This one is about my friend being dead now.

"You might be a king or a little street sweeper, but sooner or later you dance with the reaper"

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Yesterday or maybe the day before, my friend Mark died. He had cancer, and that’s what ultimately killed him, even though he had beaten some other cancers a few times in the past. But it’s funny, remember how when Montgomery Burns went to the Mayo Clinic and they told him that he had every single disease there was and they were all struggling to gain purchase in his tiny frail body and therefore none of them were killing him? that’s kind of what I thought was up with Mark forever. I’ll vaguely expound on this at some point, but first, it’s important to note that Mark was the singer of a legendary punk band that happened to be called Montgomery Burns.

Mark was our roommate in a building that was called the Lawrence Arms. Chris and I lived there in the big rooms and Mark lived in the “small” room which was still bigger than the bedroom I sleep in now. It was a huge beautifully shitty apartment that was probably 2800 square feet and it was 700 bucks a month. Chris and I paid 250 and Mark paid 200. Even then, he was always late with it and would literally make me hound him for it. This would be the calling card of a complete asshole if it wasn’t for the fact that he was so charming and sweet and such a good friend that it didn’t affect my opinion of him in any way whatsoever.

He was not tall (my estimates put him at 5’6”) and he was balding very young and he had bad teeth. he referred to them as Punk Rock Teeth after a 7 Seconds song called that (Kevin Seconds had pretty punk rock teeth himself) but none of this really slowed him down at all. He was a hit with the ladies, to the point that Chris and I were consistently like “what is he doing that we aren’t doing?” and he was just generally very charming to be around. He was humble and hilarious and exceedingly talented.

He was a great skateboarder and ahead of his time. He was doing pressure flips in the Shackle Me Not days for the three of you that that could possibly mean anything to. We bonded over skating. We’d go skate at the bank by the Lawrence Arms building most nights when it was warm enough. He was good. I was not.

He was also, and this was kinda the main thing in his soul, an amazing artist. He was into comics. He was an amazing inker and he was somehow ALSO great at lettering, which is a whole other skill set. It’s like if you’re a pilot and you also work on the engines. It’s not unheard of, but they’re two very different, difficult things to be good at.

I was also into comics (my first job was at a comic book store), and Mark and I also bonded over knowing more than most other dildos about this niche pastime. Between skateboarding and comics, we were immediate buds.

I don’t remember where we met and I don’t remember the bonding that led up to us being roommates in the best apartment in the universe. I just remember that cohabitation experience. The landlord said “we are gonna hire a team to clean the place, but if you guys just do it we’ll give you the first 2 months rent free” which, of course. Duh motherfucker.

Needless to say we didn’t clean the place at all. It was fucking filthy, and thus it remained filthy. And then they tore down the porches (there was a porch collapse catastrophe that made the city very aware of ‘not up to code’ porches, and those fucking porches…I could make all 3 stories of them wobble just by shaking my hips standing on our little parapet) and we’d have had to have taken the garbage down the main internal stairs and about a quarter of a mile around to the alley, but the joke was on them! We had a spare bedroom, so we just threw all our garbage in there.

The garbage room was really really full by the time Marcus decided he was kicked out of college and showed up at the door. We spoke, and Chris and Mark and I and agreed if he cleaned up the garbage room, Marcus could live with us rent free. The rent was already nothing, and we were all a little tired of a room piled 10 ft high with garbage right off the kitchen.

But remember, Mark didn’t like paying rent. I had gotten him a job at the record store I worked at, and I know from experience that it sucked and the pay was bad (the boss was a very high strung hippy named, no shit, Gary), but 200 bucks a month was not really a huge divot, even out of that paltry paycheck.

Even so, man, Mark didn’t like paying rent and he treated me like the landlord about it. So when Marcus started living with us, it only took about 1 month of “wow. it’s so nice that the garbage room is gone” before it turned into “why doesn’t Marcus pay rent?” Which, I mean, on one hand, fair enough. On the other, we had this motherfucker clean up 6 months of our garbage and carry it all a very long distance (the porches never got replaced. You could walk out the door and just fall to your death immediately) and that was kind of the understanding.

Nonetheless, we persevered. Mark was in a band called the Feds (they’re the reason we know Matt Allison) and then he was in a band called Munition (who were kind enough to lend us their practice space when we were getting ready to record our record Apathy and Exhaustion). Both bands played a little and practiced and schemed a lot.

Marks’s drawing was kind of his main thing though, as I mentioned earlier. He drew the cover for the Bollweevils album History of the Bollweevils part II and this is it:

This is a terrible rendering of a cool mishmash of punk rock and comics and Iwo Jima coming together at the hands of a dude who knew enough to make stuff a little cooler than it had any business being.

Last time I saw Mark, he jumped into our van to travel with us for a few days and he was stoked. He’d just beaten cancer (first of 3) and he had a brand new mouth of perfect teeth. He’d shaved his head. he looked great. He was focusing on his art and living back in Pennsylvania where he was originally from. That was YEARS ago.

You know how when a restaurant you like closes down, you go “ah. That fucking sucks” but the truth is you only went there like twice in the past five years? You kinda don’t get to bitch about it closing down when you could have and did not patronize it enough to help it succeed. This is similar to how I feel about Mark.

Of course this is a fairly slapdick and specious corollary. I wouldn’t have cured Mark’s cancer by hanging out with him more, but it’s hard for me to not feel like some kind of grief vulture considering that I hadn’t seen him in years. What right do I have to mourn someone I wasn't even invested enough in to go see ever? It’s not totally fair to me or to him but it’s how I feel, nevertheless.

This is probably the closest person to me that’s ever died that’s not a blood relative. It’s not fun. It’s actually quite shitty. And I’m not gonna skateboard (I’d break my wrists) and I’m not gonna read comics (they’re all sealed in mylar) but I’m gonna miss the shit out of Mark Zdonowski.

You were a good dude. I hope wherever you are, the ladies still love you like they did here. xoxoxoxo