There is nothing like a death of a loved one that slaps you back into the land of the living. My dear friend, Knox McLaney, died last week, and I ain’t been right since. I’m heartbroken, crushed, devastated.
Knox was a master story teller. He and I would sit around the bars in Old Cloverdale in Montgomery, and do everything we could to one-up each other in telling the dirtiest, most salacious, and damn-near unbelievable stories about raising hell or, uh, chasing tail. He’d always win, but I would have a fine time trying to top him!
If I came close to beating him weaving one of my true confessions that would have made Oprah-lying-to- James-Frey look like Ghandi ; Knox would say, “Tang, you are making that shit up!”
I’d look him square in the eye and say, “Maybe, but until the records are unsealed, that is my testimony!”
Knox and I were the odd couple. He was from old Montgomery, and I was this girl who grew up in the projects. I respected the fact that despite his being 20 years older; Knox wasn’t a bigot. I think he respected the fact that I am nobody’s victim. We both spoke the same language: Southern. We both understood that there wasn’t a damn thing better than crumbling up a piece of hoe-cake into some left over collard potlikker. We both understood that you don’t call somebody in the middle of an SEC football game. We both understood that friends, the people you choose to be your family, are sometimes closer to you than your own blood.
For me, Cephas Knox McLaney was the daddy I never had, my wise big brother, my hilarious, bourbon-drinking uncle, and my gossip-loving best friend. I loved Knox hard. I’m taking his death pretty hard. I know when I go back to Montgomery and go into Bud’s his hat won’t be sitting in the chair across the bar. I know I’ll never get to ask him how many damn sticks of butter he used in his world famous barbeque sauce. I know I’ll never be able to hear that crazy laugh of his when I tell him how one of my young sons dropped their britches and took a whiz in the church parking lot. I’ll never hear that slow as Alaga syrup drawl of his again.
I read his obituary online today, and just when I thought I couldn’t shed another tear: a river the size of the Black Warrior came from my heart and sprung out of my eyes. Then I read the first line again “ Knox was a prominent local attorney…” and I started to laugh, inappropriately, out loud. You see, Knox and I used to love when someone from the “Country Club/ Big Money/ Jesus loves me and mine, but not your black/gay/poor ass” clique in Montgomery would keel over dead, and the local paper would describe them as a “ Prominent local doctor/lawyer/businessman. “ Because Knox would have the dirt on the deceased, and he would always say, “If the paper says Prominent local ANY-THING, you know that lying- ass sum bitch paid somebody off!” I know Knox must be laughing his ass off, because he and I both know he could give less than a damn about being prominent in Montgomery. He only cared about being prominent to his children.
Knox McLaney was an amazing father, a generous friend, and an adventurous spirit. Montgomery, Alabama is a better place because Knox McLaney lived a rich and full life there until the day he died. Somewhere out there in the spirit world Knox is drinking a Maker’s Mark, smoking a Winston, and looking Thomas Jefferson square in the eye saying, “Mr. President, you are making that shit up!”
I’m missing him already.