Michael Kirwan's memorial was held yesterday afternoon at the Tom of Finland headquarters in Echo Park, California, a subdivision of Los Angeles.
The assembled mourners shared stories about the late Mr. K. I sketched these Michael-friends as they took the cordless microphone and told stories about him. I'm posting those as well. Unfortunately, though I've been visiting the Foundation for years, I must confess that I only know most of these people by sight, not by name.
After that, we planted a tree in his honor (a 3-citrus-hybrid tree so that the Foundation could have fruit salad in perpetuity), burying his ashes under the tree, and watered it with Gin and Coca Cola. There was talk about urinating on it as well; appropriate as that might have been, it didn't happen (unless after I left).
Actually, I was the Coke-water-er. I was the last to leave the planting area, noticing a forgotten mostly-full can of Coke. I emptied it onto the new planting, returning several times, refilling the can from a nearby stagnant water feature. This was more ceremonial than efficacious, but it was not my house, not my tree, no matter how much I might or might not miss the man who's ashes lie beneath it.
However, on the way back up the steep hill to the house, I crossed paths with Durk Dehner, head honcho of the Foundation, who was on his way down to give the tree the deep watering it needed. This was the first I'd seen Durk all afternoon; his unexplained absence was puzzling tho uncommented upon. I hung around for a couple minutes to see if I could help, then continued upward.
10 minutes later, Durk joined us at the house patio. Durk took the microphone, and gave a speech about how Michael's death was unnecessary; if he'd gotten the support he needed from us, his community, he'd still (possibly) be alive. As a member of the Al-Anon 12 Step Program (for enablers of Alcoholics), I listened politely. I don't buy the main point of Durk's speech. Sure, it sucks that American Society doesn't support queer erotic artwork. Michael made a choice in pursuing his artistic truth to live a life of borderline poverty, without good health insurance. Eventually he paid the price for that as well as smoking heavily and drinking regularly. My attitude is, why should I care more about Michael Kirwan's health than HE did?
Later, giving myself the excuse that I was supporting the Foundation and the preservation of Michael's legacy, I purchased a piece of his original artwork that had caught my eye earlier in the day.