Archive | May, 2011

The Things That Are ‘So Jeff Klein’

31 May

In her last blog post (On A Scale Of ‘1 To Jeff Klein’, May 9, 2011), Brooke really hit the nail on the head. When recounting a voicemail she and Julie received from Jeff after they had left Michael’s early one night, she wrote, “It was just SO Jeff Klein…”. Precisely. There have been so many different adjectives, all accurate, used on this blog to describe Jeff, but I think the one that perhaps best describes him is “unique”. He was the most unique individual I’ve ever known, in both subtle and not so subtle ways. The things he said and did often left us on the floor laughing, or sometimes just shaking our heads in disbelief. As the months roll on, we continue to remember more and more of these things, and I thought I would share some in this post.

As everyone knows, either from receiving his classic text messages, reading his articles in the Middlebury Campus, or by reading his Talkin’ Sports blog, Jeff had a way with the written word. I kept a typed note that he printed out for me and gave me for my birthday a few years ago, and I keep it in my closet and read it every morning while getting dressed for work, because it always sends me out the door with a smile on my face. I had hinted to Jeff some weeks before my birthday that I would really love to get the recently released DVD of Muhammad Ali’s simulated “computer fight” against a champion from the 1950s named Rocky Marciano. In 1969, when Ali was in exile and banned from boxing for refusing induction into the army, he and the long since retired Marciano filmed this simulated fight, the round-by-round details of which were dictated by a computer which had been fed mounds of data on the two men.

Jeff, ever the loving son, was determined to ensure that this DVD was waiting for me on my birthday, but apparently my birthday crept up on him, and he realized that it would take expedited shipping to get it here on time. However, mail services being what they are, it didn’t quite make it. So instead of the DVD, Jeff put the following note in wrapping paper and handed it to me on my birthday. It read:

“Dear Sir,

I am glad to announce that your very own copy of the legendary Ali-Marciano DVD, in the slowest manner possible for overnight service, is currently making its way to 3 Charles Court. It shall arrive shortly. Happy Birthday!!!

Love, Jeff”

Those who are close to him know that this note is absolutely so Jeff. I loved it, and within a couple of days, I was enjoying the DVD.

I believe that it was exactly a year later when I received another classic birthday gift from Jeff, and this one did not originate as a hint from me. It is common knowledge in our family (and for years, the topic of constant jokes) that my worst physical feature is the ugliness of my feet. Yeah, well you know, athlete’s foot, a little nail fungus perhaps, and well, you get the picture. So to help celebrate my birthday, Jeff was apparently intent on doing something about this situation One could either take the view that he was coming to his father’s defense, or a more cynical person would say he was piling on and looking to enjoy more laughs at my expense.

Either way, there I was on my birthday opening presents when it was Jeff’ s turn to give me his. With a huge smile on his face, he handed me a small package. Being a believer that good things do come in small packages, I got pretty excited. But then my jaw dropped practically to the floor when I opened it and found a tiny white box with green letters. On the box were the words, “THE TOENAIL AND NAIL FUNGUS TREATMENT”, and inside was a little tube of ointment that would apparently clear up this mess forever. But the best part was where Jeff found this miracle cure. Evoking memories of the night at Middlebury when Jeff got hungry after a night of drinking and placed an order on Buffalowings.com (see November 27, 2010 post of that title), Jeff found my birthday present on www.funguscream.com. No, folks, that is not a joke. The five of us erupted in laughter, and I immediately applied a dose of the stuff in front of the family to show my deep appreciation for this thoughtful gift. It was, by far, the most unique birthday present I’ve ever received, and it was absolutely, positively, so Jeff.

As unique as a gift can be...

And then there was The Voicemail. It occurred sometime during Jeff’s college years. It lived on our home answering machine for almost a year until a power outage eventually wiped it out. But by then it didn’t matter. There wasn’t a member of our family who couldn’t recite it verbatim by that time. Now, this wasn’t a voicemail from Jeff. Instead, it was an entire conversation that the answering machine captured between me and some guy calling about a product that someone had ordered. Here it is:

Caller: “Hi, may I speak to Mr. Klein?”

Me: “Speaking”

Caller: “Hi, this is Steve Harrison from Total Breath”

Me: “From Where???”

