This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the death of my mad, bad, good friend Allan Jenkins in Hiroshima in the early hours of Monday 4th February, 2002.
There is always a double perspective to past times; because the mind’s eye can recall so many incidents, it seems but yesterday when this or that occurred and yet when all that has happened since that day is called to mind, and all that has changed, it seems as if those previous events belong to a distant epoch and another country.
Allan was one of the first people I met when I arrived in Hiroshima at the end of August 1990 and he was the kind of bloke who always seemed – always was – pleased to welcome a new arrival. We hit it off straight away.
That evening, the teachers all went out to dinner to welcome the new arrival. When we left the restaurant I was most impressed with Allan’s technique of pulling his bicycle out of the mass of bicylcles that were all pressed together in front of a shuttered shop on the Hondori: pull and spin around until the chain of bicycles that emerged from the ranks with his eventually broke away from his machine. Too bad if they came your way; you had to be quick and jump or take a hit.
As I remember, it was just such incidents that caused many of our associates to scatter as well, and I must admit there were times when you felt that being friends with Allan came at a price of “taking a hit” or two, such as the time when he stole the keys from the ignition of a car that we had forced to stop by crossing a road when the lights were green. Of course, once he had the keys in his hand he disappeared on his bike while three of us pedestrians were left to deal with the angry punks who were getting out of the car with steam hissing from their ears… Even so, for all that, I was extremely fond of him and still miss not being able to see the devil in him grow riper and perhaps mellower with the passing years.
I have just found the eulogy I threw together for Allan’s funeral and post it here in honour of his memory. I was and remain very grateful to David Scanlon for sending some reminiscences for me to use in the eulogy.
On one of the bouquets of flowers that adorn Allan’s coffin there is a message that says”We always knew this would happen.”
And then it says,
“We never believed it would happen.”
To me, that message expresses what many of us felt about the way Allan lived his life, full of reckless zest, with many crashes and knocks and with what seemed at times to be an inexhaustible supply of luck that always enabled him to recover from those knocks and come back to us as full of life and vigour as he ever was. We feared what the end would one day be, but we never believed that that “one day” would ever be “today” because it was as if his life was itself his own best proof against our fears.
Over the past few days I have read and heard numerous accounts of Allan’s scrapes with cars and motorbikes that go back to his school days, it seems, and each one confirms the double impression that we had of his mortality. I thought I would read a message from David Scanlon, who refers to Allan in an e-mail as “my good friend, my brother, Al,” and tells us something of Allan before he came to Hiroshima. He writes:
“I met Allan when I was in grade seven. A lifetime ago. We have been close since. I introduce him as my brother, we had different parents together. 1 Even if we do live a world apart. And apart was probably a good thing. We got into too much trouble. God it was fun though. Good clean fun of course, rarely did the law have to get involved…although on occasion they did…
“Allan and his damn bikes. The first one was a 400 Maxim Yamaha. Well there was a 360 Yamaha prior to that but it was his Dad’s. I ended up buying both of them. Allan had dropped the Maxim a couple of times prior to me buying it from him. I cleaned it up and painted it a very cool custom red colour. That bike looked great…then one morning Allan asked to borrow it. Twenty minutes or so later he came back with some really cool looking scars on his neck. I think he wanted me to be mad but all I could manage was to ask if he was OK.
“He was in another accident with a 550 Honda on the evening of my sister’ wedding. His girlfriend at the time, Alda, was on the back of the bike that night.
“I probably should have tried harder to convince him that a bike was something that should not be in his future. The trouble was I rode as well and still do. His Dad rode when he was younger as well. I guess it was just who Allan was. The last time he was in Canada I took him to see his Mom and she had just bought herself a bike.
