I’m afraid to go to bed.

Because I know I won’t be able to stay asleep.

Last night at ten my phone rang. Which was weird, because I was streaming music to my ears, at first I thought there was a reception problem, being high in the Santa Monica Mountains. But then I heard the ring, fished my phone out of my pocket, saw it was my sister Jill and I slid to connect.

She asked me how my day was. Kinda strange, that’s not how she usually opens up a conversation. And the older I get, the less I say on the phone. Something happened to me thirty years ago, and now unless I’m in the groove, unless I know you really want to hear what I say, I tell a very short story, and in this case I did. Then Jill told me she’d had a really bad day. She was dropping adjectives and she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders and I expected more about my mother and my nephews and then she said…

Judd Magilnick died.

I was shocked. Literally stopped in my tracks. Unable to speak or move. Jill thought the connection was lost. Ultimately I said yes, I was still there.

We grew up together. His mother and mine had a business, Day Trippers, that ran bus trips to cultural institutions. They never made any real money, but they committed themselves, and loved to laugh, tell jokes over the mic on the bus, they even got some ink in the local paper. As for business sense? They had none. So my father would comment, trying to set them straight, which would make my mother furious, and Maury, Judd’s dad, gave the needed legal advice. My father and Maury grew up together, without a pot to piss in. Maury went to Yale and became an attorney and in the early sixties he said to my father…”Moe, they’re going to do redevelopment in Bridgeport, and if you become a licensed appraiser, I’ll use you on all my cases, because no one knows as much about real estate as you do.” So my dad took a two week summer course at UConn, and then a one week one at the University of Chicago during a cold January thereafter, and he was in business. Normally a real estate appraiser is a schlepper, in a bad plaid sport jacket. My father only wore the finest threads, he was legendary, he made as much money as any lawyer or doctor, and whenever we got on the new Route 8 connector, he’d say it was the Morris Lefsetz Memorial Turnpike, that’s how much money he’d made on condemnation, the state’s attorney general told me they should have just paid my father a million dollars to go away, Connecticut would have come out ahead.

Judd went to a different elementary school. But once we hit junior high, we were all thrown in together at Fairfield Woods. I remember going to his Bar Mitzvah party. We got in a bus which took us to Mill River Country Club, which my parents ultimately joined, where they had a number of hits and dropped the bodies by the parking lot, but that’s a story for another day.

Judd wore braces. Mine came much later, but in junior high they were legion. And he had this orange wax he employed to lessen the pain.

And when we got to high school, Judd decided to run for student council. A friend of his family made stickers for him, in an era where that was exotic, they said “Hey Bud, Vote For Jud.” Yes, they spelled his name wrong. We laughed about it. And now I remember another, “You won’t relish Diane Melish.” That was his opponent. Judd won.

And in geometry, there were too many students, not enough seats, so Judd and I sat at a table in the front of the room. Judd would crack jokes throughout the class, we all did, that’s what made the class interesting, Mrs. Spitalny laughed along with us. And I’ll never forget, we’re studying imaginary numbers, and Judd sings in my ear…”These i’s…” Yes, the Guess Who song was a hit then. And Judd was famous for his puns. Literally, he seemed to have introduced them to the school and he was an endless fount of them.

Another hip teacher was Mrs. Hurley. She took us to see Janis Ian in New York. Actually, Judd started a film company, Halcyon Films, and used the end of “Society’s Child” in his first movie. Ultimately I was his sound man, because I knew how to use a Nagra, for a film he made for the Town of Fairfield, but making a movie back then…that was rare, making one on your phone was science fiction, not even something we dreamt about.

So, Mrs. Hurley was the advisor to the “Crimson Crier,” the school newspaper. And she made Judd the editor when we were juniors, which was unheard of. And in the last issue of the previous spring there was a drawing on page two which said “Crown Prince…Judd Magilnick.” I ended up sports editor.

