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Dying All Over Again

April 28, 2017

My friend died yesterday. I was the only one who noticed. It happened in the blink of an eye. I was going through the self checkout line at Walmart. I bought some distilled water for my son’s hermit crab, a bottle of Fanta Strawberry soda bottled in a glass bottle in Mexico and made with real sugar, and a can of compressed air.

If I’m at a fast food place, I hate going through the drivethru. Instead, I’ll walk inside where I can talk to a person face-to-face. And yet, at the grocery store I much prefer to use the self-checkout line. I’m not sure how those two situations relate, but I feel they must somehow. But, I was talking about my friend.

As I scanned the compressed air, the screen beeped and announced, “Assistance required.” It took me a minute to realize what the computer was objecting to. And that’s when I remembered by friend was dead.

Compressed air is a controlled substance. You have to be over the age of 18 to buy it. Weird, huh? The back of the can has the following warning.


Contains a bitterant to help discourage inhalant abuse.

The warning actually appears on there twice. The warning is true.

My friend, Clink McKell died several years ago from an overdose. He was younger than me by quite a bit. He was a stand up comedian. I filmed his second to last performance. Comedians are almost always broken people. I used to think that “America’s dad,” Bill Cosby was an exception. Turns out he was one of the most broken of all. When Robin Williams killed himself, my comedy friends were heartbroken and not a single one was surprised. When John Belushi, or Chris Farley died of a drug overdose, my friends in the comedy world said their version of the prayer, “There, but for the grace of God go I.”

As a Salt Lake City comedy family we grieved for Clint. We held a show in his honor where we each told one of his signature jokes. Hacking, or stealing jokes, is one of the most offensive behaviors in comedy. We chose to honor our friend with it. Comics have a weird sense of humor and grief. Even at his funeral, we mixed the pain with laughter. As we stood to one side at the graveside, one comic stated,

Clint was never a hack until he died.

What do you mean?

Overweight comic dies of a drug overdose? It’s been done.

We laughed through our pain. As we each took a turn going past the casket, I dropped a container of ginger into the cement crypt his coffin was about to be lowered into. His nickname was “The Big Ginger.” Later, the family placed it on top of the casket and he was buried with it there.

Clint and I had become close friends. Shortly before he died, the trust had been broken between us. He felt terrible about it and was actively attempting to make amends. We hadn’t gotten totally past it when he died. There were things left to say that will now never be shared. We all move on.

The Walmart employee came to my station and quickly keyed in her override code. Clearly, I was over the age of 18 and wasn’t the type that looked they I’d abuse the canned air. But, for just a moment, I was a troubled ginger-haired comic failing at life and hastening the end of it.

I guess there are some things you never really get over.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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  1. Will Rodgers permalink

    I lost a friend to this last year.
    I had no idea he was using it that way.
    I’d been inviting him out to play Attack wing all the time.
    His Funeral was on the first day of Comic Con last year which we both had tickets for, but I went the other two days without him. We talked about how fun it was going to be, but he has his demons to fight. This time it won.
    Hopefully if someone reads this that is fighting depression, please go hang out with your friends that are trying to be a good part of your life.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Will. It’s hard to know how much to push. We knew that Clint was using. We were all pulling for him and he was active in the comedy scene right up until a couple days before he died.

      I would also hope those struggling with depression would seek out not only friends but professionals. You don’t have to fight the demons alone. And the professionals can give you the tools to beat them.

  2. Chuck permalink

    It is quite interesting that I see this today. I went to Best Buy to have some stuff done and the guy pulled out a can and used it on my phone to cool it off. I told him about Clint. I cried for Clint again tonight.

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