Caller: “Total Breath”

Me: “Total Breath”

Caller: “I was just calling to let you know that your item is back-ordered but it should be there within a couple of weeks, and we didn’t want you to worry…”

Me: “And what exactly is the product ?”

Caller: “Oh, it’s a mouth rinse and mouth drops…..is this Jeffrey Klein ?”

Me: “No, it’s his father”

Caller: “Oh, well please let Mr. Klein know that the product is on its way, because he had called us asking about the status, and he seemed very anxious to get it.

Me: “Sure, and what’s the name of your company again?”

Caller: “Total Breath”

Me: “Got it.”

Now, I totally understand that it loses something in the translation, but you’ll have to trust me that listening to my incredulity with this earnest man from Total Breath was hilarious. Jeff was big on oral hygiene, but none of us truly appreciated just how much so until he ordered yet another miracle product from another well-known (???) internet company. Jeff was quite pleased to hear the message, and even happier when the product arrived a couple of weeks later. So Jeff.

And of course, those text messages. The one that I haven’t mentioned before that completely captures the essence of Jeff was a simple four word text that he sent to me in February 2009. The Middlebury Panthers men’s basketball team had made the NESCAC playoffs, and the school had arranged for buses to take students to the first round game somewhere in upstate New York, as I recall. The buses were packed, and of course as the beat writer for the team, Jeff was on it and excited for the journey. Once the bus started rolling, the texts from Jeff started rolling in as well. The texts leading up to the one I loved the most were “the bus is packed to the gills”, “things are getting crazy”, and “things are starting to spin out of control !” And then the clincher 15 minutes later that was so Jeff:

“This is absolute debauchery !”    Is that our Jeff, or what?

The first time we visited Middlebury on Parent’s weekend during Jeff’s freshman year, I saw him walk out of his dorm and across one of the fields with some sort of sign taped to his T-shirt.  When I got close enough to him to see what it said, I saw a white piece of cardboard with “1918-2004” written in black magic marker.   Having just started college at a New England school filled with Boston Red Sox fans, Jeff was making his position known.  He was a Yankees fan, and the sign was a reminder that although the Sox had just won the World Series in 2004, it had been a long 86 years since they had last won it before then.  Brave young  man, that Jeff Klein. 

The summer after Jeff’s 16th birthday, he went on a teen tour called Wilderness Ventures.  They went to Jackson, Wyoming and other beautiful destinations out west.  At the end of the tour, the company asked each kid for a short quote about their experience, so that they could use these quotes in their advertising flier for the following summer.  The typical quotes from the kids centered around the beauty of nature, the mountains, the wonderful feeling derived from testing one’s physical limits, and how satisfying it was to put up their own tents, build fires, etc.  Then there was Jeff’s quote, which certainly stood out from the rest:

“I never thought I would walk out of a supermarket and see a 10,000 foot mountain !”

It is so Jeff- whether at Rocky’s in Millwood, a sushi bar in Manhattan, or in the mountains of Wyoming, food was central to most of his life experiences.

These are just a few examples of the things that make Jeff so incredibly unique.  But as we all know, the list of examples could go on for pages.  So whether it was pouring a beer on one of his very best girl friends, ordering  curried goat from a fast food counter of a shopping mall, routinely pretending to sing opera in a falsetto voice in the shower, asking Elizabeth Mo what her favorite organelle was,  or reciting grace before dinner in unusual ways such as “God is great. God is real. Let us thank Him for this very tasty meal,” Jeff’s uniqueness will live on forever.   There really is nobody quite like him.   And that is one of the reasons why his tragic passing has hurt so many people so very much.

-Rich Klein


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Middlebury Magazine Spring Edition’s 2009 Class Column Devoted to Jeff

17 May

Today we received the Spring edition of Middlebury Magazine.   I thought readers of this blog would want to read the 2009 class column, which was entirely devoted to Jeff and is transcribed below:

“We asked Daniel Roberts to write about Jeff Klein, who passed away unexpectedly on November 9, 2010:

‘ Good guy’ is one of our language’s most grossly  overused phrases. ‘He was a good guy,’ we hear all the time about any old dude.  But Jeff Klein was truly and wholly that–an all-around, good-to-everyone kind of guy.  The last time I hung out with Jeff was in New York; he took me to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.  Jeff not only invited me, he told me I could also invite a friend of my own.  At the time, he was working as a paralegal in the city, planning to apply to law school soon and move into his own place.