So, Judd went to college, at his dad’s alma mater, but our families being close I’d see him all the time anyway. And after our freshman year, we went to visit my roommate on Cape Cod, in Wellfleet. We took Judd’s mother’s Country Squire. And we listened to Jethro Tull’s “Stand Up” on my portable Norelco and…I vividly remember listening through Rhode Island. And I remember hearing the Raiders’ “Indian Reservation” when we resorted to the radio, this was long before most cars had FM.

And there were so many other memories. Judd getting Kneissl Blue Star skis. And getting “Electric Ladyland” for his birthday. And Judd was not the best athlete, nor the biggest rock fan, but he was game.

And when I finally moved to L.A. permanently, I lived with Judd in Culver City. He introduced me to Pronto Market, which was a predecessor to Trader Joe’s. But…I bought this car wash fluid to wash my 2002 and somehow the bottle flipped and it got on the rug and Judd was apoplectic. He was worried about the landlady, who ultimately placed a mini-frisbee of new carpet in the space and didn’t mind at all, especially since the rug was one of those cheap, super-thin jobbies in an era where it was all about shag. But this put a rupture in our relationship. I’ll admit, I didn’t take it all as seriously as Judd did, but somehow this problem was fuel for all the issues he was going through at the time and not long thereafter, I got my own apartment, a dark single in West L.A., which had been the plan all along, but my ‘rents didn’t want to lay down that much cash at the time, but then I convinced them this was the cheapest place I could get as I went to law school.

But once we lived separately all the discord fell away. Judd worked for a movie producer and…

Someone stole his Camaro. He bought an MGB as a replacement and he cracked it up and he just couldn’t tell his father. Eventually, my dad was in town, could see Judd was depressed and asked him why and after Judd told him he convinced him to tell Maury and it ended up not being a big deal, and the best part of the story was nearly two years later the cops found his Camaro, painted blue instead of white, in much better shape than it was when it was stolen and Judd ended up driving it for years.

We went our separate ways. We were on different tracks, but we were linked, primarily through our mothers, who were best friends. I knew every lick of Judd’s life, his wife, his kids, even though I only saw him face to face once in a while.

And all this went through my brain last night, during that silence, during that shock, my sister was talking but the memories were flooding back, first Mrs. Spitalny’s class, then the Bar Mitzvah party, then the Blue Stars, I just couldn’t believe it.

And I still can’t believe it.

Judd was 67. Would have been 68 in December. He’s just a little older than me, or was. You can’t die at this age, we’re not prepared for it.

Oh, you can die tragically, in a wreck, as a result of illness, but regular end of life stuff?

Yes, I’m now at the age where people die.

And I kept telling Jill “The end is the end. It’s over.” I thought Judd had one Hail Mary left, to achieve his artistic dreams. But that’s kaput. Over. Done.

He had a massive heart attack. Can you imagine? All of a sudden you feel something, you’re wide awake and…the lights fade out, that’s all she wrote.

And just days before Toby had a heart incident. He’s my age too. Needed two stents. The bomb was ticking, the widowmaker was blocked, but he listened to his body and was saved.

I don’t know Judd’s health routine. All I know is my doctor told me if I continued to see him I’d never ever die of a heart attack. And when some of my numbers were off, he sent me to this heart specialist, who does these in-depth tests and then creates an individual regimen for you. The first time I saw her, she said I was “near heart attack.” I mean I’m just wandering the planet, I feel fine. And to this day I think she was overstating it, and I have gotten into it with her, and her point was…the odds were low, but it could have happened. And this doctor costs a fortune. She doesn’t take Medicare, you lay down $1800 a year. But to me, my health is worth it. I’ll save you from a quote of my shrink bill. But what does it matter how much money you’ve got if you’re dead? And statistics will tell you the wealthier you are, the longer you live, and they attribute this all to health care. So I’m spending a fortune on such. I’ll pay extra to see the best doctor, even though I’m not rich and I haven’t got a ton in retirement savings, but…

Well, my father was similar. And his good friend Harry was not. But my father died at 70 and Harry died at 90. So, you can do your best and still get screwed.

