One Saturday morning in the spring of 1998, I woke up and thought about Stacy Guess. I hadn’t kept up with him in the five years since I’d graduated college, and decided to look him up online. This was pre-Google and pre-Wikipedia, so it took some effort. Also, computers were powered by coal back then.
Stacy and his girlfriend Holly came to Hampshire together from North Carolina. She was a dance student around my age; he was five years older than me and the coolest guy I’d ever met. I’m talking Chet Baker cool, not Fonzie cool. He was a trumpet player, a philosophy major, and a good conversationalist. He was incredibly thin, with Peter Weller cheekbones, and could wear a fedora without douchebagginess. He was hip. I was the guy who looked like Napoleon Dynamite.
Stacy and I lived in the same dorm, the “silent floor” of Dakin house, a 10-room hall nicknamed “The Morgue.” Despite our age and coolness gaps, we got along well, trading music and shooting the breeze along with another Morgue-mate, Mark F. Stacy returned my copy of Thomas Dolby’s Astronauts and Heretics CD all scratched up and unplayable, but I was too much of a pussy to mention that to him.
I graduated, and five years later I woke up and wondered what had become of him.
Within a few minutes, I discovered that Stacy was in Squirrel Nut Zippers, the NC Dixie, jazz, swing, klez-fusion band that had scored a hit the previous year with “Hell.” That’s the one about how in the afterlife, you could be headed for the serious strife. The album, Hot, went platinum. David Gates wrote a neat little piece about it. I thought, “Awesome! You made good, pal!”
A few clicks later, I read, “Stacy had left the band by the time they recorded Hot.” I thought, “Dumbfuck! You got out right before the getting got good!”
I kept searching and then discovered that Stacy had died of a heroin overdose just a few weeks earlier. I thought, “. . .”
I got in touch with Holly the following Monday. She told me that they’d split up long before the end, but that she was still devastated at the news. She told me she and Stacy had stayed in touch with Mark, which I’d failed to do because I was a dick in my last years at Hampshire.
She got me Mark’s info, and said he’d like to hear from me. He told me some anecdotes of Stacy’s manipulative, self-destructive behavior in his last years. I felt sad for Holly, Mark, and Stacy’s family. Of course, I thought about that Squirrel Nut Zippers song, but not in a “drug addicts go to hell!” kinda way; it was more in a “man, that guy’s life must’ve been hell” kinda way.
A few years later, in a used record store on St. Marks, I found Legacy, a compilation CD of Stacy’s music from different bands and solo recordings. Proceeds went to a music scholarship at his high school in Chapel Hill.
On Facebook, Holly posted a note that Stacy died 12 years ago today. She’s doing well: living in NC, a couple of cute kids, likes to sing. At least, that’s what I glean from her FB page. So that’s why I wrote about it. Sorry to be so deathy this year.