America has always had a decade problem. The Roaring Twenties started in 1918. The Thirties started in 1929. The Forties didn’t start until the War effort kicked into high gear in 1942, but the Fifties started just four years later in 1946.
The Fifties, of course, were our longest decade, going from 1946 all the way until 1965, when the Sixties took over in 1966. The Sixties were the Sixties all the way through 1972. Once 1973 came along, it was the Seventies, and was until "Thriller" was released in November of ’82.
Darryl Kile turned fourteen years old in 1982.
The Eighties were en vogue until 1995 (look at the uniforms of the Florida Marlins or the USA soccer team in 1994, they were much more Def Leopard than Nirvana).
Darryl Kile was in his fifth year in the majors in 1995.
The Nineties lasted through the year 2000, back when America’s biggest problems were the president getting his dick sucked, that Ricky Martin guy being popular, and hopefully not running out of free AOL minutes. The Nineties did, however, end exactly in 2001. September to be precise.
It was a very auspicious and finite way to start a decade.
I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday and if the sky is a certain tint of bright blue, I often lose myself for a few seconds, remembering back to where I was that morning in North Carolina. I was 21 when it happened, but still a kid. I went surfing that afternoon; later that night, I got drunk and listened to angry Tupac songs while watching the news with my friends. I was an adult? I was a kid.
The Strokes' first album came out (or at least I got a copy of it) that week. I remember that. That pretty much tell me I wasn’t a grown up.
In 2001, Darryl Kile went 16-11 with a 3.09 ERA over 227 1/3 IP, in the heart of the steroid era.
Soon, a good majority of my friends would be off to Afghanistan. The lucky ones, myself included, to Guantanamo Bay. A lot happened while I was down there. One day I could be on a boat in the Caribbean, drinking Appleton Estate and the next checking my best friend out of the hospital after he tried to kill himself.
This isn’t even getting into working with the "detainees."
From 9/11/01 to 5/01/02, I grew up a little.
Last year, at the 9/11 ten-year anniversary, I never thought "Oh, I remember where I was then… I was an adult when that happened."
Darryl Kile passed away on June 22, 2002.
I was an adult when that happened.
I was staying with my buddy Rob that summer at his condo in Emerald Isle, NC, though I officially had to keep a room in my unit’s barracks (because the Marine Corps is fucking stupid) and I watched Joe Girardi tell the national audience on FOX that there had been a death in the Cardinals family. The Internet quickly filled in the details.
I had to go back to the barracks that night to clean a room I didn’t live in (yes, stupid), and informed my friend Woody, a life long Astros fan, that Kile had died. The look in his eye still stays with me. "How?" That was the only question. Not what. Not why. How?
It didn’t make sense. Only How could answer it.
I was already disengaged from real life that summer. Too much was changing, and I had found solace living on the beach and drinking. I did PT every morning at 6:30 and worked until 4:30, but for those fourteen hours in between, I wanted to be as far away from the Marine Corps as possible.
In August, after getting a few checks for my birthday, I got a plane ticket to Chicago.
A couple friends of mine had a shit hole apartment not far from Lincoln Park. My buddy Matt wanted to show me the sights of Chicago, which was weird as we are both form Peoria, and have seen all said sights.
I wanted a weekend of cheap beer, bad pick up lines, RBI Baseball, and general 22 year old male behavior. I did have one place I wanted to "see". So we set out and walked to the Westin.
One drink where Darryl Kile had his last drink.
One toast. To everyone who didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. To their husband, their wife, their kids, their parents, their friends. Everyone who had been taken so suddenly in the last year. Whether they died in an airplane or in a hotel room, a toast to those who didn’t get to say goodbye.
I had my martini, tried not to cry, and got on with my weekend.
The summer ended shortly after. I went to war the next year, got out of the Marines the next, met my wife the year after that.
Darryl Kile would have been 36.
I’ve been an adult seven years since then. That’s seven years Kile, for reasons nobody saw coming, hasn’t been alive for. (God I hope I wake up tomorrow.)
A lot of people are scared of their lives. Regrets, decisions, repercussions. Sometimes we have too much control over our lives.
It’s worse to think how little control we have over our lives. One night, a drink in the bar. That evening, fade to black.
Darryl Kile would be 43 today.