Hello ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming today.
I wasn’t a close friend of Charles. He didn’t have many close friends, I think. But fortunately this church wasn’t too far from where I live so I agreed to come and speak about him. To tell you about the Charles I kind of knew. To say a few words before we commit Charles to the earth. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust and all that. I must say, I’m surprised the church let him in considering his habit of taking money from the donation basket rather than putting money in it. [Pause for laughter] I’m serious.
Charles was a unique man for many reasons. He held more jobs than anyone I’d ever known. Partly because of his spirit of adventure. His unending desire to learn. And partly because he had a problem with authority and would eventually tell his superiors to go to Hell. It seemed like every time I ran into Charles he would be telling me of a new job he had. He would be full of excitement about it. He’d tell me how he would be climbing the ladder to the top of his new company in no time. He was like a child, full of energy, ready to prove himself. Then I’d run into him a week later and he’d tell me how his former boss was a son of a bitch and that now he was in sales for an exciting new magazine. He’d then try and sell me ad space even though I didn’t have a business to advertise. To Charles, life was a constant adventure.
Charlie lived life to the fullest. Nothing got in his way. When he set his sights on something, he went for it full throttle with blinders on. It didn’t matter if his goal seemed overwhelming. Or that he was married. Or that his targets were often married themselves, or completely unattainable. When he told me he was going to marry supermodel Heidi Klum, I told him two things. One, he was married with kids. And two, she was a supermodel. She probably had guards, or at the very least a pistol of some sort. Maybe a Taser. And he probably wasn’t her type, seeing as he was very hirsute and had a pot belly. And she was dating a billionaire as far as I remembered. Some Italian guy.
But he would not be swayed. He knew she lived in New York, so he up and moved his family there. Pulled the kids out of school. Made his wife quit her job. He doggedly pursued Heidi. Relentless, really. He found out her favorite haunts and would spend his evenings waiting for her there. He found out where she lived and would walk his dog up and down the street in front of her place. He even managed to get a Restraining Order put on him. That was an achievement, he would tell me. That meant she cared. He was on her radar. When he told me about that, his eyes lit up like I’d never seen. And it wasn’t the crystal meth, because I know what he looked like when on that stuff. This was the look of genuine happiness. This was the look of someone convinced they had possibly arrived.
Charles had a great sense of humor. He always had a joke handy. In fact, he had a repertoire of jokes memorized. Jokes about black people, Jews, retarded children ‘ he could bring forth any of them and tell it like it had never been told before. Even though they had been told before, in the same order, it always seemed like they were being told for the first time. That’s how good he was. After several beers, the guys at the Masonic Lodge loved to hand Charles a microphone and let him roll. Charles loved to entertain, to see people having a good laugh. For Charles, minorities were not minor in any sense. They were major material.
Charles was a good husband and father. In the sense that he never harmed his wife. Never abused the children. Indeed, even if he wanted to he wouldn’t have been able to. Barbara is a big woman. She could handle her own. Charlie would have been a fool to take her on. And his kids were seldom home. Like their dad, they had their own dreams. Their own separate lives. Kammy, 16, had started a family of her own. And Charlie Junior, or CJ as folks call him, liked to socialize outside the Kripsy Kreme on Oak Street.
To be honest, Charlie hadn’t seen much of his family since they moved to New York. To the Bronx. He probably loved them in his own way. And they probably loved him. I can’t say. They’re not here right now. Barbara said she had plans. Kammy doesn’t have a phone. CJ won’t be released until his 18th birthday.
Barbara is still in shock about what’s happened to Charlie. She assumed he was working. Selling. Or whatever his job was that week. She never expected to get a fateful phone call that her love was gone. She never thought she would be saddled with his $80,000 in credit card debt. And she incorrectly assumed he had filed tax returns for the last 15 years.
Charles marched to the beat of his own drummer. Sometimes that drumming might have rubbed folks the wrong way. Maybe it rubbed Heidi Klum the wrong way that night. Maybe that’s why she called the police.
When I look at the police report, and I see them referring to a Caucasian male, 34, in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, I know that’s our Charlie. And when it talks about how he refused all requests to drop the weapon, drop the weapon, drop the weapon’ I say that’s the Charlie I knew. Who we all knew. Doing his own thing. Living his own life. Pursuing his own dream.
Though I kind of understand why they shot him, and I can forgive them for doing so, I have to say 23 bullets was more than enough. It was excessive. The Charlie I knew didn’t need to be stopped by 23 bullets. One would have sufficed. Or maybe 2 or 3 if he continued to charge them in his PCP-induced rage. But 23? Not our Charlie. Not the Charlie that lies here before us.
I’m going to miss you, buddy. Charlie. It was too soon. Too soon.
See you in Heaven.