Orion's picture

    The Memory of Gene S. Park

    Back in 2016, when Donald Trump was on the verge of being elected, I lived with Gene S. Park in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

    Park was already an old man by that time. He had diabetes bad and experienced a lot of pain. When the Pulse nightclub shooting occurred on June 12, 2016 occurred, he was visibly upset, as was I. He became mean and vindictive at my fear and panicking, insulting me using ableist language. 

    I left his house prematurely, without completing the month I had paid in rent. You think he would never want to hear from me again but he contacted me to help him with his computer 2 months later.

    In the midst of it, however, he sat me down at one point.

    "Michael, have a seat." I did so, thinking that it would be another round of insults.

    "What is it?" I said.

    "Do you think America is in some kind of social war?" he responded.

    The question was deft and accurate. Gene was gay and he succinctly articulated what was going on. He was struggling to put words together.

    "We are all soldiers in this war. You are, Elliot is, I am." He was referring to someone I knew in Portland named Elliot. 

    I thought of him after the Chauvin verdict. He would undoubtedly be pleased by the result. 

    Park died in his sleep in 2019 and the love for him can be seen on his profile page on Facebook: 

    Sadly Gene passed away Monday October 7,2019. He went peacefully in his sleep. His ashes will be scattered into the Spokane River at the same spot his beloved Ron was scattered five years ago. He had been working on a book of artwork and poetry which will be published Posthumously with any proceeds from sales being donated to Folktime.org. In lieu of flowers or cards the family also asks that any monies be directed to Folktime.org. In the final four years of his life Folktime peer services were his main connection to the outside world.



    We were both, ironically, struggling to get along with older roommates dealing with their own health issues. It's great to remember that you  re-connected with Gene, whom I felt was, in essence, a cool guy. I feel some regret for not keeping in touch with him as I intended, but as painful as regret it, its crucial in reminding us what we really value. Thanks for this friend, you come to my thoughts perhaps more than you realize.


    Wow, Elliot, I really didn't expect this one. I hope you are well. Let's heal our world.

    I dealt with a whole lot of people like Gene over a pretty good amount of time. I lived with my uncle, older disabled people in a subsidized apartment building, an aging landlord in a mansion in Renton, and an eccentric aging mathematician in Berkeley and I realize now that it was turning me in to a miserable insane person. I was angry as hell as I was doing everything everyone told me to do and was just being shitted all over nonetheless.

    What is weird about both Gene and that older black woman at your house was that both had really candid conversations with me - Gene told me his whole life story and that woman took me to her church. My wild guess is that feeling like they were losing control made them also resent showing weakness. That or they wanted to share the pain and fear they were going through along with their story. I don't really know.

    Part of how we ended up in that situation was the lack of community institutions in this society. Baby Boomers had the capital to put seniors in care centers. After two economic crunches in a row, Boomers themselves are just left to stay wherever they can go, inevitably clashing with younger people in the same position. Gene's memorial page had a portion that said the Oregon organization Folktime was "his only link to the outside world." I didn't have the perspective to realize that was what was happening at the time.

    I think this shared experience is a big reason why so many millenials support radical politics - we have seen that we need community that has an articulated place for each person. The alternative doesn't work.

    Take care, my friend.

    Latest Comments