Since the death of Crad Kilodney on April 14th 2014, I have been following the news articles, speculative blog posts about his life, newfound interest in his cult-status as a Canadian writer and his reputation for being a ‘misanthrope’. At the same time, I have been going through eleven years of letters, cards, writings, audio and VHS tapes from him to me.
I met Crad Kilodney for the first time in 1992, when I was 19 years old. My brother was living in Toronto at the time and Scott had become friends with Crad. My brother was excited to introduce me to this man he described as “walking A-R-T.” I visited my brother in Toronto and we hung out with Crad multiple times. After I left, Crad and I began a monthly correspondence of long, hand-written letters and phone calls that would continue for the next eleven years. During this time, we were one another’s best friends and closest confidants. If I needed someone to pour my heart out to, I wrote or phoned Crad. He did the same. We each felt we had no true friends in our lives, except for one another.
Crad’s letters could be sweet, vulgar, offensive, sometimes boring (he became obsessed with giving me stock market tips), funny and beautiful to read. As an author, I loved his writing and had him send me copies of “Girl on the Subway” and “Putrid Scum”.
In 1999 Crad wrote to me shortly after he stopped selling his books on the street:
“(there’s an) emotional state I often felt on the street, particularly when walking home at the end of a day when it was already dark. There were many occasions when I felt a sort of ecstatic loneliness. I felt simultaneously alone and connected to the universe, perhaps like an earth-bound spirit who was destined to be in a different dimension from those around him. When I look at the street now, I see places where I used to be and I think, ‘No one remembers. It’s as if I’m already dead to this world.’ The past seems like a bizarre dream. The camera’s eye is like my own eyes, seeing the city I used to live in. But I’m no longer there. I guess that’s why my eyes were filled with tears as I stood on the fire escape in the twilight contemplating the city in which I had made such a sacrifice to be a writer and which, after all, relegated me to a condition of abandonment.”
I knew Crad to prize kindness, consideration, love and true friendship above all else. Crad being mistaken for a misanthrope can only be due to how sensitive he was. If you didn’t recognize his kindness and love, if you didn’t reciprocate it, well: FUCK YOU (with a mushroom cloud behind it).
Our contact ended abruptly in 2003, by me. When younger, I was more willing to humor his shifting moods and honor his expectations to never write too short a letter or let too much time pass without penning one. Now older, I couldn’t keep up with Crad’s ongoing demand for attention. My priorities were elsewhere, and Crad let me know, rather cruelly, how unhappy he was about it. I stopped trying to meet the demand.
Years later, I wondered how he was faring. Bitter? Angry? Alone? Dead or alive? Hating me?
In early 2013, Crad emailed me out of the blue asking me to forgive him for “being so bad to you”, but asked that I not write back. I immediately replied that I forgave him, but it wasn’t until he was very ill and close to dying that he told me he had cancer. In our last exchanges, we emailed each other our favorite jokes. His:
First guy: I'm so sick and tired of people not understanding what I'm talking about!
Second guy: What do you mean?
Crad and I spoke three times on the phone the week before he died, our friendship and affection for one another wholly intact. I am so grateful to Lorette Luzajic for her unbelievable kindness and ongoing care for Crad and his legacy, through the Crad Kilodney Literary Foundation http://www.cradkilodney.com/
Crad’s papers are in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto and I intend to donate his letters to the archive. Only once did Crad ask if he could publish one of his letters to me “Letter to Jenny” http://cradkilodneyarchives.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/letter-to-jenny-by-crad-kilodney/
A wake for Crad Kilodney will be held on Wednesday, May 14th at 8pm at The Painted Lady in Toronto, Ontario.
Jenny Hart is an artist living in Los Angeles.