so very much, and it’s entirely possible I’ll never love another man as much as I loved you. I will happily take what part of you you’ve given to me to my grave, and everything I write from here and there, well, you have always been a part of it. Enjoy your vacation, Ian, I hope to see you again some day.

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Comments

MsGrant July 12, 2010 @ 12:52 p.m.

"If you like what I write, then thank Ian" - thanks, Ian.

Sorry for your loss, refried.

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David Dodd July 13, 2010 @ 1:52 a.m.

I'm sorry that the World has lost a great man. He has family in San Diego, I hope they get to read this. Someone is going to send this to his mother, they promised me. And I hope that his daughter reads it as well. I will never know a greater man than Ian Orteza, it isn't possible. There is a cartoon, at least a few panels, on my Facebook wall. Ian was brilliant. He could have done anything he wanted. I was very lucky to have been able to call him my friend.

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Jay Allen Sanford July 13, 2010 @ 6:15 a.m.

Wonderful tribute to a fallen comrade - my condolences for your loss --

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David Dodd July 13, 2010 @ 6:44 a.m.

You would very much appreciate this, Jay. Among his many talents, Ian was a wonderful cartoonist. He once guested me in his strip:

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4114/4789600395_abc7dab9f4_b.jpg

Maya is a real person as well, a wonderful young lady, last I heard she was working in the Middle East. I hope she is well. I would love to talk with both her and Katriona. Kat was in Ireland last I heard. We are, I reckon, not so prone to staying in one country. Nomads. I will miss Ian, Jay, very much, but I am a rich man for having known him.

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nan shartel July 13, 2010 @ 1:45 p.m.

i could eat this blog with a spoon it's so delicious..u would know the deepness of the soul of a climber

i climbed before i became a poet and that same power took me straight up to plumb the depth of straight down...hanging and carefully roping another climber as the moved toward me was sacred

u r a quite amazing man Refried ...a cynic made up of every conceivable succulent ingredient...the softness and pace of ur work is so like climbing...the finding of perfect balance

ur friend Ian was blessed to know u homey...as r all of us to read u here

what i love the most about ur writing presentation is that reading between ur lines is just as good as reading the words on the page

u've done ur friend proud with this blog Refried..Darshan...Nan

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Duhbya July 13, 2010 @ 3:38 p.m.

refriedg: I think I might have met Ian once. And if I didn't, thanks to you, I have now. What an elegant sendoff, nay, a perpetuation of his being you have constructed here - a TRUE tribute, one that simultaneously evokes inconsolable sorrow for the loss and unbridled joy for the gift of having been blessed with his countenance. Thank you for sharing your most profound grief in such an uplifting fashion. It has reached many of us, I'm sure. The comic is priceless. Be well, my friend.

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antigeekess July 13, 2010 @ 11:43 p.m.

Beautiful blog entry. You done Ian proud.

Condolences on your loss.

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Grasca July 14, 2010 @ 6:14 a.m.

What I can't figure out about this entry is who it is about - the deceased or the author who was supposedly not ever posting on the site again. It is certainly puzzling in both regards.

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David Dodd July 14, 2010 @ 7:48 a.m.

@ #5 - Thanks, nan. I was blessed to know Ian, I think that his life shaped mine in so many ways. He got me to see the internet as this completely useful way to affect people positively. He never mentioned it, he just did it. I wish that more of his writing remained behind, I'd share that with you as well. He had a remarkable mind.

@ #6 - If you did indeed meet Ian then I am happy for you, Duhbya. I received the written version of his services in an email yesterday, and although I have no idea who the priest was, he really nailed Ian's mind well, so I presume that they knew each other. The service was in Geneva, I reckon that's where Ian wanted it. As a child, he read the complete Bible three times. And he drove his parents nuts with all of the questions and cynical observations. Had I possessed his curiosity at that age, I can't imagine how many of my Sundays would've been freed up ;) Thank you very much, my friend.

@ #7 - Another item I received was a picture of Ian's beautiful children, along with a grandchild. Tomorrow, from what I am told, a copy of this piece will be given to Ian's mother. I think it's meaningful to her to know how many lives her son touched, and maybe a bit about the people who loved him. My email address will be given to his kids, I hope they use it whenever they need to.

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Grasca July 14, 2010 @ 9:23 a.m.

"Talk about the site and not each other."

10

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nan shartel July 14, 2010 @ 11:27 a.m.

this is a beautiful memorial...by a person of relevance who not only cared about his friend but was changed in a myriad of ways by that person...

sullying this blog with extraneous content is unconchible

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Duhbya July 14, 2010 @ 2:24 p.m.

Re #13: Nan, I agree heartily and personally apologize to you, refried, and Ian's countenance. I simply could not restrain from responding to #8.

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bagwis_9 July 14, 2010 @ 3:10 p.m.



re, col. handa, its a familiar tale.  father loved to tell and re-tell handa's character with the brood, there's not a single year he'd miss, i got bored! he shared it too with ian!  i believe it happened in geneva, while mama and papa did a visit and ian was around just new at his job and the city.  so, he had time with lolo.  i've noticed lolo and apo animated, ian just listened.  papa was difficult, onset of early alzheimer, i asked ian, how's lolo? he's easy to deal with, if you're also in the past, i just ask him ww II stories and lolo has volumes of it. in 1965, one of my uncles paid a visit to col. handa in tokyo. ganoon si ian, nakikita ang hindi nakikita!  maraming salamat!  ama ni ian
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David Dodd July 14, 2010 @ 3:24 p.m.

I am so happy to relate this to you, bagwis. No man ever touched my life like he did. Ian had such an amazing capacity to understand, and while it crushed me to learn of his passing, it makes me so proud to know of all that he touched besides myself. It is no surprise, this patience he had with Lolo. He had that patience with us, too.

I have many of his cartoons now, I want to see them printed. I want Ian, in some way, to be immortal. I know he would have hated that, right? But, I think he would understand in some way.

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bagwis_9 July 16, 2010 @ 2:43 p.m.

to refriedgringo: friends of my son, ian, like you, make him very much alive with life, though nowhere! whats left are the memories we have of him which let us be in eternity, the patience, joy, wit, depth of mind,not easy to provoked yet with logic provokes! I want to share this: ian did the first rubik (cube) in 2 minutes at his first attempt in the fifth grade. in first year college, he finished the 2nd rubik in 10 hours. remember the six Olympic rings to be connected? I asked Ian, why did you finish the 2nd rubik in 10 hours and the first in just 2 minutes? he replied: "whats right in front of the eyes is hard to see, whats hidden is easy!" Papa, "the answer to the 2nd rubik was just there all the time for me to see!" 2nd rubik is called 'flip-flop'.

I learned much from ian! hope you enjoyed it! again, thank you!

bagwis_9

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