All day, I’ve been thinking about my sweet friend Amanda (Andi) Blank, and what I’m going to write about her.
Last night, we all said goodbye to her. Sooner than any of us expected.
She died suddenly last Tuesday, and the obituary is HERE. I found out Wednesday, when a friend called me. I was shocked, but didn’t cry yet. I texted another friend Thursday who I assumed knew already. She didn’t. She called me and I listened to her heart break. It was Friday when the tears came– at work. I had to take a break and get myself together. I cried again last night at the service, and again today, trying to honor her.
Andi had a heart bigger than Ani DiFranco’s talent.
Her poster was neon, radiating bright enough that the stars could see it. Her poster stood for love, creative expression and freedom.
I make this comparison because Andi was born in 1990, the same year Ani changed music forever. And Ani was her favorite artist, important enough that two of her songs were played last night: “32 Flavors,” and “When I’m Gone,” a cover of a Phil Ochs song.
I thought it was thoughtful that her mother, Leta, chose to play those two songs rather than something more traditional. Also, she was buried in a black hoodie and a gray t-shirt, with a red guitar pick worn as a necklace. Her nose ring and labret piercings were left in. I was touched by this because it shows how much her mother knew her– and that she wanted her daughter to be comfortable the last time we would all see her. She didn’t put her in something dressy– she let her daughter be who she was.
Her family and older friends refer to her as Amanda. But when I met her, she was Andi.
This isn’t the first post I’ve written about her– it’s actually the third. Regrettably, I deleted the first one awhile back. I’ve sporadically deleted archives, when I felt unsure about if I wanted to keep this blog going. The second time was when she planned a roadtrip with her best friend, Michael, and I was so in awe that she got it together to make it happen!
That post is HERE: “The Free Speech of Andi: Comedy, Dreadlocks, and a Yurt”.
That story about her really sums up who she was: a free-spirit who was creative to an enviable degree.
I was lucky. Right after she met me, I told her about my blog. I’m pretty sure it was that day she immediately followed it. The next time I saw her, she brought me a gift. I brought it last night to her service, and I almost wanted to put it with her in the casket. But it means too much to me– I want to keep it, and I will forever. I wasn’t sure what to do with this blog– I’m still not. But as another creative spirit, she understood that ambivalence. She made something to encourage me to keep writing. That’s the kind of woman she was– she would just make you a gift after meeting you once. And it would be something personal and detailed and beautiful.
I took a picture of it back then, and I’ll show you why. The detail is stunning.
Everything about it is so meticulous, so thoughtful. She took care to craft margins, three paper holes, and individual lines like you’d see on a sheet of loose leaf paper. She included quotation marks, and even included screws and a wire so that I can hang it up.
On the back she signed her nickname, Andi Calamity. No one has ever made me a gift that was so special or perfect, or well-made.
Andi was the sort of girl who didn’t need make-up. And I don’t remember ever seeing her in it– she had beautiful skin, natural blonde hair, and large blueish green eyes framed by thick long lashes. And just as she was modest in her appearance, she was genuine about how she felt, as well. She was always happy to play the clown and ready with a joke if you needed it– and that could snap you out of the worst mood.
But she also felt everything deeply and was in touch with her feelings. That’s such a gift. She expressed herself in myriad ways, but the most important thing to know about her is that she was an indefatigable friend. Loyal, attentive. A woman who gave everything she had, who was the person you could call anytime. In this age of disconnected digital relationships, Andi actually LIKED talking on the phone.
She wanted to have conversations, to really connect with you. This is the third time I’ve now cried about this loss.
The first was last Friday, when I was at work. I didn’t cry when I first found out, on Wednesday– I knew it would hit me at some other time. And it happened at work, because the last time I saw her, I was working. I sell dog food, not the most glamorous or important job. But about a month ago I was feeling a bit sad and bored during my shift, working a pet store. And I looked to my left, and saw Andi and her mother, walking toward me from the main aisle.
Andi walked over to me and just gave me the most amazing hug. It was perfect timing.
She had a talent for hugs. I mentioned this last night, but it’s worth repeating. Not everyone can REALLY hug you– but she was one of those people. She didn’t hold back or give you some lame little pat on the back. She hugged you with everything she had. Every time I saw her, she greeted me with a giant warm hug. The kind where you just stand there for a moment.
I am really going to miss those hugs.
One last thing I can say about her. Although she had her moments of struggle like all of us, she also radiated this confidence. I sadly only have one picture of her, and none of us together. It’s from July 2012, the same time period I was writing about in the above re-posted blog. She was doing stand-up at City of Champions that night. And I’m so glad I have this picture: because her posture shows you everything about her you need to know.
She stood with her shoulders back, her feet planted comfortably astride. Holding a beer bottle in one hand, gesticulating with the other hand to illustrate her story. What you don’t see behind the mic is her gargantuan smile, as she brought the crowd into her comedy set.
That’s how I’ll remember her. Confident. Her hair was in braids, and she had dreadlocks in mind. She had a ton of mini-rainbow rubberbands holding these braids together, and they looked kind of ridiculous! Last night I was talking about this at the service and the girl I was talking to, Jen, started laughing, because she said SHE was the one who had done the braids! She had told Andi she should get them done professionally, but Andi was confident her friend could make it happen by sheer force of will. Andi was not worried about it! It makes me laugh remembering, because she was convinced the dreadlocks would evolve in time. From the road she called me and said the dreads were more work than she anticipated, and after awhile she gave up. But she rocked her baby dreads as well as any white girl can, and she was in on the joke. She had the balls to try it.
I know this is getting long. But bear with me! Almost done.
The last phone conversation I had, she was telling me how excited she was to have joined a roller derby league recently. She was still learning to skate and hadn’t competed yet in a bout. But She told me about a pair of skates a team mate had given her– they were white leather with pink flames.
And of course, white leather AND pink was unacceptable. So what did she do? Paint them black, with blue and RED flames. She made them her own. It’s just another confirmation of her character. She didn’t insist on brand new skates– she was just happy someone wanted to give her a pair. She probably loved these skates that much MORE– because they were a gift.
She gave so much of herself, every day, to everyone. I’m glad that she was given something special by a new friend near the end of her life.
Andi would have been one righteous roller derby hellcat! Her name was A. Calamity, her number, 15. Her mother thought to display her team jacket, skates, and also a t-shirt from when she studied at Second City at the service.
Her team is the Southland Slashers. And they were there at her service, despite only having known her a short time. That says a lot about their loyalty to her, as well as how special Andi was.
Andi was a bright spark in my life, but I have wonderful memories. And because I went to her service last night, I met some of her friends, who I get along with too. Now we are friends because of her, and can trade stories and laugh and cry together.
Until we meet again, dear Andi, I hope you’re skating in the clouds up in Heaven and elbowing the other angels– just for fun.