Detroit skyline from Belle Isle Park

In Memoriam: Anastacia Campbell

We lay in the giant bed on our backs, our heads touching, bodies extending out like a large letter A. Our epic Christmas Day adventure inside the abandoned Six Flags in New Orleans had just ended, and we celebrated with too many drinks at the hotel bar. Our love was never anything other than platonic, and it never felt more tangible than it did in that instant. “Thank you for this, Stace. I am never going to forget this.”

Her hand actually left her phone for a second and she gripped my wrist tightly. “Thank you a thousand times over. You don’t know what you saved me from, but just know that I couldn’t be happier than I am right here, right now, and right with you.”

Stacy Campbell and Adam Avitable in New Orleans

Anastacia Lyn Campbell was a dynamic, funny, dark, twisted, brilliant, beautiful soul. Her loss was devastating. I didn’t just lose a friend I originally met on the Internet. She was Jurgen Nation, and Indie Ink, and Cry Laff posts, and Coke Kitty, and Stacy Effing Campbell. She was bigger than life. She was too big for life.

When her family asked me to preside over the funeral service, I was deeply honored and completely terrified. Already feeling the shadow of guilt that I had let her down in some way, I didn’t want this to be a further failure on my part. But I knew I had to do it. For her, for me, for all of us who loved her.

The service was standing room only, filled with mourning family, friends and coworkers, but there was an entire world of people who couldn’t attend. Her family from MamaPop, people whose lives she’d touched, andfriends and strangers alike who felt the same loss we did. I tried my best to include them by setting up my phone to stream the service live on Periscope, which I’ve now embedded here for you. (Since the video was just a video of the ceiling above my podium, I used the audio with a photo slideshow so you don’t have to just stare at the top of my head the whole time.)

Stacy’s death brought me in contact with the other important friends in her life, and it’s bittersweet to have made friends with such amazing people in the wake of such a shattering event. My friendships with Stephanie, Krystyna, and Tom are going to last a lifetime. Not just because Stacy was the tie that binds us, but because her varied and hidden friendships were all puzzle pieces for the same puzzle. We all fit.

I loved Detroit and hated why I was there. I met amazing people, saw a beautiful city, and experienced a few moments of what it was like to be Stacy. I saw the generosity and love of the world when I was in Detroit, and it was overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and humbling. Sometimes, it’s easy to think that everyone is selfish, petty, materialistic, and hateful, but then you see the reactions of most people during a tragedy, and it helps you realize that generally, humanity is pretty fucking amazing.

Thank you to Grant for your help. Thank you to Chrissie and Pat for your amazing hospitality and opening up your home to me as if I was your son. Thank you to Gail and Terry and Jamie and Eric for allowing me to be a part of Stacy’s family without hesitation. Thank you to Racheal for showing amazing strength and character at such a young age. Thank you to my friends for all of the love and support they showed – I got literally hundreds of messages and don’t want to leave anyone out, but you all know who you are. Thank you to Amy for answering the phone even if you thought it might be a butt dial. And thank you to the SFC for making my last night in Detroit a beautiful one.

Detroit as the sun sets

Stacy Effing Campbell's Sick Fucks Club

Stephanie Hume at Belle Isle Park

Adam Avitable and Krystyna Silvi

Anastacia's Sick Fucks Club aka The Big Chill 2015 aka why won't anyone dance with us aka where's the fucking booze? #ripcokekitteh #anastaciacampbell #stacycampbell #effcamms #noweddingsandafuneral

Jameson shots for Stacy Effing Campbell

Finally, if you’ve read this far and you’re interested, I’ve pasted the original version of eulogy I wrote, which varied slightly when it was live:

Stacy would have hated this.

Traditions, rituals, events borne out times past for no reason but the sake of doing something – she didn’t believe in that.

But this isn’t for her. This is for us. This is to remember and cherish the moments we had with someone who burned so brightly that she touched hundreds, if not thousands of people with her spirit.

A eulogy is supposed to be a recap of sorts. A summary of the life of the one we’ve lost. But not this one. Stacy was, is and will always be so much more than facts and dates and jobs and places.

Stacy was a sunrise shining through the leaves, painting the world with a yellow hue.
She was a hidden smile passed between secret lovers sitting across a room.
She was a world teeming with life, living microscopically on the tip of a blade of grass.

There isn’t a person here who doesn’t have a piece of themselves missing right now. Stacy did more than enter our lives. She joined with us in such a way that she became a part of who we were, forever. That hole in our hearts that burns and twists inside us right now may heal with time, but right now it hurts more than anything we can imagine.

Stacy never cared about where we lived, what we did for a living, what mundanities made up our lives. She wanted more. Who are you? What makes you jump for joy? What scares you in the inky blackness of night? What song sends your heart pounding and your adrenaline firing? Why are you who you are?