David Scanlon continues:
“Hmmm now that I think of it his first car was a baby blue Scamp. My Mother’s car. That car was in the ditch plenty of times. Perhaps he shouldn’t have had anything to do with motorized vehicles…”
On what was to be the last night of Allan’s life three of his friends, Tim, Big Dave and myself, went over to his flat to watch football, drink some beer together, chat and play mahjong. In other words, that last night was typical of a Sunday evening spent in the company of Allan after a busy weekend. All four of us had been out drinking on Saturday night, although Allan had been pursuing his own agenda that night so he was not drinking with us. In retrospect, there was something feverish about our drinking that evening – it was one of those crazy beer binges that we often indulge in on a Saturday night that leads to several hours of further indulgence down at Mac bar. 2
So on that last Sunday evening we were all just “chilling” as Allan would say. Yet, as we reconstruct the events that led up to Allan’s death, we are struck by how representative of the whole fabric of Allan’s life in Hiroshima they happen to be. It is as if that mercurial god 3 who presided over the pathways of Allan’s life was granting Allan the inestimable privilege of dying as he had lived so that we who remain here can say that his life and his death were made seamless and single.
Firstly we have the circumstances of the early evening. Allan had invited friends over to watch football, which he had watched, played and discussed with a brutal passion ever since we set up the football team known as “Intermilang” in the days before he was sacked from Lang Education Center for reasons that some of you know and the rest of you may be able to imagine. 4
Of course, we went over to Allan’s to drink beer. He was a copious beer drinker, and it was usually better if he stuck to beer and didn’t mix his drinks. 5
We went over to Allan’s to play mahjong. Mahjong had become one of the great enthusiasms of the last two years of his life. And that game, a peculiar mixture of skill and luck, often testified to the myth of “Lucky Jenkins”. I remember one evening when we played mahjong at his student, Mr. Yamaguchi’s, apartment and Allan, against all the teaching of probability theory, won, and won, and won.
Incidentally, Allan lost his last game of mahjong. Less than three hours after that last game he was dead. But, despite that swift transition from life to death, that last game of mahjong was not actually the last game he ever played on earth.
After we, his three friends, had gone home at about 1 o’clock in the morning, Allan went out on a mission that reflects on other aspects of his character. He had lent something to somebody. This reminds us of his generosity – he was always lending stuff to people. But the thing that he lent was not his to lend, so he was under pressure to go and recover it and restore it to the special someone who had given it to him.
So he went out. He went, of course, to a bar, to Kulcha bar, where he collected the portable property and played a game of chess. There was always time for another game with Allan, and I don’t think there was much of a distinction in his mind between the games he loved to play and the life he led, which was itself a glorified and rather complex game, the rules of which were ever open to new interpretations as the moment required.
After that last game of chess he left the bar, but, instead of going home, he went riding out towards Hakushima to meet another special somebody about whom the rest of us knew nothing.
But we know now what happened next. We know that Allan died as he had lived, gunning his bike towards one of his many assignations.
Over the last few days we have seen so many people coming to pay their respects to Allan, and I am reminded of the words from the Gospel of John when Christ came to the friends of Lazarus and, just as did the surgeon to us on that terrible Monday morning, so he spake
“…unto them plainly and said Lazarus is dead.” 6
And he wept and the onlookers said of him as they can say of each one of us,
“Behold how he loved him.” 7
We know that Allan was no painted saint, we cannot set up an icon of “Edward of Hiroshima” and place our prayers before it, but we can and do pray that God may rest the soul of this remarkable man, our friend Edward Allan Jenkins.
Delivered at Fukatsu Kyoukai (Church of the Resurrection), Hiroshima,
6th February, 2002,
by David Hurley
1. I have sometimes heard Allan use the riddling sentence pattern “We had different … together,” to his delight and the bafflement of his Japanese audience.
2. Mac was Allan’s favourite bar. Allan had known Mac, the owner, since he first came to Hiroshima 12 years ago. They played a lot of igo and shogi together.
3. Hermes, who, as god of pathways, secret dealings, stratagems and dice seems to have been Allan’s presiding deity. He also escorts the dead to Hades.
4. The football team Intermilang was set up by Lang Education Center in 1993. Allan was a teacher at Lang for several years before his departure, which had something to do with a lover’s complaint.
5. It is important to restate here that we were “chilling”. That is, we had just two beers throughout the several hours of the evening. Allan did not have a belly fully of beer when he crashed.
6. John 11, v. 14
7. John 11, v. 36.