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Friend Files is a new feature I’ve added to Away With Words, this being just the fourteenth installment. I will be interviewing a friend of mine and showcasing whythey are a friend to me and what I like about them, and also a mini-interview (five questions) that detail what they think of me. It’s a way to acknowledge my friends out there and what they’re up to and also introduce them to my larger group of friends, acquaintances, and anyone else who might be interested in reading.
Today, I will be talking about Heinz Neethling. Before I get into what I think of him, here is my mini-interview with Heinz (exchanged over Facebook) where he jotted down just a few thoughts:
HEINZ NEETHLING’S FRIEND FILES INTERVIEW
ME: Give me some details about your life.
HEINZ NEETHLING: I wake up each morning in the t-shirt I wore the day before. It’s the convenience, you see, the ease with which I can fall asleep in it. No late night debates on what I should I wear to bed, no need to exert myself in its removal. Falling asleep is very important to me.
I find those moments before sleep to be the most fruitful, imaginatively speaking. Writers tend to write, dreamers tend to dream, but I’ve found myself (whilst in the process of transforming from on into the other) that I can satisfy both in the spaces between.
ME: How exactly did we meet?
HEINZ NEETHLING: Fuck if I know. I’m pretty sure it involved Erica (our mutual friend) and alcohol. One night I do remember, was the evening of the Superbowl, many moons ago. You and your then wife came to where we were staying in a lake house. We were killing time to get to the half-time commercials by playing some kind of game involving chocolates. I remember snapping one of the pieces.
Alcohol was undoubtedly involved.
Aside from that, you’ve always been one of the most interesting people on Facebook. I like to imagine us holding hands on a beach whilst enjoying a beer…in a very manly way.
ME: What is one good memory you have involving me?
HEINZ NEETHLING: Tough questions these.
I have somehow lost my ability to have coherent thoughts and linear memories. I find myself reacting to everything, and not actively participating. It is as if my mind has gone to a very strange place, and we don’t know the directions back or where we suddenly find ourselves. I’m constantly surprised by how smart I sound, or how dumb my answers to good questions can be.
One good memory? I can point in the general direction of your videos, short films, posts or photos to look for one, but that would be doing the rest of them an injustice. I have many, let’s leave it there.
ME: Why exactly are we still friends?
HEINZ NEETHLING: In a small town, now long forgotten, a young sailor went to the harbor to buy some fish. His father had taken a liking to fresh trout, and so that’s what he went to look for. One very early morning, as the sun struggled to subdue some very stubborn mist, he walked past pier 5 where an old man stood shaking. He slowed, but not quite to a standstill, this was an oddity (the pier was generally deserted), but not odd enough to justify being late to the market. As he passed he saw the old man drop something into the sea, bow his head, mumble, then turn and leave. His hurried forward, too scared or embarrassed to look back.
Four weeks later he experienced the exact same scene. It was a Monday and it was the 3rd of the month. He walked past even slower this time, but near jogged when the old man turned around after the completion of his apparent ritual.
The young man was slightly irritated with himself. He should have stopped to talk and ask the old man what he was about. He wasn’t a coward, he’d brave the seas when he was 13, almost drowned at 14, kissed a girl at 15 and started a bar fight at 16. He didn’t know why he was so nervous.
Another 4 weeks pass, and there the old man was again. The sailor stopped this time, staring at the scene. He shuffled his feet and dragged himself closer. The old man once again dropped something in the sea, mumbled and turned to walk down the pier. The old man stopped dead when he saw his audience.
“Yes?” he asked.
Fumbling for words he stuttered:” Might I ask what you’re about this morning?”
“I’m right about here,” the old man replied, pointing a frail finger downwards. “Why do you ask?”
“It’s just, well…I was curious is all. I’ve seen you here before. I just wanted to know what you were doing.” The young man looked down, slightly ashamed of asking.
“It’s the sea, son. Death has been stalking these shores, slithering in the harbor, waiting for an invitation. I had to keep it at bay, lest the world dies, and blood rains from the heavens. He is coming, and He is very very hungry. I’ve fed him my wife and son, but I fear I have nothing left to give Him…aside from myself, and I’m a poor morsel. Carrion, nothing more. “
With that, the old man , walked, defeated, down the pier.
“He will be here soon, and there is nothing we can do.”
He saw the old man again, four years later, and only by chance. He had opened a local paper, and saw in the obituaries a crude portrait of his face. It proclaimed him a lost soul, an unknown soldier, and a man dead a hundred years. The ghost who stalks the sea, mumblings his warnings, never to be heard. He should have asked his name.
He should have asked much more.
I think you have very interesting answers to questions I haven’t even thought of.
And you’re a nice guy.
ME: Anything you want me to plug?
HEINZ NEETHLING: I don’t know how family-friendly this blog is, so I shall refrain from answering.
In case you couldn’t tell by his well-written answers, Heinz is a mysterious individual who seems to have a lot of gears spinning behind his eyes when you talk to him. I first met Heinz, not at a lake house party (that came later) but at my friend Cyra’s birthday party during the summer (I think). Cyra and Erica are both good college friends of mine and we hung out a lot more back then, but I’m not exactly sure how they met Heinz originally.
Well, at this party – I ended up talking with Heinz off and on. I found him very interesting. He had the look of a metal singer but without all the theatrical makeup. He had an accent (I later found out he was from South Africa) and he was very in the moment, at all times – and was very intense and quick to laugh. We shared a beer or two, and then later at the lake house party I was able to get to know him even better. I discovered he loved the game Left 4 Dead (I was playing it obsessively at the time) though we never did get around to playing together on Steam. I think the last time I saw him was possibly for another birthday party at my ex brother/sister-in-law’s house or at a get-together in the Old Port in Portland, Maine when we went to 3 Amigos.
Since those days, Heinz has returned home and I haven’t seen him in person, only keeping in touch through Facebook. He doesn’t post a lot, but when he does it’s worth checking out. He always seems to be traveling and trying new things. He has very intriguing insights into different topics, and he’s got a great sense of humor (which, of course, seems to be a requirement for my friendship). It’s also very fun to engage him in different subjects because he’s a super smart guy and it’s great to hear his take on anything from beer to video games to movies to music. Anything.
Though we haven’t run into each other in person in a long while, I have a feeling that we’ll chat again over a beer sometime in the future and that our personal interactions aren’t over. He’s a good bloke to have around, this one – and yes, we’ve made plenty of ketchup jokes.
And with that, I leave you with some relevant photos of my friendship with Heinz:
Graduated from Saint Joseph's College Of Maine with a Bachelor's in Fine Arts - Creative Writing as well as Stonecoast, a low-residency MFA program through University of Southern Maine. Has several screenplays, a novel, graphic novel and a memoir all in development.