We talked for hours last night about what we don’t want to be. How crucial is that aspect to a great friendship? The simple act of talking. Ozzy and I had done that most nights since we weren’t tall enough to ride the rides at the St. Luke’s fair. We spent so many nights talking about girls and graff, school and work, books and music. We spoke about life and what we wanted from it without fully realizing its fragility. We talked about bands. There was an emphasis and a sense of pride for any artists that came from Queens and there were many. There were millions of spaced out conversations on the topics of deities, poltergeists and aliens. Park bench philosophers. Latchkey savants.
Ozzy loved being a steamfitter. He showed off his welds. He was blue collar but strived for something more without having a lottery mentality. He stressed the importance of unionized trades and decent wages and packages. The cost of living rose in the rotten apple making it more complicated than it already was to establish oneself, especially those with no help from others. It was hard to get ahead. The hard truth is I would probably never have anything for myself. As much as I enjoyed painting bridges, and climbing steel, It wouldn’t define me as a person. I took pride in my work, in giving my employer an honest day’s labor, but it wouldn’t allow me an opportunity to unlock any inner happiness, a personal joy that I was looking for and couldn’t locate. I couldn’t speak for Ozzy but he always seemed happy and I was happy for him.
If you asked my best friend, Ozzy Craven, what he wanted to be when he grew up? Do you know what his answer would be? I did. I knew that answer. He wanted to be the bass player in Pantera. He’d look at you in all seriousness and tell you his career choice. Maybe there were some professional hockey or football, or some major league baseball aspirations inside his mind, as most of our friends had. Pantera was his dream job. He loved their music and the lifestyle those guys lived as chronicled in the home movies. He loved Rex Brown. Ozzy meant no ill will to Rex, no harm and no offense, he just would never say no, there would be no hesitation at the chance to play bass in that mammoth quartet. Although it was ridiculous, ambitious to say the least, it was only now that he was gone did it seem like an impossibility.
Ozzy could have done anything if given the opportunity, he could have mastered any skill and destroyed any obstacle that stood before him. If only everything hadn’t been stolen from him. We never got to form our own band, it was an idea we often discussed but never came to fruition. Our imaginary band was called Criminology and would fuse hardcore with various subgenres of heavy metal. We adopted the name from the Raekwon song off of his seminal debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. We were always naming shit after Wu related things. We bounced ideas all the time and found names for all different types of bands: Older Gods, Hell’s Wind Staff, Knowledge God, 27 Inch Zenith, Motherless Child, Fourth Chamber and Glaciers of Ice. Glaciers of Ice was the B-side on the Criminology 12-inch single. I gave mine to Ozzy, recently with the thought of leaving, I would drop off more and more of my favorite records for the Cravens to safeguard. I thought it was cool that Mr. Craven had the 7-inch of Black Ivory’s I Keep Asking You Questions, which was sampled on Criminology. We could have had the best band no one ever wanted to hear. We would have been one of those bands that were slept on, one that was good but got no real love. That could have been us. And that would have been perfectly fine.
Wu-Tang Clan were special, and meant a lot even to metalheads like ourselves, more than those dudes would’ve probably thought. Although we loved them as a collective, Ozzy’s favorite was the Raekwon The Chef whereas I worshipped Ghostface. We obsessed over them and their music like they did over kung fu flicks. My knowledge of the forgotten borough was minimal aside from the Wu and that the name is derived from the Dutch and maybe a few graff writers. I think I drove through once or twice. Staten Island was a place like any other, it had qualities I just wasn’t privy to them. It was not within the proximity in which our own clan ventured. When people say the Wu put Staten Island on the map, it’s not entirely a lie. The city might as well have officially changed the borough’s name to Shaolin.
