When was the last time I remembered a birthday? – Kanye West, “Real Friends.”
It’s almost midnight in Toronto. There’s a blizzard brewing in the streets, which means: there’s Canada gooses flying everywhere. You all thought they all went South? Nah. I’m just fuckin’ with you. I’m inside my house. The heat is up. And I ain’t talkin’ about the furnace. I’m talking about one of Jay-Z’s many classics: The Black Album, and it’s bumping right now: “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” to be specific. I’m just getting in the zone, because in about a half an hour, it’ll be March 2nd; and on this date, many years ago, there was a birth of a King, whom I like to call ‘D.’ His parents, Brenda, and I’m blanking on his Father’s name right now, great guy though, they named him: Devan Gifford aka D. Giffy aka D-Money aka The Prince of Calgary aka The King Killah (I’ll explain this one later.) But for a dude who likes to talk and annunciate words for a living, I just call him ‘D.’ And he’s my best friend. And in 2004, when Jigga lied to all of us about retiring, D and I were both in the 11th grade at Father Lacombe High School, and we bumped “99 Problems” out of his red Pontiac, or what ever the fuck it was, everyday.
I’m almost 30 years old, and God forgive me, I still say I have a best friend. Nobody says that any more. It’s like believing in Santa Clause to believe in “best friends.” To be honest, I have 2. One is, and forgive the stereotype, an Asian genius/Lui Kang ripped type dude who excels in everything he does. I’ve known him since the fourth grade and he’s like my brother. His name is Anthony. And the other is Devan. They’re both my best friends, each with a different story of their own and impact on my life. I think the last sentence was a straight up comma splice. But fuck it. Maybe this is all a comma splice! Anyway, March 2nd is important to me, as it is to many people back home, because Devan Gifford changed my life. And he continues to do so. I met D in the 10th grade, when I already had my crew. So when I was introduced to him, I was rude and not looking to make any more friends; I was saying no new friends way before Aubrey! Drake wishes he had Devan Gifford as a friend. I’m grateful to this man. When I first met him, my boy Hanif told me he was German, so I started marching around like a nazi and yelling, “heil hitler (I refuse to capitalize his name!)” I was straight up obnoxious and racist. We hated each other. But I remember one day, my “crew” was all busy, and Anthony was always studying, so I had no plans. And for some reason, I had Devan’s number. So I called this man up, praying to God he had forgotten the nazi incident, and I asked him: what’s good for the weekend, bro?
He said: Mario! Welp. We’re going to watch a movie today. Chase is coming. Chris is coming. Carlo’s coming. Hanif. Mike! Kathy. Lily. Sarah. And you’re coming, bro. You owe me ten dollars.
I was stunned. This was a new crew. I was Bishop Kidd Junior High. And now I was hanging out with St. Martha’s kids, and St. Rose kids. My popularity reached new levels. The game changed forever. Still got no pussy in High School, though. But that day, Devan changed my life. We all went to The Cineplex at Sunridge Mall and watched The Ring. It was like the whole school was there, and I got so scared, with bitches coming out T.V’s and shit, that I left half way through the movie. I was so embarrassed. But I swear to God, I hung out with Devan almost every weekend until I moved to Toronto. And although I called him a nazi, Devan Gifford was my White friend! If you’re a minority kid, especially in Alberta, you need a White friend to teach you the ropes, the in-and-outs of the White world, and like Dave Chappelle once said, to talk to the cops! Devan taught me how to put ranch on pizza. A Latino man would never dream of putting ranch on pizza! It looks too much like mayonnaise/semen. But thanks to Devan, if my pizza doesn’t look like it’s been bukake’d on, it ain’t good. Plain and simple. Devan taught me you can eat Kraft Dinner all day, everyday! Devan taught me you can put ketchup on eggs. Gross. Try it though! Everyday after school, we’d go to Devan’s house because he had carpets. I shared a room with my brother my whole life. Devan had his own room and a twin bed, with a headboard on it! He had a TV in his bedroom too. That’s where the cool kids watched Arthur. Devan was the Diddy of Calgary. His house parties were infamous. He was the first of us to drive a car. He was the first of us to have a job and fucking savings account. He was the first of us to have a serious girlfriend. The rest of us were still dry humping girls at Jelly Bean Dances: Next – “Too Close.” D was the man and he still is.
I remember one night, we all went out somewhere, I think it was Amdsterdam Rhino, but I disappeared into the night. It started happening a lot. But this one night, or should I say the next morning, I woke up in some restaraunt’s kitchen. At first I thought it was a hospital. But I could smell dishes and cheap soap and there was gunk on the floors like at all restaurants. All the lights were off, but I could tell it was morning because the sun was shining through the windows. And I was sleeping in a portable dish rack. And my grey Nike’s were placed neatly beside me. I was terrified. I quickly sorted myself out and I got the fuck out of there. I went through an emergency exit and I never went back there. I still have no idea what happened that night or what restaurant/hotel that was. I stumbled to my apartment, in the middle of winter, in Calgary, before Climate Change, with no jacket on. I was freezing. I used to live in a basement apartment in the Kensington section of Calgary. I passed out when I got back but I was woken up by someone knocking like crazy on my windows. It was Devan. It wasn’t the first or the last time he had gone looking for me. I’m pretty sure the night before was March 2nd, his birthday. But he still went looking for me. And I love him for that.
It’s almost two in the morning. The Black Album finished a while ago. College Droupout played next. Another soundtrack to our Highschool days. And now, it’s just silence. I can hear someone scraping snow on the sidewalk. Yes, at this hour. Who’s crazy enough to clear snow, during a blizzard, at this hour. I feel like Devan would be. When he becomes a father, I picture him doing that. His Salvadorian Wife asleep, his mixed, beautiful kids asleep, but D’s gotta keep the house nice. Even the outside. My niece, who is the next Rihanna, only lets a few people pick her up: My Sister, her Dad, her Grandparents and Devan. My puppy, Nino, bit all my friends, except two: Anthony and Devan. Maybe best friends are imaginary, but I know real friends are, welp, real.
*Editors Note: “welp” is how Devan pronounces “well.”
Happy Birthday, King.