Everyone who knew Jeff was shocked by what happened, but how he died is unimportant now.  How did he live ?  I can’t speak about Jeff’s life before Middlebury, but I know he played sports at Horace Greeley and was well liked.  Once he entered college, I believe he immediately embraced everything the campus offered and enjoyed himself immensely.  Jeff was very social and took pride in his KDR activities.  He went out pretty much every Friday and Saturday night and was especially nice to underclassmen, making them feel welcome right away.  His favorite weekend thing was playing beirut.  He was pretty good at it.  He was even better at real sports.  He never missed a season of intramural basketball and was known for having a surprisingly silky jump shot.  Not a varsity guy, Jeff got involved in the varsity games a different way: he wrote about them.  He covered the basketball team for the Campus.  By junior year, his passion and expertise led to a sports column, which he cleverly called J.K. Rollin’.  He would extract ideas from SportsCenter, Bill Simmons, or S.I. but then add his own criticism, making each week’s entry a very Jeff-style rant.  He hated David Stern and LeBron, respected Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.T

Although basketball was his thing-playing it, reading about it, reporting on it, talking about it-he also liked tennis.  When I began playing doubles every Sunday with a bunch of adult professors, and felt awkward being the only student in a group of men over 50, it wasn’t hard to convince Jeff to join.  No matter how late he was out on Saturday night, if I got up in time on Sunday and made it to the Bubble, so would he.  My game was power baseline, Jeff moved back and forth.  We had a great time on the court.

It was inevitable that the sports reporting and column would lead to a postcollege blog.  He called it Talkin’ Sports and wrote an entry every couple of weeks.  He was so proud of the time he took with the blog that he created a Facebook group to promote it.  The group quickly earned 130 fans.  Even if you didn’t know Jeff well, chances are good you recognized his face.  You probably met him at a party, or read his sports coverage often without knowing it.  If you did know him, you won’t soon forget him: one of the good guys, gone too early.”

Kleinsaucer Reappears In A Dream

9 May

Today is an eerie day. Today marks exactly 6 months since the passing of one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known, Jeffrey “Kleinsaucer” Klein, a man I have called a best friend for years, one that I will never stop calling my best friend. While today can and will be a day of mourning for many people, it should also be a day of celebration for Jeff’s life, a sentiment our friend Elon and countless others have expressed on this very blog. We should remember Jeff for the (pardon my French) fucking amazing guy he was for 23 and a half years, and not for his troubling and unnecessary demise in his last few weeks of life and the final action he decided to take with a clouded and confused mind. The guy could light up a room with his laugh and his grin – whether you knew him for years or for minutes, you couldn’t help but be brought up by the guy.

Ever since his untimely death, I have desperately wanted to reconnect with him any way possible. I’ve spoken to him in my thoughts, I’ve muttered aloud towards the sky and stars, I’ve written to him on this blog, I’ve kept in touch with his family, I’ve kept him alive through conversations with close friends like Brooke, Julie, Elon, Anish, Blake, Ryan, Andres, Thao, Jack and countless others. But for the past six months, what I’ve truly yearned for was the chance to see him again in my dreams. I know he has appeared in dreams for his parents and some of his friends, but I haven’t had that pleasure yet. Not until last Wednesday night.

Last Wednesday I got into a very serious argument with one of my very closest friends. While going into the details of that isn’t necessary for this blog, what is important is that I was incredibly upset by the interaction. It was something that was bothering me deeply as I drifted off to sleep that night, something I just couldn’t block out.

Not surprisingly I had a nightmare. A nightmare that me and this friend would never make up again, a nightmare that the situation was increasingly getting worse. I woke up in a cold sweat, very bothered and uncomfortable. I was in pain.

I soon fell back asleep, and this is when Jeff came to me. I dreamt that I was lying in my bed as I was, and lo and behold, Jeffrey Klein walks in the door! I can’t express to you the feelings I was experiencing at the moment. Incredible HAPPINESS that I got to see my friend again, SHOCK that he could actually be here, SKEPTICISM that this couldn’t possibly be the real thing. But above all I didn’t care if this was real, he was here and I was going to enjoy this moment because something told me it would be fleeting.

