Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Telling a story for the last time

Provo, Utah is home to Johnny B's comedy club, which is somewhat of an anomaly for comedy clubs in that the performers eschew foul language and dirty jokes, and the club doesn't serve alcohol. But given that the clientele is mostly BYU students, the business model seems to work.

Years ago when I was a student at BYU, some high school friends and I went to Johnny B's one evening. We were all freshly returned from serving as LDS missionaries, many having served in far away and exotic places such as Russia and Colombia. My friend Brad was along as well. Brad went to Pittsburgh.

The headliner for the evening was none other than the club's namesake, Johnny Biscuit. Watching Johnny perform is a hoot because he has mormon humor dialed. Well at least it's a hoot if you're mormon or have been and can relate.

One of the things he talked about in his routine was LDS missions and how there's somewhat of a status associated with where one goes--the more exotic the better.

"But," Johnny said, "when all these former missionaries get talking, you really gotta feel for the guy who went to Pittsburgh." Brad smiled. The rest of us were rolling on the floor laughing.

About this same time I decided it would be fun to climb Mt. Timpanogos, a nearly 12,000 foot massif that dominates northern Utah County. As is often the case, there were many who expressed interest, but one by one work, dates, and other obligations narrowed the field until it was just Brad and me.

Our plan was to start Friday evening, hike up as far as we could before dark, make camp, and then attempt the summit Saturday morning. I should also mention that although it was September, it snowed about two feet on Thursday, and the mountain was covered in white.

Before embarking, we barbecued brats at my apartment. This was the first time Brad had eaten a bratwurst, and let's just say that although he enjoyed them going down, they gave him a little trouble afterward. No involuntary expulsions of debris, just a lot of noise and smell.

There was no bare ground to camp on, just snow. And the only flat place we could find was just below a waterfall and quite wet. Nevertheless, we crawled into the two-man tent together and settled down for the night. Or at least tried. More than once, I had to unzip the door of the tent and gasp for fresh air.

Once that either subsided or I got used to it, we still had the cold to deal with. Brad hadn't brought a sleeping pad, so since I had the warmer sleeping bag, I gave him mine. The sleeping bag alone was inadequate insulation from the cold below, while Brad's bag was inadequate insulation from the cold above. We both shivered and suffered through the night and were out of the tent and ready to hike as soon as there was enough daylight to see the trail.

As we hiked, we talked about how cold the night had been. I mentioned that I didn't sleep much because I was so cold and was on the cusp much of the night of asking Brad if he were cold to the point of getting in my sleeping bag with me.

"Well why didn't you say something?!" Brad asked. "I was thinking the same thing, but thought you'd think I was gay if I asked."

Perhaps this way is better, as I can retell the story without embarrassment, whereas the other way we'd have likely kept it to ourselves for the duration. Sure was cold though.

In the succeeding years Brad and I kept in touch, at times intermittently, and I was pleased to see him enjoy professional success that far exceeded that of most of the rest of the crowd I grew up with. He had his challenges like anyone else but seemed to overcome them with his trademark smile and enthusiasm.

I found out this afternoon that Brad passed away. I'll miss you, my friend. I'll likely not be able to tell your stories ever again. But I will never forget.


  1. it would have been gay. freeze to death first.

    it's not the gayness that's so awkward. it's, in fact, the awkwardness that's so awkward.

  2. I feel it when something like this happens to someone I know, especially if they're near my age. Doesn't make sense. My condolences.

  3. I am sorry to hear about your friend. And I will refrain from making any Broke Back Timpanogos jokes.

  4. I loved hearing your story about Brad.
    He was truly one of a kind. Growing up with Brad was a great experience. He always meant a lot to me and my family.
    He was a very thoughful person, knowing that my mom was feeling the loss of all her "surrogate" sons to missions and not having a son of her own. While he was on his mission, he called my mom for every mother's day. He told her "Mother Evans, you were one of the best mother's of all time, you took care of a dozen teenage sons"

    Brad, you will be missed.

  5. Very sweet, Mark. Brad would be proud of this post. In fact, I am sure that he is.

    You can cherish these moments til you see him again.

  6. Thanks for sharing this story Mark. Although I'm still in a state of shock after hearing about Brad, it has been fun to think back to all the great times we had with him.

  7. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful friend Mark. My heart aches for you and all of those close to Brad. He will be missed indeed.