one year gone

A year ago today my friend Ian Kennedy died.


I’m still not over it. Ian and I had been friends since I moved to Portland. We both worked at a law firm but neither of us was a lawyer. It wasn’t hard to like the guy immediately. He was funny, engaging, and endlessly creative. What really cemented our friendship, however, was a shared love of the absurd.


One time he brought in a magazine with an article about the bubonic plague in the Southwest. A photo accompanied the article: a bucolic shot of the cactus-covered mountains with a single word floating in midair above them: Plague. It was an italicized, serif font, the opposite of what you’d expect when talking about a deadly disease. It looked like a fluffy cloud.


This captured our imagination for a few days. I mocked up a bunch of desert photos with different diseases floating peacefully above them. Ian thought this was great. We laughed and laughed.


Ian had the best plan for winning the lottery. First, he knew (presumably from working at a law firm) how to hide the fact that he had won from the public. Then, he would rent out office space in downtown Portland. He would hire his friends, give us actual salaries. He’d acquire all the equipment you’d need: computers, photocopiers, paper cutters, office supplies, desks and chairs. You know, like a real office. The difference would be that the “work” we did was hang out and do our own projects. Dream job! And he would name the business Work, so every morning we would all get up and go to Work.


Of all the projects Ian and I worked on, the best was Gil Clemens, UFO witness. Gil was an idea I had about a guy who constantly saw UFOs. Unlike many of the ufologists you see on TV, however, Gil was not belligerent about telling his experiences. He had more of a “well, since you asked…” approach.

Ian took my kernel of an idea and created a fully fleshed out character. Gil Clemens shows us a small sample of the locations of his UFO sightings, with minimal commentary. He is simply a witness, he doesn’t overload the audience with theories.

I received an email shortly after we filmed Gil Clemens. It was from Gil himself. He thanked me for taking the time to film him, and offered to meet up again sometime should I have more questions regarding his area of expertise. Ian and I never discussed this email. I think we both knew it was funnier that way.


It’s been a year and I still miss my friend. It isn’t fair. Ian was supposed to be around to text me weird things he’d found on the internet, to tell me bits of Portland historical trivia, to make more Gil Clemens videos, to see my daughter grow up. I will remember as much about our time together as I possibly can, because now it is a finite resource. I feel lucky that we were able to make what we made, and say what we said. I wish there was more of it.

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