I don’t want to write this but I need to. I lost a friend today. Not someone I saw regularly anymore, but someone I’ve spent a lot of time with since I met her eleven years ago. Hayne was sick for quite some time and as these things go her illness ebbed and flowed until it took over.
I met Hayne on her roof deck in July 2003. Louie and I were there – along with new friends who knew her quite well. I spent much of that summer on her roof deck and in the restaurants she owned on the ground floor of her building.
As is true of most of the people in my life, I remember the precise moment that I laid eyes on her. I’d heard her name – I knew her establishments – and now I was meeting her in an intimate setting. An intimate setting with her collection of Italian greyhounds, her myriad friends, and the occasional drag queen who needed a break from her gig downstairs (Lucky Cheng’s). Hayne was someone who could easily have intimidated me – beautiful, smart, strong, successful, famous, confident – she had no need for me in her life and would, I’m sure, have been perfectly solicitous for as long as I was part of her crowd. But somehow we made a deeper connection than that. I never felt unwelcome in her presence – as out of my element as I might have been – and as she did with most everyone in her life, she brought me into the fold and let me hang out there for as long as I needed to. When I wanted to escape the crowds of that summer and have one-on-one conversation, she’d take me down to the other bar she owned (Waikiki Wally’s) and feed me wine and wisdom.
She was from New Orleans, and she was exquisite. I’d bet that she’d appreciate my writing about her – she loved the spotlight and the spotlight loved her.
The last time I saw her was two years ago. I ran into her at a bar on her block (One and One) and we sipped Prosecco and reminisced. We ended up going to dinner a few streets away and she sort of filled me in on what was going on with her health-wise, but as was always my experience with her no matter what she was going through, she did so without a shred of self-pity or anger.
How I wish I’d seen more of her in the years since that night.
There are hundreds of people who knew her far better than I and who were more actively in her life in the last two years. She has a daughter who has exhibited her mother’s grace, strength, and openness during these past few weeks and an ex-husband with whom she built the foundation for her empire. She has more friends than most anyone I know. The relatively brief amount of time we’ve spent together has had a profound impact on me. The sadness is creeping up – as it does when someone you haven’t seen in a while dies. I will devote that energy to honoring her memory and being grateful for her presence in my life.
Dance in the heavens, beautiful lady. There’s a brand new constellation in the stars tonight.