To say I knew Joe Sodd III, would be fairly accurate. It wasn’t an acquaintanceship- it couldn’t’ve have been. It was more than an acquaintanceship, but definitely shy of friends. If we saw each other on the street, there would have been immediate recognition in the form of a two syllable handshake- you know the kind where you clasp palms wrapping the thumb, then clasp the four fingers without the thumb- who knows, it might’ve reached the third syllable of bringing it in with the pat on the back. It was the early 2000’s, the sun seemed bolder then.
The connection between he and I, lives in the vivrancy of my sister, Annie. Now, a mother, wife, and impeccable occupational therapist with far more (or just different) responsibility than I could ever imagine taking on myself, but back then: an exceedingly fearless socialite with the propensity to call the shots, stepping to the most courageous of frat bros who might’ve said something politically distasteful and shutting down whatever liquid bravery they thrived on at the moment. My sister was, and is, an amazing force to be reckoned with.
Annie and her group of surly female confidants traveled evening parties like debutantes social-circle hopping a gala in the Hamptons. They didn’t give you’re their presence, they graced you with it. Standing opposite to them, more than not, were the male division of my sister’s friends. What appeared to be lead by a tall ex-hockey prodigy by the title of Nick, the two groups of young folk combined seemingly like a homemade Voltron. They biked day and night, took friendly to newcomers, and were the antithesis of MN Nice in that their circle always had a spot for you.
Joe occupied an arc of that circle. I had run into him on numerous occasions during evening galavanting. In that time (2002 – 2008), I was known for throwing parties that would soon turn into remakes of Animal House. In these events the cops were always on cue (3am), the obligatory fight betwixt a Minneapolis South Side division of large white gentlemen and a Minneapolis Southwest Side division of large white gentlemen arrived religiously before or after the cops, and always- seemingly always, love would find its way amidst two college campus wayfarers that would never have acknowledged the others existence had they not stumbled paths at said party. Friends, Love, & Fights (Beats, Rhymes, & Life) These occasions served like wedding receptions. As my run-ins with Joe became more frequent, my understanding for his character became more familiar. You come to understand people differently amongst chaos rather than a controlled environment. (i.e.: house parties, special education classrooms, concerts, sociology classes, yelling at a dinner table, school buildings, a coffee table I’m sitting at, etc.)
He would greet me, usually at the beginning of the night whilst the Annie & Nick Gang funneled into my apartment building. Standing short, but solid as a fire hydrant, Joe had the physical makings of an unbeknownst Peter Parker. If news hit the next day that a real-time Spider-Man was seen webbing thru downtown St. Paul, I’d take no surprise in finding out it was he. Beyond the aesthetic, his demeanor and cadence struck me genuine as friend or family would. I’d like to think perhaps he and I were somewhere nearer to friends than acquaintanceship, alas…
I awoke in a closet I rented from a large house in Dinkytown. Always on the road or crashing in another city or campus, I didn’t necessitate much, and a closet was pretty much all I needed at the moment for me and my belongings. While clicking & photoshopping away furiously on a poster for an upcoming show, my mother called for the 2nd or 3rd time. I can screen the first, where the call is usually about taking the dog out or a leftover dirty dish after family dinner. A 2nd or 3rd usually prompted something more urgent… naturally.
Sobbing sordidly from the get, my mother poured out to me “You remember Annie’s friend, Joe??? He was found killed on a street outside the Triple Rock!!!”
She fills me in to a few more details I possibly could have done without, but nonetheless assisted the understanding in what the fuck just happened. My heart ran a furious several beats and then subsided. Our conversation ends, I go back to the photoshop at the same pace I was before being informed of the disaster. I’m able to focus for a few minutes more on the graphic design before me, beaming off an antiquated computer screen. I stop.
Nothing is flat. Everything plays on a spectrum. Joe Sodd III’s death expectedly struck me as the loss of a family friend. I take no pause in the expected if I’ve already experienced such a loss or event. What blindsided my nerves to a boggling hault was something else. The murder struck me as something oddly closer.
I quickly gathered one of the two pairs of shorts I owned, put on my Adidas, hopped onto whatever fixer-upper bike I was riding at the moment and sped to Riverside Plaza. I cruised near the area Joe’s life had been claimed. Locked up the bike and walked the entire neighborhood- every level of the plaza, as if I’d find out what the hell happened the night before. Nothing… it was as it always was… as the West Bank and Riverside Plaza had been my entire life since I arrived to Minneapolis in 1986… it still wreaked of home.
The familiarity in every crack, crevice, hint of racial disparity and socio-economic suppressant conjured damn near two decades of my existence on earth. Today, it sounds absurd, but then I felt an accountability to figure out the “why” in the equation of Joe’s life being taken, due to the trivial fact that he fell where I was raised.
There’s a specific tragedy in knowing the street, the past friends that used to occupy that stretch of road, and the past friend that was murdered on that same surface. I've always known this, however it bares little to no resolution being reminded backdrop of my childhood rests on a hairline trigger and a thin halo. No one is ever truly safe, and we willingly take the risk everyday by simply daring to live.
I digested the event to a summer of reckless abandon, while misunderstanding my own processing of death with heavy exchanges of booze, coffee, writing, and impulse. There’s never a moment you need to tell someone you don’t give a fuck. When the life of someone you know is untimely ripped from the fabric of tangibility and left only as a memory in which time does its damndest to fade with each passing second, I’ve found myself to fashion a glaze of apathy to the world… until it strikes me while sitting in front of a laptop or piece of paper, to write.
I have no place to bare the tattoo of “III” in memory of Joe Sodd III, because I didn’t know him like that. However, I find myself still dealing and walking with his memory to better understand him and the events that transpired. On day’s baring absolutely no hint of him, my mind will sometimes sharply turn to thinking “Shit. I swear I’ll see that kid biking around the corner any day now.” I can say now, that unexpected death is unbelievable to an extent. There isn’t a day or moment you’re truly over it, and there isn’t a day or moment you should be over it.
Loss is something we live with, not something we move pass. It’s in how you live with loss that defines who you are and the legacy you will lead. Honest to Godly, I have no effing clue as to where it will lead me, but I’ve come to grips with the fact that there will always be a part of me that won’t go without writing about that kid.