Jeff appeared to me in great shape as usual, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, clean shaven, hair cut, and of course, SMILING. Smiling that Jeff Klein smile that you can’t help but mirror right back at him when you see it. I had a feeling deep down that this was a dream, so I knew I had to act fast before it was all over. I leapt up and just gave him the biggest bear hug you could imagine. A hug that I had been wanting to give him for 6 months, but was never able to. And to be honest, I FELT the hug. It was like he was really there.

All I could ask him before I woke up was, “are you okay, man?”

And he responded, “yeah, I’m okay.”

And then I woke up. It was over. The whole thing lasted for about 15 seconds but it felt like an eternity because I had been waiting so long for it. In a time when I was feeling very low, Jeff appeared to me to cheer me up, and reassure me that he was okay.

There are many things that Jeff could have meant by appearing to me. I told this to his dad, Rich, and he offered the idea that he was coming to me to tell me that he was doing well upstairs, that his spirit was living on and he was watching over me, all of us. I also believe he showed up to remind me that there are more important things than petty differences among friends. That what is genuinely important above all else is life.

I truly feel that Jeff was appearing to me when I needed him most, giving me perspective. He always had a way of doing that during his life, and I’m getting the feeling now that he will continue that in his afterlife.

I’ll tell you one thing, I am just so thankful for receiving that hug. And I will never forget it. Thanks for being there, buddy. It was worth the wait.

-AB

On a Scale of ‘1 to Jeff Klein’

9 May

Dear Jeff,

I can’t believe it’s already been six months. It’s been sad, weird, tough, every emotion you can think of, but the support system that all of your friends have created for each other has been truly amazing.

As I wrote this, I was trying to remember when exactly you and I became such good friends. While I knew you through the basketball-cheerleading camaraderie, I tried to pinpoint when you, Julie and I started hanging out virtually every weekend. Honestly, I have no idea. Because I can’t remember ever not being friends with you. Was it four summers ago? Maybe—but the innumerable good times we shared in that time makes it feel like years and years longer than that.

One of my favorites from 'Classic Michaels'

When I lived in Boston for a year after college, I’m really, really happy we stayed in touch. When I would sit in my office from 9-5 every day at MIT, I looked forward to our almost-daily G-chat sessions. Remember that one day we literally talked the entire workday? About high school, middle school, basketball (obviously)…everything. It was in that very office I read your ‘Talkin’ Sports’ blog for the first time and was so impressed by your way with words. (I write for a living, and I’m pretty sure you were using vocabulary that I didn’t even know.) Whenever we talked, I cracked up at every other thing you said. (Which you already knew—in person you made me laugh hysterically, but even over the computer I was sure to let you know I was laughing behind the screen. You usually didn’t even mean to be funny, but that was the best part—your sharp, smart and organic wit always had me in stitches.)

I remember one time I was in my room in Boston getting ready for work at 7am when I got a BBM from you. It was the morning you missed your flight home from Duke. Twice. When you delivered that story, even over text, I was cracking up hysterically. Like, OF COURSE you wanted to get a few more hours of partying in at the expense of missing your flight…twice. Your vivacious nature and love for all things fun was contagious, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I wasn’t even there with you and all of your friends, but I remember my day in the MIT secretary office sucking a lot less that usual that day, just because you reminded me how to laugh and make the best of every situation.

You’ve also had some of the best one-liners ever. One of my favorites was when Julie and I left the bar early to go home to my house to make ‘classic nachos.’ You called her cell, but we didn’t hear the phone ring and listened to the message after. “Hey it’s Jeff. Where did you guys go?…Your silence is deafening. Call me back!” It was just SO Jeff Klein—it still gets me every time.

I (kind of) remember one time (okay, maybe a few times) that Julie and I had had a few too many ‘Classic Michaels’ tequila shots. It would be well past 3am, and we’d still be running rampant around the bar. Without fail, you ALWAYS waited for us, just to make sure we got home okay. God, you were such an amazing friend. I hope you know I always knew and appreciated that.

Julie and I feel honored that we're on the other side of your Facebook picture!

