I haven't posted on this forum in a decade or so but I felt the need to post this story in honor of Leuvis Olivero. Lu was a father, a son, and a friend to many. To me, he was a brother.
My name is TJ Murray. Lu and I worked together for 4 years at dr1.com. We were two Dominican/Americans in our 20's, living and working in Santo Domingo. It was a New World for both of us but more for me. Lu's parents were both Dominican and he grew up in a Dominican neighborhood in Massachusetts. I, on the other hand, grew up in a white middle class neighborhood in NJ. And although my mother was Dominican, English reigned in our home as my father's Spanish did not stretch further than: yucca, frita and coño. It was comforting to have an American, my age who could understand me in this foreign land. We were on the same team battling the daily trials and tribulations of life in the Dominican Republic.
So many memories: he once called a bald Dominican Mr. Potato Head thinking he didn't speak English. It almost ended in a fist fight. We once smoked weed before having to walk to Plaza Lama (all but 400 meters from my apartment) to buy some ingredients for my girlfriend to prepare dinner. We were gone for 3 hours (an hour of which was spent at the candy aisle) and arrived back to my apartment with half of what we were sent to buy.
We were broke but somehow managed to accomplish our two most important goals: picking up girls and traveling the country. We complained about services. How can the internet company not have internet for me to pay my internet bill? But we never complained about the women or the beauty of the Dominican Republic. We once went to Valle Nuevo (about 8,000 ft above sea level) to camp. The road so horrendous, Lu, and a few friends along for the trip, had to walk sections so my car could manage up the mountain. I forgot the meat in Santo Domingo; there was nothing to cook. Miraculously, a well stocked colmado could be found in the middle of the forest, just down the road. Yes, service can be terrible but the DR never ceases to surprise. As for the women? Well, there's just some things that stay between bros.
Lu was smart. Like real smart. At the time, he could speak 4 languages fluently (English, Spanish, Italian and French). I say "at the time" because he would eventually become fluent in Portuguese too. Christ. He knew about everything that was going on in the DR. He helped write the news at dr1 and read all local papers daily. The corruption bothered him. It bothered me but not like it bothered Lu. His bother came from a deeper place - an ethical place deep within him that defined right and wrong. He challenged me with ethical questions. He made me think.
In 2010 we both left dr1. We had spent the better part of the previous 2 years creating a visitors guide for Santo Domingo, a monumental task that saw us take the project from an idea to a respected product distributed at local hotels. We printed 2 editions but a combination of some rookie mistakes and a global financial crisis put an end to our endeavor. Lu left for Brazil (he had spoken about going there for some time) and I tried my luck in Punta Cana.
We stayed in touch: He got a job in Rio. I started a company in Punta Cana. He got serious with a Brazilian girl. I got serious with a Dominican girl. His daughter was born. I got married.
Ken and I tried to get Lu to move to Punta Cana. Ken was our friend and co-worker at dr1 - the 3rd musketeer you could say. My company with Ken was growing; we were actually making money for the first time while living in the DR. It didn't feel right without Lu but he wouldn't consider it. He was settled in Rio de Janeiro and there he would stay.
I visited him in October of 2016. He asked me to bring him one thing from the DR: Brugal. We drank in a small food stall close to Rio's famed Selaron Steps, reminiscing of years gone by. It was the last time I would see him.
Lu and I stayed in touch as much as possible but the distance stretched our Whatsapp messages ever further apart. In the last message I shared with him in February 2021 we spoke about him moving back to the US - a move I had made a year earlier. He was considering it but wasn't going anywhere without his daughter. His relationship with her mother having soured years prior, he was navigating the challenges of shared custody. He was a dedicated father.
I found out about Lu's death from Ken. He called me crying. I'm still crying. I'm a father now. A 3 year old daughter and a 1 year old son. Being a husband is hard. Being a father is harder. I lose my patience sometimes. My son gets into everything, sometimes in the chimney and frequently in the kitchen garbage. My daughter is picky about her clothes. We frequently go through 5 pairs of socks and pants before finding the right one. We're late for pre-school. I yell.
Since Lu's death I pause more. I breathe more. I reflect more. He'll never see his daughter again, he won't see her grow. Lu is gone. Young and before his time. His death reminds me of how delicate life is; how tomorrow is not guaranteed. I try to lead a more conscious life, a more appreciative life. I try since Lu can't. I forget. I get frustrated again. I remember. I seem to remember him everyday. I hug my children. I don't know if I'll be able to tomorrow.
Even if you, the reader, did not know Lu please understand that he was many great things to many people; and that he will be sorely missed by all.
Lu...I'll miss you brother and I hope to see you again.