Dark lord, how we miss him. There will always be so many memories and things that will be reminiscent of Ozzy. Though I do not converse with any lords or deities, witches or warlocks, or subscribe to any particular belief systems as I have previously stated. We found things in life to worship. Heavy metal. Wu-tang. Graff. The Park. Whiskey. Each other. All of these things we revered in our lives Ozzy was connected to, he had a hand in all of it. Ozzy was by far one of the greatest people to ever grace my life. Ozzy was loyal, seemingly fearless, and he had what most men wanted and lacked, heart. Most don’t have it, some did and some had to earn it, cultivate it over time.
One of the closest people to me in the whole world. I would always think of my best friend fondly, holding onto all the memories, and refusing to forget. I thought of the argument Ozzy and Philip had, and there were many but I thought of one in particular. The night we mangled the Malibu, Ozzy posed a question. What would it take to murder a person? Philip replied that it would take something serious, like if he or his loved one’s lives were endangered, for him to want to murder a person. Well, Ozzy was more than harmed.
In New York City first degree murder is section 125.27 of the penal law. Does that mean anything to you? If you intend to commit homicide, which is an A-1 felony, and you are apprehended, you will run the risk of being sentenced to death, life imprisonment without parole or the best possible outcome, you serve 20-25 years and then you’re released back into society. This is your fate if you intentionally set out to murder a person. The sentences alone are a strong deterrent for most law abiding citizens. Or the murderer believes they won’t be caught. How many bonds do you have? How many people do you love in your life that you would risk your freedom for? Who is worth throwing your life away? It’s a truly tough question to pose. Ozzy was worth it. That was the problem.
Everyone knows what’s done is done. Life was now altered and it would never be the way it was before Ozzy departed. Whether or not Carlton lived or died wouldn’t necessarily fix what was broken but that didn’t mean anything was forgiven or forgotten. It seemed appropriate that Carlton should receive a bid longer than the actual amount of time Ozzy spent on earth, but death also seemed fitting. Nothing would make up for the loss we felt and would always feel, nothing. No amount of rehabilitation or reform would ease our pain. Although watching Carlton ride the lightning or catch a hot dose through some old double paned glass would be rewarding, there would be small helping of gratification watching him get put down like a mongrel.
The last person executed in the state of New York was in 1963 at Sing Sing by the electric chair, until Governor Pataki declared a new statute allowing lethal injection in 1995. The time in between New York having the death penalty was longer than Ozzy’s lifespan. The more things that came to mind which exceeded the days Ozzy had on this planet the more I wanted Carlton to die. It wouldn’t make me happy, but justice would be served. Sometimes the two are not exclusive but it’s necessary.
No matter how many beers I drank in my backyard, no matter how many curses I casted at the moon, or how many times I brought the hammer down, nothing relieved the grief. The tears flowed. The pain ached. The cracks and fissures in our hearts would never be patched, we were irreparable, in a state of ceaseless internal crisis.
Vulgar Display Of Power, the second real heavy record from Pantera, rocked through my headphones. I sat on the tire in the darkness of the night, exhausted and drunk. The last song on the album, Hollow, which was precisely how I felt, would finish and I would rewind it and listen again. Cassettes were funny, sometimes they would jam and you’d have to use a pen or pencil to reel back the tape. My Walkman was actually an old one of Ozzy’s, a present, a hand me down to replace the one that vanished when we got rolled years earlier. It had a fresh PBOY tag he caught in a blue Deco marker along the side. Sony decided to finally discontinue the Walkman stereo cassette player after thirty years of production beginning in 1979. The Walkman was even afforded a longer lifespan than Ozzy. Portable CD players helped drive a stake through the heart of the Walkman. It didn’t matter that cassettes sounded better than the compact discs. It didn’t matter that Ozzy had people who loved him. Nothing mattered. Both were gone.
Ozzy was now a thought, a memory to reflect on, and I would do so for the remainder of my days. I would think of him in sadness and anger but out of love and praise. I missed my brother dearly. Phil Anselmo sang into my ears, It’s so important to make best friends in life and I had one of the best friends you could ask for. I was grateful to meet Ozzy when I did, grateful that our paths crossed, and fortunate that he allowed me to join him in a great portion of his journey.