Thinking about Amir today on his birthday. At least, that’s what the Friendster reminder tells me. I could never remember when his birthday was. My parents encouraged me to take my old Ramaz yearbooks home with me from their apartment today, and I was looking through them at the photos of Amir and reading some of his poetry in the back. I remembered this one time in the afterschool poetry club which maybe was called Parallax or maybe that was just the magazine… anyway me John and Amir were listening to a girl (Suzie Gallin (sp?) or maybe someone entirely else) read a poem about skinny-dipping. When she was done Amir leaned over and loudly whispered how excited it made him. I remember Dr. Honig pretended to be shocked.

I visited him at Brown one year and we saw Bob Dylan play and went to some party… and I remember Amir talking through the intercom to some girl he liked and I heard a sweetness in his voice I’d never heard before. That sweetness is what I remember most about Amir.

Amir, Imir, Ahmear, Amira

This is my second year teaching art in southwest Philly. My students often ask about my daughter, Mira (not the older ones though… the 7th graders think I’m a chump). They want to know about her name, and how its similar to theirs (Amir and Amirah are very popular African American names these days. I must have over 20 students named Amir, Ameer, Ahmear, Imir, Amira, Amirah, etc.) Then I think about Amir… although I don’t have good stories for them… the ones I remember are like how on September 11th he rode his bike from the Upper West Side to the World Trade Center after he heard that it had been hit (if I remember correctly he wanted to take photos), only to arrive just as it was collapsing (he told me that was one of the stupidest things he ever did). And I can’t tell them about our high school antics, which generally aren’t suitable. Mostly though I just tell them that Amir was someone very important to me. It’s nice being able to hear his name so many times throughout my day, especially since they are such happy and vibrant children. Loss is a curious thing; some very small things bring on sadness, but more often they bring joy.

Moshava 1990

I’m sitting here on the day of Amir’s yahrzeit holding a squirmy little girl named after him. Mira is now 10 months, 21 lbs, and 29 inches. We’ve spent the afternoon trying to find old emails from Amir and trying to remember old stories that I can share. The stories that I remember generally involve a subset of the 5 of us (Amir, Jon, Allon, Mo and I) playing some (innocent or not so) prank followed by extreme remorse and atonement on Amir’s part and no remorse from us. One story I can share is about that photograph of Amir and I, back-to-back, from Moshava in the summer of 1990. Amir and I were in the same bunk for August and we became friends very quickly, setting off fireworks and smokebombs together in the empty bunks near the lake. My memory is a bit fuzzy on this story, but I think what happened was that Amir and I showed up dressed inappropriately (not wearing the required dress pants and white shirt) for the before-shabbas camp-wide gathering by the flagpole, and we were sent back to change. We changed into our “tough guy” clothes (leather jacket, baseball cap worn backwards, shorts and t-shirts) and came back. They made us stand in the middle of the giant “Chet” as punishment so we defied them again by standing back-to-back. David Honig took that photo so maybe he remembers the story better or differently. Anyway we felt no remorse for that one. I love that photo because it marked the beginning of a long friendship where we took a lot of philosophical (and sophomoric) stands together. These days the stand I’m taking with Amir is trying to better our country’s educational system. When I get frustrated with teaching I remember that just like that day in Moshava – Amir has my back.

The joy that only Ultima 0 can bring

Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 17:35:21 -0500
To: “Elijah Kaufman”
From: “Amir Lopatin”
Subject: Re:

Nu what? did you send me a letter? the last letter I got from you was… requesting that I ask out Sara ___. I did it too. Me and sara went out last night. SHe was nice and all, but… I had a pretty good time though.
I have to go now. I just got my Ultima collection in the mail from Origin.
It has every ultima in it from 0-8 . All for 35 bucks!

On the life of an artist

To: elijah_kaufman
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 23:43:10 -0500

Be realistic man, you are not going to be happy beign a professional sculpture. YOu will be too poor. You will be very hungry and cold all the time. Get your parents to pay for the MS course and pass it and live like a king!
shalom habibi,

On the value of a college degree

Date: Sun, 01 Feb 1998 11:48:01 -0500
To: “Elijah Kaufman” <>
From: “Amir Lopatin” <>

Hey Eli,
Its great that you are going to graduate. Not that that is really worth much these days. You probably would have done just as well to become a Microsoft certified engineer right out of college, worked 9 to 5 for 50 -70 grand a year and spent the rest of your time sculpting. As for me, I am not looking for intellectual fulfillment in my career. All I want is a good salry and time off to pursue my real interests, like computer games, driving fast cars, and making itwith short girls who have ambigously indian names. I think that is the smartest route someone can take.
Everybody here at brown thinks that there job has to be the road to self fulfiilment, but not me, I look forward to a life as a peon for corporate america. Besides though, the truth is that computer work is a lot less drudge than most jobs people take right out of college. So I think becoming a systems engineer, is a great idea. DId you know there are 190k free jobs in the computer industry. The things is that it looks very good to be able to program as well so you should stick with you c++ book. Are you learning Windows programming or just conventional dos like programming? So Whats Eireann like? Why do you only say “kinda with”? Anyways, check out this Sarah girl for me. THe truth is that I have no time to meet women anymore.
I am taking a graduate level cs class that I am too stupid for. I worked about thrity hours on a program that I couldn’t get working last week. I am well on my way to failing and it is only two weeks into the semester. Oy vay!
p.s. Thanks for saying that I am good-looking.

Amir’s album evaluation guide

Amir had a distinctive way of evaluating musical recommendations from friends:
in order to avoid ending up with pop music that he knew would be awful he’d go to the music store and look at the songlist. If he saw more than 2 songs with “love” or “heart” or any variations or permutations on those 2 words or the theme they represent he’d put the album down, shake his head and move on.

A weekend at Brown

I visited Amir at Brown in the spring of 1997. Dylan was playing in their hockey rink, like, in person. They dragged him out for a third encore, and he closed it up with Rainy Day Woman. Amir and I left halfway through the song, feeling slightly appalled but satisfied overall. We walked around the campus and town for a while, going from party to party. Amir stopped at a dorm where a girl that he liked was living. I remember him talking with her over the intercom. I don’t remember what he said to her, but it was something so sweet and gentle. To this day I can’t think about Amir without remembering that sweetness.

The Last Piece of Underwear – final version

I am so, so sorry to hear about Amir. He had a beautiful spirit. I searched for the poem Shoshana wanted (“The Last Piece of Underwear“). Amir read it at the Celebration of the Arts, and at the time Parallax did not have a real magazine. Much to my surprise, I found the poem, anyway.

The poem typifies Amir’s glorious, childlike sense of fun. I suspect he never lost that, and the world will be diminished by his loss. So sorry to reconnect with you in this way. You and all of Amir’s friends must be going through a tough time.

Edith Honig