Goodbye to the Boy Who Showed Her the World

A tribute to Rik, who introduced her to alternative music, food, magazines, and politics.

by Diane Karagienakos • More.com Member { View Profile }

Bound for an S. A. Prum riesling pairing luncheon with my dear friend Liza The Wine Chick  at RN74, I left the house Monday looking appropriately fabulous. I received a text from one of my brothers,which read "Rik died," just as I saw my bus fast approaching. I sprinted to the corner, dreading looking at that message on my phone screen again. But once one the bus, I did read it again. When I put my hand to my throat, I realized that my silk Vera Wang scarf must have fallen off during my run. I thought about getting off the bus and going back; we were just a stop away. No, it was cold out. And besides, why give a shit about a scarf I hardly ever wear when Rik died? But I couldn't let the scarf go. I phoned a neighbor to go out and retrace my steps. No luck. That scarf was gone. Why am I still thinking about that scarf? I could handle thinking about my scarf being gone forever. I couldn't handle thinking about Rik being gone forever. Focus on the scarf. For now.

I met Rik at age 7. He was 4.5 years older. He played hockey with my two older brothers, and I had a crush on him. He was cute, sort-of exotic looking. I thought he looked Indian (“Native American” had not yet entered the lexicon). He paid me no special attention. None of my brothers’ cute hockey-playing friends did (and I had crushes on most of them). I was just the bratty little sister always tagging along.

As we got a little older, he was the only one of my brothers friends who didn't join the chorus when others would tease me about a little pubescent weight gain, calling me "Thighane" (rhymes with "Diane") and other names that do nothing for the self-esteem of a teenage girl at war with her body. In fact, Rik was pretty outraged by their behavior.

Rik took me on my first motorcycle ride, an all-day one from the Hoover Dam to Mount Charleston. We watched a movie in his room, and he tried to kiss me — by now Rik had developed a little crush on me. Probably because I was one of the few girls who accepted him as he was. But by then, he was too much of a big brother to me to consider any shift in our relationship. But he had qualities that to this day I look for in a man.

For a while in his early 20s he sported a green mohawk. See, Rik was punk in Las Vegas when there was no such thing as punk in Las Vegas. And the last place on earth Rik belonged was Vegas. As he entered adulthood he became more worldly and informed than his peers. He was curious. Some of his childhood hockey friends didn't hang out with him much after that. I don't know if it was the mohawk, or if Rik and his outspokenness was too much for them to take.

He changed my mindset, my world outlook. Living in a time and place where the only information, entertainment, or art readily available was mainstream, top 40, he-who-has-the-biggest-microphone-is-right DJs, it was Rik who told me where to look to hear other voices, to find alternatives — alternative music, alternative news sources, alternative television, alternative food. He was my portal to other world and all that was out there.

Rik had some issues. He drank too much. I'm not sure what if any relationship he had with drugs, but he drank way too much. He also had extreme mood swings. I don't know that he was ever diagnosed, but he was pretty much a bipolar disorder textbook case. We became roommates for a while. During that time, I had my own self-destructive ways. I was still battling an on/off again eating disorder. Rik knew, and it infuriated him. He wasn't mad at me so much as he hated seeing me hurt myself. One day his frustration and temper got the best of him, and he threw a frying pan at my head. I knew that frying pan hurtling toward my head came from a good place, but I also knew it was time to move out.

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