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DOG DAYS —for K.M.
The voicemail asked me to give her an hour before calling back, to give her time to get the blood off the floor, off the walls. And I did; I gave her the hour, a long hour, and when we did talk, it was about crows, single crows on her drive west, not about her murder class or her lungs, just crows out west and her dog Ninja, who was now sedated, stitches in the ear she’d snagged on a briar, the wound dripping hot red dots on the floor, splashing the wall with each shake of her head. At last, the dog asleep, we talked and talked as she swabbed the floor and rinsed the rags, the gray water pinking. She had returned from the west with an empty journal, a pile of onesies for future babies, and the uneasy notion that the story might be on a trip of its own.
“Katherine was the best listener I ever knew. And she observed and thought about everything intensely. I only had about a dozen or so visits with her and Greg over the past several years, but it seems now like a lifetime of friendship.
She inspired me greatly–and will continue to do so–for the rest of my life.”
– Cedric N. Chatterley
by Chad Michael Lange
I have memories of Katherine Min walking through secluded, often muddy, paths at The MacDowell Colony wearing a long, supple ermine-colored coat. (I could never muster the courage to ask if the fur was fake or scalped from one of the small woodland animals that scuttled around the residency.) You can’t imagine how dazzling she was, and how completely in her element. You might have thought Katherine was on her way to an experimental outdoor ballet or running late to teach a master class on espionage. Neither of these scenarios would be true, or at least I don’t believe so. With Katherine, anything was possible. More than likely, she was going to her studio. Like the rest of us, Katherine came to MacDowell for a brief, glorious escape, and she was focused on finishing Secondhand World, her first novel.
I spent March and April of both 2004 and 2005 at MacDowell, and Katherine was there both years. At the time, she and her family lived in Plymouth, New Hampshire, which was less than a two-hour drive from MacDowell. The evolution of our relationship evades me. When I reflect on my time at MacDowell, Katherine was always there, and we were usually not far from each other. The two of us ate dinner together, tromped through the woods, and spent endless hours discussing writing, music, love, and Gael Garcia Bernal.
Relationships at MacDowell develop with steroidal intensity. It remains the best place I’ve ever been. The residency offers artists a creative space, but more importantly it also gives us permission to shut the door on the distracting outside world. When you’re at MacDowell, you have time to completely focus on your craft. It’s an intellectual orgasm for artists; it’s so dreamy it should really be illegal. You form fast, meaningful bonds with the other artists. Sexy times can ensue. Marriages can collapse, and lifelong loves of all types can solidify after only a few days.
I was attracted to Katherine because she was compassionate, intelligent, and always open to new experiences. She understood me on a fundamental level. I respected the way she lived life on her own terms, without apologies and without care for what others thought. She was out of place in Plymouth, I felt, and I grew up feeling like an odd, queer duck in Peoria, Illinois. It was inevitable that such liberal, displaced hooligans would form a friendship.
Katherine was a lesson in perseverance. Secondhand World might have been her first published novel, but it was the third novel she wrote. Her first two books weren’t published, but she kept writing. That’s what all writers do, but Katherine was particularly dedicated to her craft. She was extremely influential in my own artistic development, and the most memorable reading I ever gave was with Katherine in the MacDowell library.
In 2006, Katherine visited me in San Francisco. Secondhand World had been published, and she gave a reading at Stacey’s, a now-defunct bookstore in San Francisco’s financial district. I gathered a small army of friends to come and support her. Most of them bought her book and told me later how much they loved it. I plan to reread Secondhand World soon. I read it when it was first published thirteen years ago, but the characters, narrative, and images are still present with me. She created a devastating, contemplative novel, and I was grateful that she came through my city on her tour. She stayed with me, and I have a vivid memory of eating French pastries with her while sitting on a bench at the top of Lafayette Park. We watched the documentary Grey Gardens on that same trip. During the scenes when racoons were invading the Beale house, Katherine turned to me and said, “If I ever end up like that, I want you to shoot me.” We took a vow right then to rescue each other if we ever became troglodytic misfits, but we both expressed how much we admired Big and Little Edie for their eccentric individuality—and for the love they shared.
