My uncle A got a call from me in the first week of September 2012. We had known each other, as so many of us do, as another Barlow; intelligent, well-humored and renowned rug cutter in a sea of intelligent, well-humored renowned rug cutting Barlows. My knowledge of him extended to passing conversations at the yearly Barlow wedding while trying to (increasingly unsuccessfully) have at least one moment with each member of the hoard. There were stories of course, of the uncles and aunts in childhood or adolescence wherein he again may as well be lost in the generation spanning enumerations of D&T style Barlowing. Of course Chris’s seasonal excel spreadsheet kept us all abreast of what, generally, people are doing and where, generally, they are doing it. There was however, one story that stuck, a tale told by my father of a fellow Notre Damer, a disabled dude bound to a wheel chair who roomed with our dear Uncle Andrew. But whatever hardships that young man must have endured, surely he was buoyed, befriended by our uncle, I mean literally he carried him up stairs. For 4 years our Uncle A kicked Ass and took names and numbers of ladies for this pal, ever the soul of kindness, never a complaint or whisper of regret, the truest friend a man could ever hope to have. My dad was impressed, which if you know my father, is quite the compliment.
I had found myself, like you do, on a vacation I couldn’t afford, in my sister’s swanky LA apartment awaiting a big audition in Atlanta and a one way flight to Austin, Texas with absolutely no clue what I would do when I got there, where I would stay or even how long I planned on being there. It was only when collapsing in a panic on the living room sofa after discovering that all of my “Keep it weird” friends were unable to put me up for an indeterminate length of stay let alone an evening that my mother, what a dear she is, recommended calling my Uncle Andrew. I retrieved Andrew’s Cell phone number from Chris’s Encyclopedia of North American Barlows and was relieved to find a pleasant answering machine had answered my nervous query. “Hello, Uncle Andrew, this is your Nephew Michael Soldati. I’m coming to Austin in a few days, could I crash on your couch?”
From which such lovely conversations sprang like “Like what are you doing in Austin?” “I have no idea.”
And timeless classic lines like “Cool, dude, no problemo.” And “Really? Sweet. Thanks!” were born.
Thus began the chillest team since T and A. Trina and Andrew.
A is for Asskicker and the T is for Trouble, but it might be like the other way around because Trina is the Asskicker and Andrew is definitely Trouble, hence my greatest partner in crime. The A-Meme, or MA, whatever Michael and Andrew, Andrew and Michael, cruising down Guadalupe Avenue, Andrew off to some cool job filming new technologies and helping third world countries, Michael going to the library to look for jobs on public computers and read comic books. Sure Michael got all the glory of hanging around starving artists and fundraising for Planned Parenthood on the streets of Texas but Andrew had the guts to be the chillest Republican in a capital gone weird. Oh and be a responsible adult, loving husband, cool dad of three, dog lover and Bourbon enthusiast. He taught me that 2 out of 5 wasn’t bad, loving dogs and Whiskey was a great start, and someday, I too could be as straight shootin’ as him. Which is why he took me to a gun range where a decorated Afganistan battle tested Sniper told me I could totally pass the FBI shooting test. Too bad for them I’ve got a rep to uphold, namely my rap sheet.
Anyhow we were under enemy fire, it was cool, nbd. PS: bullets sound like bees. Watch out.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was another one of those “Wtf am I doing with my life” millennials milling about the country with no particular place to go, as a refugee from the fires that took my family’s house, while an economy indebted and disenfranchised my generation, when my dreams only seemed to break more hearts and wallets, I took a shot in the dark…
Uncle A replied-
“Hey, Brother, you’re welcome here. You’re always welcome here.”
There aren’t many living saints, but I met one. There’s a debate in this family over the existence of a higher power, but Uncle A taught me, more by action than by rhetoric, more by kindness than by the book, evidence proof positive that godliness is within each of us, to do unto other not merely as we would have them do unto us but as we would have gods do unto us, with kindness, love, and compassion, without pride nor prejudice nor thought of self, to challenge, teach, and remind us of our truest selves, our most passionate joys and awing strengths, to celebrate and inspire us on and on through darkest of night into the day of our own particular divine shining light.
I was reminded a few months ago of this glimmer, when in town for South by South West performing in full bearded drag queen regalia for a Circus show, keeping it very weird, I visited T and A at their lovely home for brunch/lunch. My nails shimmering and face still glittered, my eyeliner not quite gone, and lips a little rubier than usual, (but otherwise in classic just threw whatever on Soldati style skater shorts, rando thrift T and flip flops) I was greeted with as much warmth as Andrew greets anyone, enough to warm the house. And the patron saint of chill and I joked like old times and talked of the bright future awaiting me in the world of drag. He gave me his blessing, which truly is that, needless to say I was speechless and alive with blushing wit.
So in closing, I’m really sorry Chris, Morgan, Vincent, John, Joe, Paul and Greg (and sorry Ryan for winning the Annual Uncle Andrew Writing Competition) but this year’s Uncle of the Year Award goes to Uncle Andrew for “Patron Saint of Chill AF”. Michael would be proud and so am I.
Here’s to 50 more.