“If one day the speed kills me, don’t cry, because I was smiling.” – Paul Walker
For those who are a part of my personal life, you are undoubtedly aware that I lost two people very important to my life in the span of a few months. The first, my cousin (technically 1st cousin once removed, my great uncle’s son). George “Chope” Patrick was probably one of the most genuine men you’d ever want to meet, someone cut from the type of cloth you cannot find among today’s “men.” He, along with my father, was the type of people we should all strive to be. I could write multiple stories on this guy, his life, and the things we’ve done together. However, I’m here today to talk about the other loss I’ve recently endured.
On September 2, 2014 we lost a man who was, for all intents and purposes, my brother. Nick Hudec passed at the age of 23 in a Labor Day Jet Ski accident on Lake Erie. Although the term is cliché at this point, he was taken “way too soon.” No matter where life takes me, Nick will always be my brother.
We met at the age of 10 when we were skating for a local PeeWee hockey team. Nick was probably one of the smallest guys in the league. Even at that age, I completely towered over him. I cannot even begin to recall the amount of times he got in way over his head talking shit to people, and called me into back him up. When I got suspended from Middle School for matters I won’t divulge, my penance was spent in an after-hours tutoring program helping Nick with his math. We’ve worked on cars together, drank beer together, rode motorcycles in abandoned construction sites, and almost went to jail together on multiple occasions. There weren’t many things we did not do with one another. Even as we began to grow apart during High School, there wasn’t instance where he was my first call (or vice-versa) when help was needed.
I’ll never forget the summer of 2007. We both had received our driver’s licenses. His grandfather had come up from Florida, with his 91 Mustang LX Convertible in tow. Equipped with the “5.0” engine and T-5 Manual transmission, it was the first “fast” car either of us had the privilege of driving. I don’t need to say this, but that type of car was entirely too much for two kids with little driving experience. We did 120+ on I-75, raced anyone who gave us a dirty look, and participated in general asshattery. Any chance we could, we did burnouts. His grandpa was absolutely pissed at us for killing TWO sets of Michelins that summer. The first set was gone only after 1 week in our possession. I’m honestly surprised we survived that summer.
Then, we got into off-roading. His 09 F-150 had a mild lift and 35” mud tires. I had recently acquired my 98 Jeep Cherokee. No mud hole was safe. We came close to rolling my Jeep no less than three times in an abandoned housing development. His truck sucked water up through the intake after fording a deceivingly deep mud hole. We ran from the police on more than one occasion, dreading the idea of being brought home in a squad car to our parents.
When I had the Neon and sold the Jeep, our days of street racing rivaled those of summer 2007. Every freeway on-ramp became an impromptu race track. The abandoned streets of Detroit’s more impoverished areas were a literal playground for us, much the way Ken Block films his “Gymkhana” videos. In the days before heavy police presence on Belle Isle, the island’s race track was a place where we could drive any way we desired, pedestrians be damned. I’m not here to glorify street racing, as those days are long behind me. We both derived our kicks from the type of foolishness you’d see in movies such as American Graffiti, and I will not lie and act as though this wasn’t how I spent many afternoons during our early 20s.
Life unfortunately took us down different paths. I got into a career, a few relationships, and further into car stuff. However, he and my sister became closer than he and I to an extent. There was a period where he was probably a better brother to her than I was to some extent. The truth is that there is no other person I would rather have as a stand-in. Although the two of us have quite the history between us, I knew he would always take care of her. As with a lot of family that I am related to by blood, if the moment came where either of us were in dire need, I know that we would have come to each other’s rescue. That is what brotherhood is all about.
A lot of people ask me about how I handled the loss of my best friend. The truth is, not very well. When I’m eating at Hooter’s (we got kicked out once), doing something stupid in an automobile, or talking shit to someone at the bar, I know he is right along there with me. The truth of the matter is that he isn’t really dead to me. We’ve gone months without speaking to one another. As long as his memory is still alive, he will never die.
RIP Nick Hudec (December 16,1990 – Sepbember 2, 2014)