And the letter itself:
Rich, mon vieux! Wherey'at, bra?
Bob and I were talking about you the other day. We still talk on the phone regularly and you come up several times a year when we're reminiscing about our (vain)glorious days together on the gymnastics team, the time you came to Seattle for a ski vacation, and various other times and adventures we shared. We laugh with you then, alive and vibrant, an energetic triumvirate striding boldly through the halls of memory.
I want you to be alive right here, right now, so I can smack you upside your stupid head. Ok, maybe I'd need a stepladder, a small one anyway, to reach. I was always the little fireplug of intensity from "da Jeswits" and you were the tall, elegant, good-looking "Sheik of Arabi." Remember when we left Leon Redbone's version of that song on your answering machine? Bob and I laughed ourselves nearly to the point of puking over that one. I know you felt inferior because of being from Arabi, down in "da parish," and because you were the designated target for your father's endless rage and disillusionment with his own lot in life and you accepted his contention that you were weak and worthless.
You were better than that but you never believed that you were. Is that part of why you got seduced into *belonging* to that charlatan preacher so much that you committed suicide, disguised as an accident, so that she could collect the large insurance policies she had taken out on you? Because she (pretended that she) cared about you? Because she told you how wonderful Heaven was and you were tired of the disappointments in your life and wanted something wonderful so desperately that you suppressed your critical faculties and chose to believe in her? Hell! I'll never know with any certainty, will I?
Yes, I am still mad at you, you dumbass. Make no mistake, I love ya, bra, and I hold you in my heart still; but you really pissed me off pulling that shit. You remember Ray from the gymnastics team. At the time of your death he was a Major in the N.O.P.D. and Bob got him to look into your death rigorously but there was never enough for them to act on, even though they agreed that the circumstances were suspicious enough that several of the insurance companies didn't pay.
Ahhh, shit. I don't want to write you a letter where all I do is yell at you, so that's enough of that. No more. I choose to dwell on the good memories, the fond ones, the amusing ones.
I always smile when I think of the time you hurt your tailbone and had to wear that big foam pad under your gymnastics uniform. You were so tall and lean and you body formed such an elegant line… except BOOM! There was that big square shape sticking up and distorting the top of your ass. Oh man! What a crackup.
And your (in)famous open-top car! You survived that nasty wreck with the pipe truck which tore the roof off that POS Chevy but couldn't afford to get it repaired so you drove around with no top and just wore a heavy coat in Winter and a raincoat in the rain. You had a mold and fungus garden in the back seat of that thing! I remember riding with you and other drivers would be yelling at us, "It's raining. Put your top up!" and we'd just laugh.
You and Bob came to visit me in Seattle for a ski vacation and for one of our breakfasts I took you to Beth's Café, famous for its HUGE omelettes, and I warned you that maybe you'd just wanna split one but you insisted that you were hungry and you could eat one yourself. Then you saw it, a 12-egg omelette stretching to the edges of the platter on top of a full load of hashbrowns. Your expression was priceless.
That's the face I have fixed in my memory when I think of you. An authentic mix of surprise, joy, amusement, and a little bit of shock. No artifice. No practiced expression designed to amuse and entertain others. Simple, genuine Rich. That's the guy I always knew was inside your skin, even though he didn't reveal himself often enough. I miss him. I miss you.
This evening we had some New Orleans-style boiled shrimp (or as they say in da parish "berled swimps") for dinner and I thought of you and came back to finish this letter which I'd started a while ago but couldn't seem to make any progress on. I decided it didn't have to be thematic, or logical, or consistent, or even sensible; it just had to be to you from me. So here it is.
Hope dey got dem dressed eryster poboys in de place where you be stayin' at now. Love ya, bra.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Letters to the dead: Rich
My friend Ren has started a blog where she posts letters to the dead. It's an interesting concept. I wrote one to my sister Marjorie and sent it to Ren. Here's another for my friend Rich Caronne which I also sent to Ren. I met Rich when we were members of the gymnastics team at the University of New Orleans. I dug through my old photos but sadly couldn't find one of Rich. Here are a couple of general ones from those halcyon days of yore and a writeup with Rich's name, incorrectly listed as Garonne. Rich Caronne was my friend.