Thursday, October 20, 2005

What the Years Do

I have been in a pensive mood for the last two days after googling old classmates and seeing: "Police turn to public to learn woman's whereabouts... In January 2002, a state district judge in Santa Fe issued an order granting Ava Sandrock, now 37, a legal name change to the one-word name...".

Further investigation turned up this webpage and the following story:

"TAOS, N.M. -- A body found in the Rio Grande just south of the gorge bridge is that of a missing Santa Fe woman.

State police say the state Office of the Medical Investigator today identified the body of a 37-year-old woman who went by the single name Naia.

Her body was spotted by rafters on Saturday and recovered from an area about two miles south of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge on Monday.

Naia had not been seen since her car was found at the rest area near the bridge February 23rd. She was officially reported missing on February 27th -- under her birth name of Ava Lauren Sandrock.

State police say the preliminary cause of death is blunt force trauma. However, they don't speculate how she sustained the fatal injury.

The bridge -- 650 feet above the Rio Grande -- has a reputation as site for accidental deaths, suicides and serious accidents."

If you hadn't guessed, I knew Ava at Occidental. We dated for about 2 weeks in our first month in school. When meeting me, and learning I was from Hawai'i, she told me that she had dated a boy in Hawai'i named Danny Ocean. Small world, Danny went to neighboring Punahou School and we saw each other regularly for a while at Sunday School at Temple Emanu-El. He had his bar mitzvah reception at Sea Life Park. He was older, and I wasn't invited. I went out once with his younger sister Karen. I think we saw the movie Chariots of Fire together at the Cinerama Theater on King Street. Funny, what we remember.

Anyway, Ava and I were only an item for a couple of weeks. But we still hung out in similar circles. She played the role of The Paramour in the freshman production of Everyman, starring Dawson Nichols. I had the minor role of The Debtor, who is sent off to prison by Everyman, while his Paramour watches. [Just added, June 7, 2007, Ava's picture from the Occidental Lookbook 1985, the pre-MySpace, pre-Facebook, print medium that gathered all the pictures of all the new students between two covers.]

Ava left Oxy either during or after our sophomore year. I cannot recall any real interaction with her after October 1985 (it was twenty years ago today...), but I'm sure we still crossed paths, exchanged pleasantries, etc. I remember sitting at a table in Clancy's (the Oxy dining hall) with her and five or six others, everyone talking about going to the Grateful Dead show the night before. I was the only one who had not gone, and felt out of place as each person at the table rattled through the cornucopia of mind-altering substances they each had ingested the night before.

So clearly, Ava was not someone who I had been close to, other than those first few weeks as a freshman. But those who know me, know that I connect with people, and hold on to their memories like scrapbooks. It is always interesting to see where we end up. I mean, 20 years ago I could never have imagined living in New York City, working in Human Resources for a Collection Agency, being happily married with kids. Most 18 year olds don't think in those terms.

Anyway, Ava Lauren Sandrock died late last winter in Taos, apparently commiting suicide by jumping off a bridge into the Rio Grande River. Why does this disturb me so? I guess that's a loaded question. The act itself is disturbing to anyone. The fact that I knew the person once makes it that much harder for me to fathom.

I have had the fortune (I won't say good or bad) of being distanced from death. I have only attended two funerals in my life, both in-laws, Melanie's grandmother Sadie and her Great Aunt Pauline. For a 38-year old to say that illustrates that I have not seen death up close, seen Death take soneone close from me. My paternal and maternal grandparents have all passed on, but I was not able to attend their funerals. Perhaps this is why, when someone I once knew has died, I am stirred.

I look at the digitized rendering of Naia Naia, the woman formerly known as Ava Lauren Sandrock. That photo is the only marker I have of a blip in my life. Two weeks is a very short time, but it still represents a fragment of my time on earth. I look at the photo. I can see the faint impression of the young woman I knew who, I just remembered, was the person who went with me to Eagle Rock Plaza to get my left ear pierced. It was her idea for me to do it. I figured, why not, I'm in college, I can do what I want.

I touch my ear and squeeze. I can feel the scar tissue from the piercing still under the skin. A faint hole remains. It is barely noticeable, but I know it's there. It will be with me always.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Bill. That's very, very sad.

Anonymous said...

This is weird. I met Ava the same day I met you, Bill, your first week at Oxy. She and I were together on and off for about seven years after those two weeks you mention. She called me a few years ago and told me she was dying of cancer, then goodbye and I knew somehow that that was it. I think that was in 2002. Got the nudge from The Force to google her name, and found your blog. It sort of makes sense, she was never very happy here on Earth. Weird that you and I would think of her at so nearly the same times twenty years later, and that I would have met the two of you the same day. I still see the stage manager from Everyman, Cindy Wolf from time to time. Also occasionally cross paths with Cathie Allen. Be well,

Ted Fairbanks

Anonymous said...

I knew an Ava Sandrock way back in the late 1980s in Santa Cruz. She lived in a house with about eight other women.

She was beautiful but I got turned off when she said they were all sleeping with each other in addition to the guys they randomly hung out with. That was it for me.

She seemed like a nice person who was somewhat directionless and/or in limbo. Easy to do in Santa Cruz.

Anonymous said...

I posted the previous comment.

This is weird, Ted is right. "The Force" nudged me to google her name also and boom, here we are.

Sorry to hear that she remained so unhappy and purposeless. Such a beautiful woman. I was expecting to discover a webpage with her achivements, husband, kids, etc.

How could someone be so memorable to different folks for so long yet still not find a place with someone to call home?

Let's make the best of the rest of our lives.


Tattoosday said...

Additional report online:

March 20, 2005
State Police hired local rafting guides from Los Rios River Runners helped retrieve the body of Naia (Ava Lauren Sandrock), 37, a Santa Fe woman who had been missing since February 23, 2005, when her car was found at the Rio Grande Gorge rest area. Her body was found jammed on a rock in the middle of the river just south of the bridge by the rafting guides March 19th while leading a tour down the river. The rafting party stopped and secured the body to the shore before continuing down the river and reporting the find once they reached their takeout point in Pilar. The river company had been called to retrieve so many bodies in the gorge recently, that they couldn’t find any volunteers to help police retrieve Naia. The Taos Volunteer Fire Department also assisted in the retrieval.

Anonymous said...

Strange how the world works ... Today is my birthday and, feeling nostalgic, I googled Ava's name. And found this. I knew her in 9th grade when she was just a wacky theatre girl in her "Rude Girl" shirt spending the summer living with her grandparents in the valley. I found myself thinking about her lately as Prince has been doing some concerts and I remembered her love of Prince. Makes sense that she too would change her name to a single word. Even more strange is your mention of Danny Oschin (not Ocean) who I met a few years after meeting Ava --- Up until today, I had no idea that they knew each other. Small strange world.

Thank you for posting this. I don't know if I would have had any info if it wasn't for you. Let's hope she found peace in a better place. xoxo

evi said...

i just stumbled across this blog, and am very sad to hear this report of ava's death.

i knew ava from drama camp, 4 years of friendship. i visited her, she visited me (since she lived in the bay area and i in la).

when she went to oxy - with my best friend from high school, cindy wolf - i saw her a few times. i remember sleeping out on the quad one night for some kind of sit-in type thing.

lost track of her in the late 80s, but have thought of her many many times. i'm so sad to hear that she ended her life this way.