Sam Recommends: “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” by Michael Bolton

A dedication to my friend, Freeman Chen

Last weekend, one of my good friends and co-workers was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was an avid rider, and he spent a lot of weekends on large group trips with riders who had his same bike. The day before, at lunch, he had told me he’d be riding through my hometown on this ride, which would start in Long Beach and end in Riverside, where I grew up. When he mentioned riding through the Ortegas, I commented on their reputation for being dangerous. But I never thought that those winding roads would take my friend, and I still can’t believe that this would be one of our final conversations.

I’m having a hard time coming to grips with this tragic loss. It still doesn’t feel real.

Freeman was one of those rare people that I instantly clicked with. As you might have guessed from his passion for motorcycles, he had an adventurous spirit. But you probably wouldn’t guess it from his typical day-to-day demeanor, which was as chill and as laid back as a person could be. He was also undeniably and effortlessly cool. His impeccable style was evident in everything from his wardrobe, to his car, to his home decor, which I only caught glimpses of via his Instagram stories. Freeman was easy to talk to, commiserate with, and joke with. He made every gathering more fun, and I always enjoyed being around him.

He was an incredibly talented front end software engineer, and he had just been promoted to a senior position the week prior. For the majority of the time I knew him, Freeman was single, but he had just started a relationship with a woman he met in China, the country of his birth, at the beginning of 2020. He was so excited about their future together, and was already excitedly sharing his plans for getting her over to the U.S.

Freeman and I, along with another colleague, made nearly daily trips to the Starbucks up the street from our office. He’d order a double espresso, with a hearty splash of almond milk. Freeman was a fellow music lover, and had even owned a record store where he hosted warehouse parties a few years prior to my meeting him. He loved lo-fi house music and soft rock, and I’m so grateful I can still listen to his carefully curated playlists on Spotify. A couple of his favorite songs were “Lady in Red” and the slowed down version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, but his go-to karaoke tracks were “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” and “My Heart Will Go On.” We sang that last one together almost a year ago at a karaoke party I hosted, and I’ll treasure that video forever.

It is heartbreaking to know that Freeman would have gone on to do so many more amazing things if his life hadn’t been cut short by this tragic accident, but I do take solace in knowing that, while he was here, he lived with passion and intention. He did what he wanted to do, the way he wanted to do it, and he made so many lives — including mine — richer while he was here.

I didn’t get to say goodbye on this plane of existence, but I am grateful that I did get to give Freeman a goodbye hug in an incredibly vivid & beautiful dream I had exactly one week after he left us.

I’ll miss you, Freeman. I hope we get to catch up again one day.

(Song recommendation by Samantha Lamph/Len)

Brianna Recommends: “Freaking Out on The Interstate” by Briston Maroney

Photo Credit NPR

I’ve been something of a ghost recently.

I’m sorry I 

I haven’t been myself

I spent the latter half of the year in post-grad aimless misery of the Dustin-Hoffman-at-the-bottom-of-a-swimming-pool variety. Granted, with less actual swimming pools and more soul-crushing retail hours in my hometown. I found myself, not for the first time, severely failing to live up to my alleged “potential”.

And something’s got me down 

What it is, I cannot tell

So, some part of my brain has resorted to placing as much distance as it can from the trapped disappointment that I feel myself becoming.

I won’t be satisfied with anything I’ve earned

It’s my 23rd birthday. All I can think to do is see some random bands play downtown. When the day comes, I’m feeling strange and far away. My sister hands me a Jack and Coke and a handful of kids with X’s on their hands glance at me with slight envy. Jesus, was everyone at these shows always so young? Well, it wasn’t so long ago when I would go to classes with those X’s on my own hands and feel a bit of silly pride. So yeah, they were.

The front man is saying something, but I miss it. We had great spots before but lost them our journey to the bar. I wrinkle my nose at my drink. It isn’t even strong but the bitterness in nearly unbearable. I glance at the cute guy with the hair and the accent I had seen earlier. He’s practically nose-to-nose with some tiny thing. Her marked hand rests on his shoulder. Great.

Fear is just a part of love

The guitar picks up and the thump of the drums nearly brings me back to myself. My roommate takes my arm with a sudden revelation. “I know this song!” she calls over the crowd. I realize that — inexplicably — I do too. As I belt out the lyrics with my roommate, my sister, and her boyfriend I feel my hovering ghost connect back to me. Maybe I will float away again, honestly I am certain I will. This isn’t easy. But today I am here, with people who care about me and good music.

And one thing I found 

Is love is what you deserve

(Song recommendation by Brianna Suazo)