A tribute to one of my best friends, who died about a year ago this month
This is probably the hardest thing I’ve sat down to try and write, but in the space of moments where you want to do something and don’t know what to do, this felt like something I could do.
Nicholas Quinonez, who most know as “Squid,” was one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. The first word I’d ever associate with him is “loyal.” He was loyal to an absolute fault. One time, in June 2001, we had a keg party that was busted by campus police before the final keg was even started. He took that keg, ran upstairs, and locked himself in the bathroom with it. He wasn’t gonna let those campus cops have it. A stupid definition of loyalty? Perhaps. But everything in life is a series of micro-moments that people perceive as a whole. Squid’s micro-moments, however weird in pockets, were always rooted in loyalty.
I want you to try and understand the man if you never met him, then I want to explain what he meant to me and so many others, and then maybe we can find some lessons in all this. Here goes nothing.
The origin story
Squid and some other kids came through the dorms early freshman year asking if anyone wanted to be in a punk band. He didn’t seem super punk to me: Hispanic kid by way of Texas roots and Southern California upbringing. He did seem unique from the jump.
About three weeks into freshman year, we were at a keg party where they kept playing “Area Codes” as the male hosts would scream the lyrics, often incorrectly. You’ve all probably been to a party like that. “Eight Oh Eight!”
There was some kind of altercation/kerfuffle by the door, and I heard some screaming. I left with some people a few minutes later, and Squid is outside the apartment complex, bloodied face. I kind of knew him from the “Want to be in a punk rock band?” deal, so I asked him if everything was OK. “Stupid yuppies and their party” was what I think he said. I laughed and asked if he and his friends wanted to come to another party with us. They did.
That was the beginning of my friendship with him, although it probably didn’t start to peak until summer 2001. That’s when a bunch of us lived in D.C. together. We had a little concept called “The Superb Six,” (lame in hindsight) which was me, my roommates, and my girlfriend/one of my girlfriend’s roommates. I was 20 that summer. I got arrested for underage purchase of alcohol, spent the night in a holding cell, and fell in love for the first time (then fucked that up). All that said, it was maybe one of the best summers of my life.
A huge reason for that was Squid. He was always there. We estimated once that if there were 85 nights in that summer, we probably hung out 83. He worked 4pm — midnight that summer, but he always around after midnight. If you were at a party that summer, he’d saunter in at 12:07am and everyone, well-lubricated by that point, would scream in joy that he showed up. As you could probably guess, he caught up pretty fast.
We sat together near the end of that summer near the main gates of Georgetown. Things were gonna change, he said. It was going to be junior year. People would be going abroad, it’d be a school year and not the summer, and things would just be different. “I don’t think you and me ever gonna change, Teddy, though,” he said.
When I finally started processing him dying sometime around going to the dog park Sunday, I thought of that moment, probably 16 years ago this August, and I absolutely fucking lost it.
Who he was
I noted the loyalty. I think that’s №1.
Unique. There was absolutely no one like him at Georgetown, whether in fashion sense (bow ties, Colonel Rogers suits) or ability to say anything (he once toasted at a Power Hour to “the designated drivers who decide to get fucked up anyway”).
Intelligent. His political views (and some of his religious) were very different from a lot of the people he hung out with or socially saw. But think about America right now and how divisive it is. It never felt that way with him. Even if you thought he was completely off-base, you still respected the background and context he was bringing to the discussion. I was close friends with him, yes, but I know people who were acquaintances with him and still felt that way.
Funny. Was he weird at times? Yes. We all are, though. Once we were walking to a party in Burleith and he just started doing be-bop. “Shoo bop, shoo be bop.” Soon everyone walking with us was doing it, like some 1950s chorus. These are small moments in your life, but over a decade and a half later, I can still remember them like yesterday. That has to mean something.
A good friend. Isn’t that what matters most of all?
What happens in life
I kept in touch with him, although between 2003 and now, we probably only hung out in real life 4 times. I roomed with him at my 2008 (five-year) reunion. We were sitting at a bar Friday night before stuff got started, and this girl I hooked up with in college walks in with her now-husband. In front of the husband, he goes “Hey didn’t that girl (name of act) you?” So that was a real moment. But the dude was a completely unique original that cared, but still gave no fucks. It’s incredibly rare.
We were in touch a few months back, and had longer discussions in March and April as I was getting divorced. He was always a dude that was there for you. Always.
But for a lot of that time since college, we were 1,200 miles or more apart, and so the IRL wasn’t always there. This is what happens with life sometimes (or all the time). You move for work or try to find your place, and you lose a degree of touch with important people. We never lost that touch, and I’m proud of that, but I wish I had seen him more, especially the last 3–4 years. That will be a regret but I think I can manage that one out eventually.
So did we change? Of course. We all change and life takes over. But I hope, wherever he is and however that works, he knows how much I care about him, respect him, and what his friendship and love meant to me.
You were truly one of a kind, Nicky Joe. I’m going to hopefully be able to channel some of your strength in working through my own challenges. I know you’re always going to be with me in spirit, because isn’t that how this all has to work to keep people’s ethos living on? I think so.
RIP, my man. You touched so many more than you know.