And I can never forget Warren Zevon, who was afraid to go to the doctor, so by time he had so much pain he went for a visit and found out he had cancer, it was too late. And Toby reinforced what I already knew, that men have a hard time showing weakness, even going to the doctor, they think they’re gonna tough it out. Yeah, tell that to your biology.

So, I can only speculate what happened in Judd’s case. Did he tell his doctor his dad died of heart problems at 68? Did he do everything right and the odds were against him? All I know is it’s over, done, kaput.

And I came home and woke up Felice and told her.

And when I turned out the light…I could not fall asleep. And ultimately I’d sleep for an hour or so and wake up, over and over and over again. But the weird thing is today I’m not tired, adrenaline is pumping.

And I was so weirded out I called my mother, because Jill said she’d told her. And my mother, who’s almost 94, told the story of Judd over and over and over again, because that’s what she does, repeats herself and can’t find words and can’t remember what she just said and recently she’s hopped off the phone quickly but today she couldn’t stop talking and what I thought would be five minutes was over half an hour and I didn’t want to throw her off but I had a commitment, to do a podcast, never mind all the e-mail I was planning to answer that I was now too shaken up to respond to.

And Jill said she couldn’t sleep either.

And today was one of those crazy days when everybody is looking for me. You know, you’re answering e-mail, new e-mail is coming in, meanwhile iMessage keeps dinging and you’re responding to multiple threads and it takes a toll but one thing’s for sure, you feel fully alive.

Then Felice and I watched “The Stranger” on Netflix and she went to bed and I contemplated doing the same, but when I walked into the kitchen, I was wide awake. So I finished the day’s newspapers, which I hadn’t had time for earlier. I tried to read some magazines, but my mind was racing and I couldn’t comprehend them and they were so lowbrow anyway. That’s one thing you can definitively say about Judd, he was never lowbrow. And then I read this great book figuring it would tire me out but it never did.

And that’s when I realized I could put my head on my pillow but still never sleep.

Oh, I forgot. Just before I read the papers I checked my phone. Jill told me there was a Zoom funeral tomorrow, Friday, at 9 AM.

Now I’m never up at 9 AM unless I’m skiing or it’s an emergency. But now all I could picture in my mind was Judd in a casket. The image just wouldn’t go away. And I really should call his mother, but what exactly am I gonna say? You don’t want to outlive your kids. And when someone is taken prematurely it’s hard to laugh, even though Judd himself was always ready with a joke.

So here I am. It’s three in the morning. And I know life is for the living, but I just cannot get Judd out of my head. The imagery keeps flowing. And then, and then…the thought creeps in that this is only the beginning. More of my contemporaries are gonna die. Will they have accomplished what they wanted to? I think about this all the time. I sacrificed everything for what I’ve got, people think they know me but they don’t, even when I tell them the facts. I remember having fewer than twenty dollars in my wallet, writing bad checks for the rent and then…shortly thereafter, I had a physical problem. Would I have gone to the doctor sooner if I had cash? Probably. Then again, it was illegal to be sick in my family. But the night before, I had dinner with Judd’s mother and his sister-in-law. Then I walked in my neighborhood all night because the pain was so bad, yes, two, three, four a.m., waiting until I could call my doctor, my friend’s father, who didn’t charge me. Later that day… After shuffling from test to test I found myself laying on the table at Cedars while they cut out a body part. I had pain for years. My wife had left me. I was broke…

At least Judd had a full family life. He became very religious and had five children. And maybe that’s what it’s all about, how would I really know, I don’t have any.

And the truth is ultimately no one is remembered, nobody, not even the Beatles, so if you’re doing it for the legacy…forget about it.

But, at the end…is it all just meaningless? You pass and your people remember you and then they’re gone and you’re a distant memory, scratch that, no one remembers you at all, no one thinks of you.

And Ginny, Felice’s mother, had a friend, a famous friend, married to a household name who passed away and left him alone and he was in his nineties and all his friends were gone and he was just waiting to die. You think you want to live forever, but the truth is you don’t.

So, keep your eyes open. Don’t wait until tomorrow to take action, don’t procrastinate. You may not get another chance.

Like Judd.

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