Remembering Patrick J. Dalton

by: Michael Shields

It is with an extremely broken and heavy heart, that Across the Margin bids farewell to one of its own…

I met Patrick J. Dalton when he participated in an Across The Margin writing workshop entitled: Writing Your Truth. Safe to say I hadn’t met anyone like Patrick at that point in my life, and it’s equally safe to say that I never will again. I’m not sure entirely just why, as common perception wouldn’t pair us together as friends, but we were drawn to each other immediately and we decided promptly that we wanted to work together. For reasons also unbeknownst to me, Patrick trusted me, at once and entirely, with his words, his thoughts and ideas, and the bountiful jaw-dropping stories of his sordid past. In utter contrast to his tough and shrewd facade, Patrick was as warm, generous, and exceedingly kind as they come, and although in the scheme of all things, our time together as friends and collaborators was reasonably brief, the impact he left on my life, and on my worldview, was momentous.

Selfless as anyone I’ve met, Patrick was always equipped with gifts every time we would get together. Discovering I had an obsession with Mos Def, Patrick surprised me one day with a framed print of the incomparable MC clutching his famed, custom-painted red Super 55 Shure mic. After a discussion about the Beastie Boys, Patrick presented me with an illustration of a young Adam Yauch, sitting on a skateboard and looking hard as hell (both hang upon the walls of my office as I write this, and will forevermore). Learning the fact that I hadn’t yet read Louis Maistros’ The Sound of Building Coffins, Patrick, utterly appalled, immediately shared with me his own copy, signed by Maistros of course (that trust thing again…). Our shared fascination with Robert W. Chambers landed me a The King In Yellow T-shirt, which, unquestionably, is the most comfortable I own, and the first shirt I wear out of the laundry.

Patrick’s profound generosity waded far outside the realms of mere materialistic objects. Finding out I was soon to be between homes for a spell, he not only made calls to those in his world that he knew had available space, he extended to me an open invitation to stay in his writing/music studio. “It’s yours,” he said. “As long as you need.” When I shared with him I was going through some tough times personally, he aggressively offered me his ear. “I’m here,” he would say sternly and earnestly. “Use me.”

Patrick proudly defined himself by his fatherhood. “First and foremost, I’m the proud and imperfect father of a six year old boy named Cian,” one of his author bios once read. A self-proclaimed “father of an autistic wonder,” Patrick talked about his son non-stop. His affection was so present in his fiery admonishments of those who came between his son and the care and attention he demanded for Cian. Patrick would have run through a brick wall for his son, and in many ways in fighting for the rights of his autistic son he did that daily. God help anyone who fucked, in any way, with any of Cian’s needs. Patrick’s love and dedication to his son was unmatched, and entirely inspiring.

In May of last year, Patrick accompanied me to my first Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds concert at King’s Theater in Brooklyn. Demanding that I dress for the occasion, “Suits Mike, we’re wearing suits,” he texted me the morning of the concert. Patrick’s uncompromising request was made wholly out of a deep-seated respect for the artist, and at night’s end I was still left wondering who was better dressed that evening, Patrick or the always dapper Cave. While my mind progressively was blown to pieces and my entire being bewitched by the snake charming-esque charisma of Cave and his hypnotic charm, Patrick stood almost hauntingly still the entire show, an immutable ear to ear smile drawn across his face. King’s was Patrick’s temple that evening, and Cave perpetually his preacher. I have never seen Patrick in the short amount of time that I knew him as happy as he was that evening, and never knew that he, ever complicated and reflective, could be so content. That night at King’s Theater, he was altogether at peace, and right where he wanted to be. It was a sight to see.

I became obsessed quickly with Patrick’s writing after the workshop where we met. There was something about it, a certain je ne sai quoi I could never put my finger on. He contributed articles and stories to Across The Margin from time to time, and at every opportunity I would remind him that our door was always open for more. His writing was so raw and stylized in a way I’d yet come upon, and always honest as fuck. He wore it all on his sleeve when he wrote. Every bit of him.

Patrick and I were, sluggishly but assuredly, working on a book together, he in the role of writer and illustrator and I as its editor. The model for the book was Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein, which is telling to just the type of fiendish narrative Patrick had in mind. All of the characters in the story were based on people in Patrick’s life. A grouping of them were friends of Patrick that had passed away, hurt and loss being a steady companion throughout his life. Other characters were based on people Patrick had fallen out with, an opportunity to make amends I always assumed, or to come to grips with fracture in some way. And some of the characters were based on artists that had affected Patrick deeply, Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan, Shane MacGowan, and the aforementioned Nick Cave, to name a few. He was set to put his entire being into this one.

I read the intro to his intended story often, it truly was set to be a beast of a tale. “Tsssssshhh. Tsssssshhh,” it began. “Two paces at a time. The sound of the thick canvas grinding along the stone floor echoed around the two men in the corridor. Well, three if you counted the man of the hour. The quiet one.” With that he was off, continuing to set an eerie stage for the actors of his play to tread upon. Knowing intimately a smattering of Patrick’s other work, this story was assured to be ugly, authentic, and pure torture for all the hapless souls muddled contemporaneously in his wicked narrative. On multiple occasions, while meeting to discuss the project, Patrick would speak of the invisible dark matter underlying galaxies that, together with dark energy, accounted for at least ninety percent of the universe’s total energy and mass. He wanted this knowledge to somehow influence or be a part of the story, although I will admit to never fully comprehending how. But assuredly, there really was a storm brewing.

One day, Patrick showed up to my home, bearing gifts once again. This time what he had in tow was a bottle of Irish Whiskey, Teeling Spirit of Dublin Poitin. “This is the stuff,” he told me. That bottle, as tempting as it was right then and there, wasn’t for consumption that evening, but rather it was to be a symbol for us. That bottle, we decided, would mark the finish line for when we completed our project together. When the book was published, Patrick, that bottle and myself were going to have a raucous night. Since that day that bottle has sat on my desk, staring me down, propelling me and the project forward. I am not sure of the future in store for that bottle, but for now it sits with me, another reminder of Patrick’s mammoth heart, his talents, his spirit, and of the times we shared together that impacted me immensely.

“Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.
Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.”

— “Cassilda’s Song” in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

Rest Patrick, you have most certainly earned it…

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