I first met Neight in 2011 while volunteering at a community bike shop in the Marigny. At first, I didn’t know what to make of him. He didn’t look or act at all like the people I had been friends with previously. Regardless, we both needed a new place to live. After affirming our mutual love for pop punk, we set out on our bicycles to go apartment hunting.
We found a place on North Robertson Street that was “Rent to Own.” It was in horrific shape. The roof was caving in, there was no plumbing or electrical, and there were albino banana trees growing inside the walls. Neight decided to take the challenge and signed the contract. I was his first tenant.
Over the next four years, I spent more time with Neight than with anyone else in my adult life. We quickly dubbed the house “Dagobah” to reflect the swamplike conditions in the back of the house. The two of us spent countless hours rebuilding it. The problems with the house were endless; there was hardly anything that wasn’t broken. Neight would spend hours studying borrowed books about construction, how to estimate job costs, and the different materials available for him to build with.
Living with Neight was hard. His priorities didn’t match most people’s. Toilet, you say? He’d rather figure out the problem with the jets in the hot tub. Insulation? There’s better things to spend money on—like 500 bottles of wine on Craigslist, for instance. Also, he was extraordinarily adept at accidentally injuring me. He shot a BB gun at my face; he shot a nail-gun at my chest; he hit me in the head with 2x4s; the roof of his back porch collapsed while I was underneath it; his dog fell through the ceiling onto me while I was sleeping. But after each of these incidents, without fail, he would attempt to make it up to me in some way. I always forgave him, eventually.
Also, it helped that he was the most charming person I’d ever met. In true New Orleans fashion, Neight made it a point to connect with his neighbors. The kids from around the corner would come over regularly and we would teach them to fix bikes and let them ride ours around the neighborhood. When our neighbor Joe had a cracked water line and a $400 water bill, Neight repaired the broken pipe, then organized a show in our backyard with food and a bar. All of the proceeds went to Joe.
Neight will surely be remembered a lot of different ways. To some, he was the guy who rode a triple tall bike with abandon. To others, the guy who renovated their old house. But to me, he was the guy who made damn well sure that everyone around him enjoyed life as much as he did. —Ryan Peterson
Neight and I met by sheer accident, although it was probably inevitable. We spent two days together stripping sheetrock off the barge board of a small shotgun in the 7th Ward. There is nothing quite like the strain of physical labor to forge a bond—talking about trains, fixing things, and exploring abandoned buildings. I remember the moment we caught each other’s eye— eating roast beef and rye sandwiches over iced tea in my kitchen—that I realized here was my future best friend.
Neight saw something of value in me that I had lost vision of in myself, and I felt the same about him. We were both living in busted houses that we acquired through unusual means, cobbling them back together slowly. Meanwhile, everyone else I knew was getting married, having babies, advancing their careers, or living the scene life.
There was something enigmatic and alluring about him and his lithe, merman frame (strong and wiry like suspension cable), his impish grin and squashed-bird nose. He wasn’t the easiest person to get along with, and if you were his friend you more than likely carry a story about being burnt. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes those are piled in doses higher than are reasonable for a mortal man. But where Neight really shined was in his love for his friends. His singular devotion to you seemed bent on expanding your concept of freedom, the expression of it, and hanging with you for the ride.
Nothing speaks as much about a friend as their willingness to stick with you when shit goes south. When they cast their lot in with yours and hitch their freedom to your own, you know you have a friend for life. —Justin Kray
I can’t nail down the precise moment I met Neight, but I know I became aware of him in the earlier days of the regular St. Roch bounce night. He was also a presence at Plan B (the New Orleans community bike project) and the Iron Rail—both former institutions of the New Orleans radical and punk community that are now long defunct. I knew he had come to town after Katrina, and as a native New Orleanian I regarded him with suspicion and the usual modicum of contempt, as many of us did in that hazy, often wondrous time right after the great storm. I remember thinking he was a funny-looking dude, a living giant muppet. As I got to know him better, I became more aware of his constant Eeyore-like personality, a steady tremor of existential dread that defined him in the early days and earned him the moniker “Butthurt Nate.” I could never really tell if he hated the nickname or secretly enjoyed it, but I do know that he eventually outgrew it, and was just known as Dready Nate, Neight Train, or simply Neight, depending on your preference.
The city changes constantly, and the most adept New Orleanians change with it. Neight was one of them. He matured and became ever more generous of character. He was always willing to lend a hand or volunteer a service. He was a risk-taker and adventurer who was also invested in his community. He saw New Orleans from a rare perspective and exemplified all of the best traits of a New Orleanian, having a passion for a place that he knew was dangerous and a commitment to working toward the betterment of his city.
New Orleans, in its current state especially, needs the rare breed of adventurer that Neight was in order to survive as a meaningful place
You were loved Neight. You will be missed, profoundly. —Victor Pizarro