Alarming News

February 23, 2010

Can’t get you off my mind

R.I.P. Michael “Chip” Tripolsky.

It used to be that when I’d tell people I’m from Brooklyn, they’d get a certain image in their minds. This is before Brooklyn became a hotbed of hipsters, bands, artists, and generally an extension of Manhattan. People would picture violence, run-down buildings, mobsters, and everything else they’d see in movies.

I’d correct this image, telling them of prospering immigrant communities, of old-school neighborhoods, of a childhood as idyllic as it would be anywhere. Mostly.

The truth is, I’ve known way too many people who died young. Starting in my teens: Billy, heroin overdose. Omar, accidental self-inflicted gunshot. Dora, always said she would die by 25, drunkenly ran into traffic at 21. And so many others, overdose, overdose, overdose, murdered, overdose, brain aneurysm, car accident, car accident. It happened all the time.

I went to high school with Chip but I can’t say that we were really friends. He was a grade or two behind me in school. Still, it was a tiny school, no more than 150 people, if that, in grades 9-12. And he was Russian, and I was Russian so we had that. I remember him as a teenager, floppy blonde hair, smoking cigarettes out on the driveway with everyone else.

He looked me up on Facebook, maybe last year. I didn’t recognize him at all. He had shaved his head, lived in L.A. and nowhere on his profile did he call himself Chip. It took a few back and forth emails for me to put it together. It’s funny, sometimes you become Facebook friends with someone you were really close to, exchange a few emails to catch up and that’s that. And sometimes you become Facebook friends with someone you don’t know all that well but end up talking to them far more often than you’d think.

Chip and I figured out we had several friends, and a poker habit, in common. He’d tell me about bad beats, and how our mutual friend Phil has owed him 13 dollars for about 20 years now. We discussed hanging out when IC+I went to LA, but never ended up meeting up. When Chip was home in November, we played poker together at another friend’s place, and he gleefully collected his 13 bucks from Phil.

We’d speak from time to time on Facebook and a few nights before my daughter was born he texted me asking if I’d delivered yet. Were we friends? I think then I would’ve said yes. Now I don’t feel like I knew him at all. How does that happy blonde kid from high school update his Facebook status to “bye bye all” and then kill himself?

I’ve thought about him more than I’ve thought of any of the other people I knew who had died young. I’ve never known anyone who killed themselves, it is beyond my comprehension. I feel actual guilt; I didn’t always respond to his chat, I didn’t have his number in my phone so responded to his text with “who is this?” I wasn’t there for him. I know it’s crazy to think that way. I know. I was a ten month pregnant woman, who barely knew him, living on the opposite coast. But I’m still haunted. Why’d he do it? Why? It’s just not enough of an explanation for me that he was depressed, that he was troubled. He was a person with friends, with family. How did he end up so alone?

I’m sorry to depress you all, it always helps me to write about things that are so deeply on my mind. Hope you’re in a better place, Chip, hope there’s less pain there.

Posted by Karol at 07:40 PM |

When young men suicide, there tend not to be any “cries for help” like women have (you must know someone who has gotten found sleeping next to a strewn bottle of pills or cuts their wrist (but not deeply enough to die)). Men just don’t do this. One of the few things they may do (not always) is give away prized possessions to their nearest and dearest. If someone picks this up, sometimes the death is averted.
Men seem hardwired into certain behaviours. Few men ask for directions. Similarly, few men “cry for help” even in the sense of filling in and taking a prescription for citalopram or suchlike.
Know this, Karol. His death is not your fault. His life was his own and he cut it short himself. His isolation was his own choice too. It is very sad that he thought he had nothing to live for, because IMO he was wrong. Think of all the things you can end and bale out of; life should not be one of them. I’m not,however, saying this guy was stupid, because black moods and feelings can take a powerful hold over anyone leading to suicidal (or destructive) thoughts (and actions). Facebook is all very well, but it cannot replace actual friendship. Posting that before doing the deed shows that this was in his mind for quite some time. Only one person could have helped him and stopped his death.
He may be a symbol of a different time for you. Perhaps it is this time you grieve for too. Sorry that I have caught the depressing rambling bug, I hope it helps.

Posted by: bryan at February 23, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Very sad, Karol.

When someone’s depressed, nothing matters to him – not the family, or friends, nobody. There remain no “loved ones”, a person is all alone against his own inability to cope.
And if someone’s depression is chronic, it rolls over him in waves: a month of robust emotional health, energy, sense of purpose, and then gradually life becomes less enticing, desperation sets in and the world is covered in cobwebs.

If he had people close to him and they couldn’t do anything, there was nothing you could.

Posted by: Tatyana at February 23, 2010 at 10:40 pm

you never ever know what is really going on in someone’s life. the amount of friends and family in a person’s life has nothing to do with extreme emotional isolation some people unfortuneately have in their life. very sad.

Posted by: pn at February 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Karol – My name is Elijah and I was close with Michael here in Los Angeles, my hometown. We spent a good amount of time together and in 3 or so years I got to know him well. He was a kind soul with many secrets – part of his pathology was clearly clinical depression mixed with a very crowded psyche about what a “man” should be and a rigid idea of what was acceptable and what was not. There was a combativeness to alternative and non-acceptance of the duality of his nature that seemed to cause great conflict.

His death is haunting on so many levels – but as in many suicides – by the time he took the act – his tunnel-vision (in-abiity to recall any reason to live, family, guilt, potential joy) was complete. I can go on about the endless hours spent talking about his life in Brooklyn (I’ve only visited) and familial, cultural and political dynamic. In the end, the only solace to a senseless act is the gift of helping others. In a better world maybe a person would not have to repress who they are or live under such a rigid set of rules. If it’s any solace to the haunt that this type of death brings – please know that your childhood friend had many folks that cared for him here. I googled his name plus suicide to see if there was an obituary and that is how your blog came up.. Often families will link their loved one with a mental health agency that accepts donations in their name.

Best to you – Elijah MA, BS, BA Los Angeles

Posted by: Elijah at March 1, 2010 at 11:43 pm

[...] written before about the awful history of people dying young in our part of Brooklyn but a young man becoming [...]

Posted by: RIP Zach Ginzburg at July 30, 2012 at 9:42 am

Michael is the 2nd russian person I know to have committed suicide in his 30s.. the first one was my close friend Julia – interestingly her death was also announced on this forum – back in 2006.. but to get back to Michael – Michael contemplated suicide for a long time, although he never said it outloud – looking back I realized that his questions and discussions with me were veiled hints about leaving this world .. I still have an email exchange between us, just a few weeks before he took his life, where he told me he contemplated on moving to China for business but was concerned about leaving his folks in Brooklyn behind and not taken care off… and I answered ‘well China is just a flight away, you can always come visit them around holidays, you can keep in touch on skype.. I couldnt understand why such concern about leaving his mom behind if he is just going to China for business… I now know it wasnt business that he was talking about, he was talking about leaving us, period, and felt guilty about what will happen to his parents – his love for his mom may have been the only reason he put off suicide for as long as he did… RIP Michael, I wish I could have seen through your hints, I wish I could have done something.. RIP

Posted by: Mayya at May 8, 2013 at 12:22 pm
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