A great friend from back in the day has just passed and left with him a legacy.
When I was growing up, I was a stupid kid. I was raised on cartoons, played with sticks and rode my bike like it was the only thing that mattered. I wasn’t exposed to a lot of smart kids (except my friend Adam), and so I was always gravitating towards the ones that had it together. I looked to them like they had a special power that I could only dream about. The one person that I looked to the most growing up was a boy called Alex Johnson, and we just lost him this weekend.
Alex was the smartest kid that I knew. He had a microscope, he had space shuttle diagrams on his walls, he had the smart kid Legos, and he was as bright as they came. In 1985 he had a computer, his own computer that he didn’t have to share with the school and he knew how to use it like it was second nature. I looked up to him, not because he was a couple months older than me, but because he knew what to do with that thing he had between his ears – and he did a ton with it.
Our moms were friends from back in the day, so I was lucky enough to have grown up with Alex since the beginning. We spent the summers camping and he kept me up to date on the toys that were cool and had no problem sharing those with me. He had this blonde hair and an air about him that made you feel like someone who knew what in the hell was going on. We had the same interests, but somehow he always knew how to articulate his own and made you want to be a part of it, from Pac-Man to Gi-Joe.
The summer between fifth and sixth grade, I was lucky enough to be able to stay with Alex and his family. Our two families had always gone camping together, but for some reason this summer was more special than the rest. We had this place in town (Hoquiam, WA) called Harbor Electronics and his mom gave us carte blanche over the entire store. I was suddenly allowed access to all of the films that life had kept from me. Suddenly the phrase “Rated R” meant nothing and I was going to be able to watch all of the films that prior to this magical week had only existed as images on a video store wall.
The big three films that we were able to rent that week were Predator, Robocop, and Aliens. I was losing my mind over this unspeakable endeavor, but Alex was unphased and cool as he always was. I couldn’t wait for the chance to watch these movies and life was finally going to give that chance to me, one afternoon at a time, but Alex treated it like it was just another walk in the R-rated park.
As could be expected, Alex didn’t quite seem to share my enthusiasm. I was living in some dream while Alex was just making his friend happy. That week, we watched three of the most influential science fiction films of the late twentieth century and Alex took it all in stride – thus solidifying him as the coolest dude I had ever known. We played, pretended, and imagined all of the possibilites, from using giant downed branches as gatling guns to freaking each other out over the fact that the Predator alien could actually be real.
It was an amazing summer and one that would go on to shape the cinephile that I would eventually become. I never forgot what that summer did for me, and typing this now feels like something from Stand By Me, but it’s the truth and something that makes me weep, just like the aforementioned film.
Which, coincidentally I watched at Alex’s house.
After twenty some years, I didn’t see much of Alex. Our paths veered and we drifted apart, but that summer and those movies propelled me towards more influential films and comics that would create a backbone for me and how I viewed cinema. The young man called Alex Johnson influenced me more than he would ever know and now I don’t have a chance to share that with him.
I tend to get down on myself and say/think some pretty stupid stuff, but I’m still here. Alex should be here, but he didn’t make it to the chopper for some reason and for that I will be forever at a loss. He was a smart and kind gentle giant that wanted nothing more than to laugh and make those that loved him happy. But I figure, it doesn’t matter how much you see someone in your life to have them leave an effect on you, it’s just the fact that you were lucky enough to have them in your life that makes it all count.
Thanks for the life that you shared Alex, I will never EVER forget it.
Although I hadn’t seen him in almost twenty years, I know I’ll miss him forever.