I never had small talk with Stacy. Like her, my conversations were all bigger than life itself. We made big plans, went on life-changing adventures, and bonded in a way that was special and singular and us, and then she did that with everyone. That’s who she was.

If everyone in the world was going right, Stacy would go left. “Do Not Enter” meant “Don’t Get Caught”. For her, it was all about the experience. Her pain and her darkness were kept at bay when she was harnessing the world, soaking in life, absorbing the beauty surrounding her. She regularly withdrew into herself but always emerged, recharged and burning with her dreams.

Most, if not all, of us knew about Stacy’s bucket list. I saw it like a movie – maybe the greatest movie ever made. Adventure after adventure, elaborate set piece after set piece, and a fantastic soundtrack, and once the movie ended, it would all be over. She made no secret about her desire not to make any more movies once this one was done.

But I thought I had more time before the credits came. I should have known. Of course. I should have known that Stacy would choose to walk out in the middle of the movie. Because that was her way.

I loved Anastacia. I loved her like a soulmate, like a sister, like a friend, like I love myself on those good days. We talked about hunting ghosts in the fall, packing our lives up and moving to Australia when we were 40, exploring the catacombs in France, and a thousand other adventures on the horizon. She wasn’t just a person, or a friend, or someone I loved. She was a spectre of fantasy, the spirit of excitement, and the embodiment of living life as if each day will truly be your last.

I know that I said this was for us, not for her. But now I want to talk to Stacy directly, and I think I’ll be saying something that will resonate with many of us:

Stacy, I was overwhelmed with rage when I heard the news. I’ve never been angrier at anyone as I was at you on Wednesday night. You are so loved and appreciated by so many people, and I wonder if you only knew, would that have changed things? If you could read all the amazing words written by the people who you inspired, could that have kept the darkness from winning?

Of course not. You’re Anastacia Effing Campbell.

You were in control. You walk where paths have not existed, you drift through dreams ethereally, and you will live on inside each of us forever.

The one thing that you lacked – the hole that could not be filled – was peace. You moved constantly upwards and onwards to quell that missing aspect of your soul. And now, after all of these years, after all the pain, I hope that you are truly, finally at peace.

We love you, Stacy Campbell. You are important, and we will celebrate you in ways that you would be proud. We will take the roads untraveled, climb the barricades in our way, observe and truly notice the beauty that surrounds us, and appreciate the gifts we have. We will live in ways that scare us and push us and challenge us, and we will do it for you.

And finally, if you’ve read this far, I’ll share one last image. One that, above all else, represents Stacy. She was dark and twisted and evil and hilarious and amazing and wonderful, all bundled into one stunningly beautiful package, and her sense of humor had a morbidity and a darkness that rivaled my own. That’s why I know I can post this here and say with complete certainty that not only would she have loved this and laughed until she peed, she would have expected nothing less from me or anyone who loved her and knew her as well as her closest friends did:

Irony and Stacy Campbell

I love you, Stacy. Even in death, you provided me with an adventure and new people to love. You will always be missed.


When someone you love dies, writers write. This is for Stacy.

Stacy Campbell

amidst the broken chair and the fuck yous
dying  against the hard concrete block walls,
another memory surfaces from another of our
twisted story telling sessions.

not normal was our normal,
death was our life,
our frankness would be frankly

“I’m going to go the way of The Greats,” you’d say
deadpan with no sense of irony and I’d file that
away in the folder marked
“Things To Talk About Soon”.

the list was my(our) lifeline,
finishing it would be the right
time to talk about all of the reasons why
you were wrong. So

why did you leave entries
empty? Unchecked boxes on your list
means you have to still be here.
You have to

we have to explore the
catacombs and travel the world
just talk. Again.

Stacy Campbell

Anastacia Campbell at Six Flags New Orleans

Happy Stacy

Anastacia Campbell the photographer

Adam Avitable and Anastacia Campbell

Stacy Campbell

Adam and Stacy NOLA




Married For Forty Years: My Parents The Unicorns

Robyn and Jim Avitable, today and 40 years ago

Why do you build me up buttercup, baby
Just to let me down and mess me around
And then worst of all you never call, baby
When you say you will but I love you still
I need you more than anyone, darlin’
You know that I have from the start
So build me up buttercup, don’t break my heart

Forty years ago, my 21-year old mother and my 23-year old father stood awkwardly in front of a Catholic priest, nervous and anxious, eager with anticipation, and declared their love for each other. Two children (practically) committed to each other, unaware of what the future could hold, with no guarantees except the potential each of them saw in the other’s hearts.

