…on good food, questionable judgment, and making life work
Hello friends and acquaintances. In a very short time will be 1-year anniversary of when my brother, Chris Sparks, was murdered in broad daylight on a busy road very close to where we both worked in Metro Center.
He was driving home on his lunch break to his apartment on 44th Ave N in the Nations to walk his beloved rescue dog, Dawson (named after the late great Richard Dawson). At some point as he was driving down the road, in the distance it took to travel half of a block, he began to argue with someone in a silver Impala with tinted windows. If you know my brother, you know that unsafe drivers bothered him greatly. When they got to the intersection of Rosa Parks/Ed Temple and Buchanan Street, the driver (or people in the car) of the Impala shot two bullets at Chris while they were waiting for the light to turn. Everyone focused on the red Honda coupe that continued to roll through the intersection (Chris). Nobody focused on the silver Impala that turned down Buchanan Street. My brother died alone, in his car; the mercy is that one bullet hit his hand, the other went through his torso and killed him instantly.
I constantly texted and Facebook messaged my brother. I found it strange that he didn’t respond to messages that day after noon but didn’t count it too out of the ordinary. That night, I vividly remember Ari Dubin dropping off Sammy from Hebrew School as always, and I began to make dinner. Shortly thereafter, I remember our home phone rang (odd), Abby picked up the phone, and then said “Yes, he’s my brother-in-law”, and walked into the bedroom closing the door behind her. Horribly and selfishly, my first thought was “Oh god, what has happened to Abby’s sister’s husband?”. Shortly thereafter she came out of the bedroom with a strange look on her face. Again, assuming that something terrible had happened with her sister, I begged her to help me finish dinner and get the kids to bed; I didn’t want the kids to see anything wrong.
After we had stashed the kids, we went downstairs. She had told me that the *medical examiner* was calling about my brother Chris. My first thought was “Oh Shit, what happened to Chris, what HOSPITAL was he in?”
I should probably take a moment and do a terrible disservice to my brother’s memory, and explain our relationship. My brother was born on April 17, 1980. The second he was born, I devoted myself to being his best friend and protector. We had an amazing relationship. Guys, we just didn’t fight. I mean, we had stupid disagreements, a couple of physical battles, but at the end of the day, it was less than ten in our entire lives together. I never realized just how amazing that was until I was much, much older. Hell, until he was gone. We were very different. I was average build, preppy, outgoing – he was tall, subversive, and brilliant. But at the end of the day, we loved SO many of the same things; Rick & Morty, videogames, movies, fine food, cocktails, books, TV Shows, The Wire, Silicon Valley (sorry it took so long for us to start), Breaking Bad, Mel Brooks; the list could go on for days because we had so many shared experiences. And again, our relationship was one that was built on an uncanny love and friendship; I have never seen two siblings that have had the same attachment and camaraderie. When he moved to Nashville in the fall of 2015, I was overjoyed. He had spent a decade coming to visit me in Nashville and every time we parted, it was like we could never get around the fact that we both lived in the same city again. Indeed, the last time I saw him was when we ate lunch at a restaurant called St. Anjejo; we ate a stupid amount of tacos and he gave me a big hug afterwards and told me he loved me. I will never forget his smell – it was a bit musty, his whole person smelled like the food experiments that he was working on, and he wrapped me up in his big ole arms. And then I reminded him like always that we were just going to get back in the same car and drive back to Metro Center.
I can’t even begin to tell you what a great uncle he was to both of my kids. For someone who claimed not to like kids so much, he was immediately in love with both of my children. He bought them special presents, took time out to come to their soccer games, dance recitals, piano recitals, and engaged with them like they were little adults. And they LOVED him. You can’t imagine how much they would explode when they saw him. It was like every birthday, holiday, present rolled into one when he would show up. He would chide me for being on my phone during kid events “Hey man, they only have one childhood, howbout you check in and be a part of it…”
So, my first thought when Abby said it was “the medical examiner” was “What hospital was he in?”. It didn’t occur to me that this was a final situation. I immediately called his phone and texted him before I called the Medical Examiner back. The ME gave me a tiny, embarrassing amount of information on what the fuck was going on and gave me the number of the detective who had been assigned the case.
Somehow, people started showed up at my house that night. My Rabbi Joshua Kullock, who I am so sorry had to be exposed to such a thing. My friend Stuart Wiston, who is like a big brother I have never had. And another pal, Matt Leff, who had recently moved nearby, what a welcome to the neighborhood. And Trent Rosenbloom, again, like a big brother, with a lot of medical knowledge, and he brought along poor Dylan Field who had just happened to be at his house to drink some beers. I feel really bad for Dylan, because he had never asked for such a thing, is such a sweet soul, and I feel horrible that he was a witness to the horror as I called my parents. Speaking of which…
What followed were four of the shittiest things I have ever had to do.
There is so much more to tell. Like how his room-mate had no idea what had happened and how my mom helped pay his rent and bills so that he would be ok – and we donated a bunch of his amazing kitchen tools and furniture to him.. About how we had a big ol’ party before his funeral and I heard so many amazing stories that people told me about Chris. About how we were cleaning out his room and you could see all of the amazing gifts he had left behind for the kids.
I need to spend a bit of time talking about Chris. He was an amazing person. An incredible percussionist. A skilled chef who worked with Charlie Trotter in Chicago. A brilliant physicist and mathematician. A skilled improvisor and comedian who studied at Second City. An amazing brother, a son who loved his parents, an amazing uncle, and a friend to so many. I promise to tell you more about him in a future post. But you have to understand that it is so challenging describing a person that you were best friends with for 36 years.
I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it was having to blow the shofar at high holidays at my synagogue the week after all of this. How I was ripped to shreds every time I had to say the Mourner’s Kaddish. How easily I crumble when I see brothers and sisters together and wish that I had the chance to grow old with my brother, my best friend. How much I am grateful that no matter what a pain in the ass my brother could be that my lovely, kind wife Abby was ALWAYS there to support him, not judge him, and was a champion for him.
Please help us. Spread this story. Let people know. Somewhere in this town I have lived in for more than 12 years, a guy was killed in cold blood on a busy street at lunch time. They have caught so many people who have committed terrible crimes here, but my brother’s case has zero leads and is going to the cold case file. Someone, somewhere has to know something. Please help my family find justice.
One last thing. Please don’t start fights while driving. You NEVER know who that other person is. You have no idea who is out there and what they could be capable of. We will never have the legacy of my brother and what he could have achieved, but YOU can make a difference by being a safe, non-aggressive driver… Just a thought…