_D5C5045brian by Brian Clarey

They gathered inside the truck-bay doors and spilled out into the gravel lot where a mournful saxophone floated blue notes on the breeze.

Outside, a circle of bricks in the gravel penned in a papier-mâche spotted cow, with a pile of kindling beneath where the udders should be.

Trey May always talked about burning a cow. And today, in the parking lot of the 205 Collaborative artists warehouse, the dozens of family and friends who came to mourn him would make manifest his last big idea.

George Reid May III was an idea man. He’s the one who breathed life into Bin 33 in downtown Greensboro, a shining moment in the city’s culinary history that perhaps climaxed with the first ever New Year’s Eve ball drop on Elm Street.

When he held court, the creative energy in the air crackled around him. It was impossible not to be drawn in.

Trey was a genuine scoundrel, a handsome son of a bitch, a cad in the finest sense of the word.

And I loved him for it.

Trey threw himself headfirst into the life he crafted. He was on his own by the time he was 15, and had four children just as he hit his thirties. He moved around — Kansas City, Austin, Key West, Jamaica — but had just resettled in Greensboro to write the next chapter of his life. Here, he had put together almost one full good year. It’s all he — and we — would get.

He died suddenly, and he died young — just 55, though he left behind a sizable legacy. He won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

The photos on the memorial wall capture moments of the many lives Trey lived: the angsty teen; the proud, mustachioed papa; the wayfaring gourmand; the doting grandpa with an ever-present hat, open shirt and big, smirky grin.

How could someone so alive ever cease to be?

The eulogies came forth as an evening wind rustled the wildflowers on the altar by the door. They called him “a force of nature.” They talked about his smirk. They insisted everybody stay to dance and eat — “There’s a lot of everything,” his daughter Brittany said. “That’s what he liked.”

In the gravel parking lot, as Satchmo’s version of “Dream a Little Dream” bloomed through the speakers the cow came alive in a magnificent floral burst, giving off powerful waves of heat before turning to ash, flaming out just before the rain began to fall.

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