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On February 20th, twenty things I love about Adam Greene

Today is Adam's birthday. I miss him. Already and forever.

Some of what I love about him:

1. The bananas. In the kitchen, near the sink hangs the banana picture. It's homey and plain and it has hung there for as long as I've been visiting Adam's kitchen. I never asked but I imagine it was found at St. Vinnie's and there was something Adam found particularly compelling about it. He liked a nice watercolor and appreciated a simple still life of an ordinary object. One day, Adam suggested we paint. He got out his watercolors and sat a hammer on the kitchen table. I made a watercolor painting of a hammer that he praised profusely. It made me feel good that he liked it. He encouraged me to see myself as an artist, which has always been hard for me to do. I am grateful to him for that.

2. His love for little houses. He used to talk about how he could fit a small house in his backyard. He went on about it, in his way, and how he would then rent out his 'big' house. I love miniatures myself, but I really love him for fascinating on wild ideas. Ideas that are possible but unlikely to be realized, ideas that bust open the fixed sensibility of things.

3. Audio postcards. When Adam wandered away from Madison, he would often call and leave a postcard message on voicemail. It never failed to make my day. Adam was creative in so many ways, but I really appreciate that he made time for such thoughtful and artful gestures.

4. Rides to the airport. Adam was ever-ready to drop off and pick up from the airport. He occasionally did it by bike. He usually brought food along. If it was a pick up, he would have something to make the homecoming soft and cozy. And he was prompt and dependable. I remember one time when he took me to the airport for a flight to New York, I asked him if he wanted a souvenir from the city. He surprised me by saying yes, and then asked me to find something cool on the street for him. I remember I thoroughly enjoyed the assignment, but I wish I could remember what I found to give him.

5. His manners. He was generous and polite and helpful.  He always picked up the tab, never showed up empty-handed, and flattered everyone. Of course, he also talked too loudly and ate too quickly, but the rest more than made up for it.

6. The things he noticed. Apparently I do a thing with my mouth that makes me look like Kermit-the-Frog. I never knew; only Adam seemed to notice. Or maybe only Adam found it charming and worth complimenting.

7. His style. Adam liked to talk about his clothes. He worked on his look. He was experimental with his facial hair, he adored old glasses frames, and he would strut beautifully when he felt he'd nailed the right look for the occasion, which he always did.

8. Hugs. Warm, comforting, strong, patient, loving hugs. He'd pull in for more, saying he wasn't done yet. It was a human exchange of rare proportions.

9. He always answered. This gets back to his manners. He answered his phone, always. Even if we were in the middle of a conversation over lunch, if his cell phone rang, he'd answer. It didn't seem rude, but instead somehow polite. Polite to whomever was calling. He was efficient on the phone, and never failed to return a call promptly.

10. His love of books. We had completely different taste in books, but I really loved that Adam talked about what he was reading. He read voraciously.

11. His glassware collection. Adam kept a very classy collection of top-shelf booze on hand, and he liked to select the glass to match the person, not just the drink. On Halloween, I'd trick-or-treat to Adam's house, for years before I had any kids in tow, to stand around drinking shots of whatever he was pouring.

12. His sense of community. Adam introduced me to probably half the people I know today. Again, his manners were very good. He made a point of noting the relevant and laudable traits of each person in his introductions, always embarrassing me a little and also making me grateful to have just met such a lovely new person. I think he saw it as his role, to grow and strengthen the community he loved so much.

13. Strong opinions. I didn't agree with everything Adam said, but I really learned a lot from Adam about how to say a thing with confidence. Because of the force of his opinions, his friendship alone signaled to me that I was worthy. Because, I figured, Adam has good taste. He boosted my confidence by association.

14. His rose-colored glasses. He saw the good in people. I see it as his legacy and just hope to be some fraction of how great he told me I was. I want those glasses, his gift for seeing the unique strengths in others and the art of making us each feel seen.

15. His family, who I've gotten to know posthumous. They are totally amazing.

16. The invisible book. He carried it around and would take it out to tell stories. He'd open it in his hands and begin, using a story-telling voice. The stories were fantastical and whimsical and made up on the spot. Some were better than others. Adam became the avuncular storyteller with that invisible book and it was a character that suited him well. I'm mad at him, that my kids will not grow up with him reading to them from the invisible book.

17. Bike Love. Adam fell in love with bikes and spread the gospel. Probably he liked me, initially, because I was on board already, no convincing necessary. He custom built a beautiful pink and white relaxed ride with tall "monkey" handlebars and a classic metal basket on the front for me. Thanks to Adam, many, many, many people have bicycles.

18. His crazy laugh and youthful smile.

19. His unmatched loyalty.

20. His one-of-a-kind generosity. At my wedding, he fussed over my mother in a way that no one else bothered to do. He also personally set up all the chairs. He was generous with his time, his money, and his compliments. I am forever indebted.

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