And here they are today. Happy, successful, and retired, they live a good life – a life they deserve, a perfectly balanced relationship gyroscope. Their complaints are minor and superficial, nothing more than a familiar patter that’s been rehearsed for decades. My parents are, above all else, still madly in love (maybe even more so now that they don’t have any of us around).

The lessons they’ve taught and the examples they’ve set are almost incalculable. My father’s respect for my mother is quiet and unspoken yet clear and heroic. The matriarchal role my mother steps into effortlessly is gracious and benevolent, filled with mutual love. Together they demonstrate what a marriage is supposed to be. How to roll the dice and walk away a winner. That when you make the right choice, and you listen to your heart and mind, love isn’t a gamble at all.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. I love you.

waiting room at Total Zen Float in Casselberry, FL

Alone with my thoughts for the first time: my experience with sensory deprivation

Pulling into the parking lot at the address for Total Zen Float in Casselberry, I looked at the unassuming, if not mildly frightening exterior and thought, “Well, I’ll probably wake up without my kidneys, but let’s give it a shot.”

The creepy entrance to Total Zen Float in Casselberry

There’s a place a man goes to relax or wake up without his kidneys – you decide.

The concept of using sensory deprivation chambers has been around for almost fifty years. I didn’t look into the history of it in the slightest, but I can only imagine that it was invented by Helen Keller as a method to help her friends understand her world before she killed Hitler in 1972 with a hoverboard.

It’s been a fun summer, filled with stress, anxiety, and plenty of misuses of the word “fun”, so when I heard about the potential benefits of these isolation tanks, I was intrigued. Filled with a layer of water and a touch less salt than the popcorn you find in a dive bar, the tubs allow you to float effortlessly with no light or sound, helping with back pain, reducing blood pressure, relieving anxiety and stress, improving blood flow, boosting your thinking process, and giving you super robot powers. Or so they say.

The waiting room of the unassuming Total Zen Float in Casselberry, Florida

The waiting room didn’t appear to be a nefarious kidney-stealing waiting room . . .

The staff was genuinely friendly in a hippy-but-not-one-of-those-hippies-you-hate way, dispensing a warm albeit unexpected hug before leaving me to my own devices. After stripping down, showering to remove all natural body oils, and taking about thirty selfies, I climbed into a tank in such a way that I’m sure didn’t look at all like a fat monkey about to go on a water slide.

I pulled the lid shut, turned the light off, and prepared for transcendence. Laying back, relaxing my neck, resting with my arms above my head (as I was told to do because “something something lymph nodes”), I stared into the blackness, waiting.

And almost instantly saw a glow of light around the seam of the tank, coming from the supposedly empty room. “You motherfuckers aren’t getting my kidneys!” I said and threw the lid up in triumph. Luckily for me, the room was empty, with my muted phone’s glow being the culprit. Luckily for them, nobody was there to watch me throw open the lid of the tank like a creepy fat baby exploding from a robot womb. In retrospect, that was also luckily for me.

The sensory attenuation tank at Total Zen Float in Casselberry, FL

In a horror movie, this would never end well.

As someone who’s claustrophobic, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to handle being in the tank for ninety minutes, but once the light is out, you have no real sense of space, and it’s not at all disconcerting. If you’re scared of the dark, though, you’re fucked (and probably six years old).

It didn’t take too long to start feeling like you couldn’t tell where your body ended and the water beg-oops, my hand bumped the edge of the tub.

It didn’t take too long to start feeling like you couldn’t tell where your body ended and the-fuck, my foot just hit the side.

It didn’t take too long to start feeling like-goddamnit why do I keep hitting the sides of the tub?


Finally, I figured out the best way to lay so that my feet and hands stayed free of the borders of the tub. In the future, a tank that is designed for a broad-shouldered, tall-ish person would be better, but once I was able to get situated properly, I relaxed.

I was terrified of being alone with my thoughts. Like many of you, I can’t sleep at night unless I go to bed utterly exhausted, drunk, or medicated. Otherwise, my thoughts surround me, jabbing at me with tiny pointy sticks – the future, responsibilities, people who count on me, life, bills, money, loneliness, expectations, failure – they all join in. An hour and a half alone with those evil fuckers would have been hell, but thankfully it wasn’t the case.

I stared into the darkness. I saw lights where there were none. I fell asleep for a while with no sense of how long I slept and no grumpiness when I awoke. Most of all, I felt completely calm and utterly relaxed. I could have laid there all-shit, the light’s on. My session’s over.

Adam Avitable after his session in the isolation tank at Total Zen Float

The naked man baby and his robot womb.

I’ve done yoga naked. I’ve meditated, also naked. I’ve had massages – yeah, naked too. I’ve smoked weed and even ate an edible that almost killed me (and I ended up naked). I’ve walked naked through forests, and I’ve listened to the ocean as I laid naked on the beach in the pitch black. I can tell you that this experience was one of my favorite things to do naked. Well, top 5. Nah, 7.