The last time I saw Katherine was in March, 2008. She had moved to Asheville, North Carolina, to teach creative writing. I had a four-week residency at The Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap, Georgia (the same county where the movie Deliverance was filmed). We spent the day walking through the woods, eating questionable Chinese food in the nearest small town, and updating each other about our lives. We were both going through transitions then. Katherine, a divorce. Me, the reality that my tenure of surfing writing residencies needed to end soon and that I’d have to do the one thing serious artists hate the most: get a stable job. When Katherine drove back home the next morning, we made promises to see each other. I’d come visit Asheville, a town I’ve always wanted to see. She’d return to SF as soon as she could. After Hambidge, we talked on the phone occasionally, but the promised reunions never materialized. I thought I’d have all the time in the world to visit my friend, but as I get older, I’m learning that all the time in the world isn’t very much time at all. And that time can slip away and completely disappear so quickly.
I only remember Katherine calling me “Chad” a handful of times. She usually called me by variations of my first name (“Chadalicious”) or by an imagined familial relationship (“my gay brother”). I christened her “Sis.” I don’t have a sister, but if I did, I’d want her to be just like Katherine Min: resolute in her beliefs, able to find humor and irony in the midst of life’s biggest shitstorms. Compassionate and fiercely loyal to those she loved. Most of all, I’d give anything for her to whisper “Chadalicious” one more time, close to my ear, so only I can hear.
– Chad M. Lange
“When Kathie and I were just becoming friends, Phil and I went over to her place for drinks. I remember being so excited to find a kindred spirit in the small town of Plymouth where I’d recently moved. But what I remember most about that evening was Kayla and Kathie together. Kayla was young—probably middle school? And Kathie invited her to the table where we adults were hanging out. And Kayla sat with us and laughed and talked and ate cheese and crackers. And I remember thinking that someday I would like to have a daughter and share with her the kind of friendship and respect and adoration that I saw between K and K. And now I have a daughter. And we do. And among all the things I’m grateful to Kathie for, showing me that early and really moving portrait of motherhood is way up there on the list. It was beautiful to share Secondhand World with Ruby recently, and remember that night.”
– Robin DeRosa
– Lauren Acampora
“I had the priviledge of meeting Katherine when Clay was studying in Granada. I still feel grateful for having met such a wonderful family. Kayla was also visitting and we all had a night picnic in the park and some beers in a close cafe. I remember walking there talking to Katherine and she was so kind to me that I felt I was next to a very close and dear friend. I treasure the memory of that night in a very special place in my heart, between all the beautiful people I´ve ever had the chance to meet. She was wearing my teenage denim jacket, which fit her much better than me. Kayla and Clay laughed until they cried recalling the anecdotes their mother had told them about their births. I never commented this with my friend but while we were walking, I told Katherine that meeting Clay had been a gift for me as he showed me that good people exist and that he had to be such a good person as a heritage from his family. I am sure Kayla and Clay will always find something in themselves from the Family Min that will keep Katherine with us forever.”
“As someone who has known Gregory since he was in grade school, when he brought Katherine to meet us in Palm Desert CA in 2011, we both knew that he had met his “Soulmate”. Also, seeing them together in Asheville during the following years confirmed this. We feel fortunate we’ve gotten to know Katherine and will miss her dearly.”
– Mike and Mary Ann McNerney
“I met her briefly at MacDowell. It was my first residency and I was intimidated as hell. She made fun of me for being such a book worm, and she did it so sweetly that I felt included by the cool kid on the block. I never saw her again, but we shared many friends and I have been reading her posts, and being changed by them, ever since.”
If you have a memory of Katherine you’d like to share, please send it to us. We’ll post it here to help celebrate her life.