I didn’t know David Rakoff as well as I wish I had. I knew him a little, and of course I loved his work and his voice, his jokes and courage—and how he would remind that funny and bravery are two things that have a lot to do with one another.
But the few times I met him he always offered such kindness, in the form of creamed spinach recipes and fine advice and thoughtful compliments, disarmingly casual and very sincere, that made you feel like you didn’t waste your life after all. His kindness of spirit touched a lot of people I know, and I am sad for them, his family, you, all of us who miss him.
I spent the weekend alternately forgetting the news—an unconsciously monstrous habit of self-protection that has overtaken me before, and of which I am unproud—and then feeling punched low by it. I had a fun weekend, returned briefly to NYC to do some work, re-uned with some friends over gin and noodles, and the made a completely, uncharacteristically spontaneous road trip to Philadelphia to see Paul F Tompkins perform, for
reasons that should be obvious.
All the way down I called basically everyone I knew, just to chat and check in. I remember it felt funny and strange, given that I basically agree with most people that telephone calls are terrifying and only suitable now for emergencies and notices of death. But I enjoyed hearing my friends’ voices and I said some small, nice things I should have said a while ago.
I made Paul go to Bob and Barbara’s to drink the special and chat with the drunken children of Philadelphia and listen to the poor band— older men with real old back room jazz chops as they were forced to play “Sweet Caroline” for a singalong.
The bartender who once gave me the leftovers of a bachelorette night party hoagie when I was starving was there, and she was nice, and some of the sunken children bought us whiskey, and in the morning I ate scrapple.
On the way back up to remote-achussetts, I didn’t even notice yhe 6 hours slipped by. I just enjoyed staring into space, thinking and feeling nothing.
As a dumb person, I wondered why the trip felt so quick. So good and welcome. I wondered why I did all the things I did, and weirdly, uncharacteristically felt no guilt about how selfish and lively and fun it was.
Then, tonight in the middle of the night, I woke up and remembered David’s passing and felt very guilty.
But having grieved before, I remember now that this is what grieving is. This stop-start running and remembering; the sudden urge to connect and be human again, and the forgetting—the weird, almost chemical amnesia, that separation from the self: that little demon in you that keeps going, keeps wanting to live, to push on and push it out of you.
I didn’t know David well, but I miss him. I feel so bad for those who knew him better, and a little worse for those who didn’t know him at all. Because he was smart and kind and, even in his own occasionally morbid way he was always lively, and inspired the same in others.
I hope he would not feel sad that I spent the night after his passing drinking free whiskey and pabst and laughing. I KNOW he will not feel sad that I refused to sing “Sweet Caroline.”
Goodbye, David. Thank you for the creamed spinach and the company and saying that one thing to me that was so nice that I’ll never forget it, and everything. And to everyone else: be lively.
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