And if you like to relax, you want to calm your mind and soothe your body, and you’re not a baby who’s afraid of the dark, a session in one of these rest tanks would be perfect for you. The prices are always reasonable, unless you find a place that actually does charge an arm, a leg, and a kidney.

Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I paid for it with hard-earned dollar bills that I found on the bottom of my car that I probably meant to give to a stripper but forgot one night. However, if Total Zen Float wants to give me more free sessions based on this fantastic review of their company, they know how to reach me, contact me, and probably steal my kidneys.

Adam Avitable's mundane moments

My first day of high school: The International Baccalaureate Program

(Originally posted on 8/25/2009. Revised and republished.)

I’m very smart. I may not always exhibit the best common sense, and my emotional maturity level is that of a 19-year old, but when it comes to observing, learning, and applying what I’ve learned, I excel.

I don’t say this to brag. It’s just necessary information for this story.

So. It’s 1989.

There I was, this smart-ass brilliant 12-year old kid, a year younger than everyone else in 8th grade (I would have been two years younger if my parents hadn’t been too damn afraid to put me in kindergarten at 3), discussing high school with my mother. See, there was this brand new, two-year old program at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, four towns over, called the International Baccalaureate program. The Daytona Beach News-Journal, a bastion for terrible reporting and subjective journalism at its worst, had published an article about it, and even though it was part of a huge public school, you had to apply to get into the program itself. I don’t remember what scores they needed – PSAT probably – but attendance was quite limited. It had a different focus on learning than any other program, and unlike AP, it required a full commitment – you couldn’t pick and choose classes if you wanted to get your IB diploma – the diploma that would typically allow you to skip a full semester worth of credits in college.

I was hesitant to attend. Change will always terrify me. My mother, always the influencer and decision maker from the shadows, encouraged me to follow an existing student for a day and see what I thought.

I loved it.

Adam Avitable wearing ridiculous clothes as a teenager

Every time I see this photo, I yell “NERD!” at myself.


My 13th birthday passed, summer started to turn to autumn, and my first day of school in the International Baccalaureate program approached. My bus assignment memorized, I was ready to be on the corner of Knollwood Estates Drive and Hidden Hills Drive at 5:45 AM. (As I was coming from almost 20 miles away, that school district had set up a special bussing system that would pick up kids from all over the various towns at ungodly hours and get them to school by the first class at 7:27 AM).

I stood there, shivering in the August heat. With the exception of a short-lived stint in seventh grade that ended with two bullies, a beating, my ass, and the ground, I had never been to a public school before. This was a huge transition from the security blanket of my private school, with only 11 people in my 8th grade class, people I had been with since first grade. My backpack weighing almost as much as I did, I put my Walkman headphones in, Weird Al blasting loudly, and waited for my bus.

“This will be awesome,” I halfheartedly told myself. “I can’t wait for some of these classes!” Yes, I’m well aware of the extreme level of geekiness in that sentiment. Here’s another tidbit of nerdliciousness for you to chew on. I used to sit at lunch with my friends and we would see who could correctly identify the highest number of elements in the periodical table in order. We would try to stump each other with calculus. I am geek, hear me roar.

In my head, I painted tapestries of grandeur. Our bus would probably have a special banner on the side, declaring our status as the International Baccalaureate kids. We would descend in full view of the student population as a hush went over the crowd. “Those are the smart kids,” someone would whisper while others nodded, trying to bask in our vast intelligence. The teachers would note our eager shining faces and the administrators would know that we were the good kids. The seniors would be impressed by our collective rising star. We would rule this place through intellect alone.

Class of 94 Spruce Creek High School IB

This picture contains a teacher, an engineer, a government official, a doctor, an entrepreneur, and a comedian


I was finally ready. Bring on the first day of school.

In the still of the morning, I heard the hum of a diesel engine over the chords of “Dare to be Stupid”. “This is it,” I straightened my shoulders and awaited my destiny.

As the bus rounded the corner, I knew something had to be wrong. Something had to be horribly, horribly wrong. Was this fate or God or just someone in the school district with a terrible sense of humor?

This was no ordinary bus. But there was no banner – there was no proclamation that there were geniuses on board. Before me was the short bus. A literal short bus. Replete with wheelchair ramp and handicapped symbols, normally used to transport the mentally disadvantaged and physically disabled, my chariot awaited.

The door squealed open. “Yer one of them smart kids, right?” The driver’s voice broke through the dark interior. I heard the sarcasm as it dripped from every inflection.

“Any recognition is better than none,” I thought to myself and boarded with a sigh.

Where Avitable lives.