Even when you were still here with us, Julie and I always used to talk about what an amazing person you were to everyone. ‘The Full Package’ or ‘A Perfect 10’ we’d say—smart, funny, athletic, handsome, comes from an amazing family, ambitious, fun and completely genuine in every way. It doesn’t get much better than that. You had it all going for you, and I’ll always, always remember you that way. All of our friends agree—it just doesn’t get better than Jeff Klein. Maybe even more so now, Julie and I find ourselves comparing any guy we meet to you. And let me tell you—on a scale of 1 to Jeff Klein, no one has ever come close to measuring up.

I keep the pocket-sized picture that was handed out at your wake on my mirror—the one with you in the blue shirt and red tie that your dad mentioned in one of his posts. I know you’re with all of us every day—your family, your friends, and anyone else whose life you have touched. But it’s a nice reminder to see you every day—it puts a smile on my face because in all the time I’ve known you, I’ve never not seen you smiling, and that’s the image of you that I will always have in my mind. Whenever my a friend from school or abroad, or a cousin comes to visits me they always point to your picture and ask me “who is that?” I love to tell them. Sometimes I have to stop myself from gushing about how that’s my friend who is unfortunately no longer with us (physically speaking, of course), but he was literally the most amazing person ever.

There’s actually a bit of frustration that comes along with that, believe it or not—AB, Julie and I have all expressed it, and I know all of your other friends agree—sure, anyone would call their friend who passed ‘the most amazing person ever.’ But unless someone knew Jeff Klein, they couldn’t possibly know or understand just how true that statement is.

Last week after I wrote the Kleinsaucer post about our amazing times at CST, I was sitting in bed with my TV on and further reminiscing about all of our good times. When out of nowhere, I hear my speakers turn on from across the room. I was sitting on my bed and I just watched the ‘ON’ lights flash blue and say on. But the speakers weren’t anywhere plugged in to my computer as they usually are, because my computer was in my lap, as I was reading other ‘Kleinsaucer’ blog posts from my bed. You picture also sits right next to the left speaker.

I immediately texted AB about it. At first I was a tad freaked out, I’ll admit. But then I was kind of comforted and touched. While your dad shared some pretty amazing stories with us about times you’ve reminded us of your presence (the Meadowlands story BLEW my mind, and I watched Brett’s shot on YouTube—amazing!) I hadn’t experienced anything ‘supernatural’ per se. I felt like that was your way of saying you ‘heard me’ (speakers, metaphor—can’t help it, I was an English major!) and that you missed those times too. Just wanted you to know, I knew it was you, and I wouldn’t trade any of our lazy days or crazy nights together for anything.

…Okay, I retract one of my previous statements. I’ve been to three Knicks game in my whole life, and the Knicks have won every time, and I KNOW that had to do with you. The Knicks-Magic game, which was supposed to be our first game together, was rescheduled for March of this year. Your dad was kind enough to give us the tickets, and let me tell you, it was the most unbelievable sports game I’ve ever attended. I was SO stressed out and on my toes, but I loved every second of it. Thanks for helping the Knicks win in overtime—not that Julie, AB, Ryan and I thought you’d have it any other way, especially on your ‘Official’ Memorial Game. (And thanks for making our Metro North train back to Chappaqua leave a minute late so AB and I wouldn’t miss it and have to hang around Grand Central until midnight on a work night!)

Miss you.

As AB has mentioned in a past post, all of us would give anything in the world to have you back here with us. But if I can think of anything good that has come out of this situation (which I know you would want us all to do,) thank you for reintroducing me to amazing friends I hadn’t seen in a while, like AB and Blake, and giving me the chance to become friends with more amazing, fun-loving people like Ryan, Anish, Elon and Andres. Thao and I keep in touch as well—Julie and I are hoping to meet up with her when we make a trip to D.C. later this month. I’ve been blessed with meeting and staying in touch your wonderful parents, who love you more than you’ll ever know. I also met both of your brothers, who you often spoke so highly of during our many ‘chat and tan’ sessions at CST. My sister had told me in the past that Drew is “such a nice, funny guy, a really good kid,” to which I said, “Well, that makes sense—he’s Jeff’s brother.” This winter, I went with AB and your dad to watch one of Brett’s basketball games—he sure does follow right in his big brother’s footsteps.

Jeff, I miss you every single day. You showed me two of the most important things in life—fun and friendship. I’m so thankful for that. Just so you know, I always have and always will consider myself blessed to have had you as a friend.

-Brooke Sager

Summer CST Days

1 May

Summer conjures up so many wonderful thoughts and memories in my mind. I know it’s only the first day of May, and it isn’t exactly summertime yet. But as the warm weather comes upon us, I can’t help but smile. Yeah, the sun is great and all, but mostly, the warm days and nights makes me think of some of the best times I’ve shared with Jeff.

Jeff and I lived a couple of streets away from each other in Chappaqua, which worked out quite well for the both of us. We often carpooled to and from Michael’s Tavern on weekend nights. We also had another favorite summer hot spot which we shared together—the infamous CST. A.k.a, Chappaqua Swim and Tennis.

I spent two long summers job hunting, thanks to the not-so-wonderful economy. I often took 4 hour breaks to lay out at CST and get my tan on. Jeff knew this about me and was almost always up for joining me on the days he wasn’t working. I’d be poolside in the same lawn chair I always sat in, the one right in front of the snack bar, because it got the most sun for the longest amount of time. I’d often get texts from Jeff, saying things like, “Brooke! It’s a perfect 10 outside, I know you’re at CST right now!” Or on rainy days, I’d be at home and my phone would buzz to a, “Good luck tanning in this weather…” Whatever it was, I was always happy to hear from Jeff.

On the days it WAS sunny, Jeff always made me so jealous, because no matter how many hours I laid in the sun, he was always about six to eight shades tanner than I was. I’d jokingly complain about it every time he joined me at the pool.

“Jeff, it’s so unfair how tan you are!”

He laughs. “You’re tan too! But yeah, I mean, I’m Greek.”

On days we couldn’t stand the heat, we’d jump into the pool and toss the basketball around in the lap lanes. Jeff and I would be laughing, reminiscing and sharing ‘egregious’ stories from the weekend before. He would shoot the basketball at the hoop without a thought, making every single shot flawlessly, just like he did on the court. (Not like this surprised me.) Of course, every time he did, I’d cheer, “Jeff! Klein! LET’S GO!’ just like I had back in my HGHS cheerleading days when I rooted for him on the sidelines.

When it was my turn to shoot, I’d concentrate really hard before making a shot and shout “Go Quakers!” and about 9 times out of 10, it would bounce off the rim.

“I should probably stick to cheerleading, huh?”

He would laugh and tell me I was doing fine, despite my numerous air balls. Jeff was too nice to even playfully make fun of me. It was one of 928347239 why I adored him and his company…and why I still do, and always will.

After cooling off and playing some basketball, we’d bask in the sun some more. Once the sun sadly started to go down, we’d pack up and part our separate ways for a few hours at our respective gyms. I’d head  to PFX, and Jeff would head to Club Fit to play racquetball with all of the guys.

But it was fine, because we knew we’d be reconvening in a few hours, anyway.

“Enjoy the gym—call me before you head to Michael’s.”

“Of course!” I’d answer. “See you later!” And I’d be looking forward to it the entire time on the treadmill.

Every weekend over the summer, that’s how it went…and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Brooke and Jeff having a 'Classic Michaels' night.

I’ve belonged to CST for about 17 years now, maybe even longer. I spent my entire childhood there. I was on the swimming, diving and tennis teams there. (No kidding, friends!) I’ve been there dawn to dusk, relaxing and tanning for more days that I can count. But hands down, some of my best memories there have been with Jeff. When Mr. Klein told me back in November how Jeff used to go home and talk about how much fun he had hanging out at CST with me, I was beyond touched and so happy to hear that Jeff loved and cherished those times as much as I did.

I am excited for CST to open again in a few weeks, mostly because winter has made me a light shade of Casper, and I can’t wait to finally get ‘Jeff Klein Tan’ (or at least try.) My summers won’t ever be the same again without Jeff, from basking in the sun, to laughing, to sharing stories, to pool basketball, to a ‘classic Michaels night’ later on, all with Jeff. But any time I take part in any of those activities in the summer to come, I’ll always think of Jeff and the wonderful, amazing memories we’ve shared that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

-Brooke Sager

P.S.- NOW HIRING: Need a coach to help me work on my pool basketball layup. I want to perfect it, just for Jeff.