My friend Rich died a few days ago, he was 76, and probably still going to punk shows. I haven't spoken to him in almost two years, since I moved from Ann Arbor to San Francisco. And I hadn't been spending as much time with him as I used to within the last few years I was in Ann Arbor. It had become difficult for me because every discussion we had was exclusively about his politics (and often, my naivete), which at first I found fascinating but later very tiring as he progressively became incapable of discussing anything else. In 1996-97 I lived in his fantastical loft above Wazoo Records in downtown Ann Arbor for a year and a half, where he played a grandfather figure (that likes to smoke pot and rock out) to me and the other roommates. The loft, he called it Arborvitae, was cockroached out, but like nothing you've ever seen. Each room, or "space," in the studio was different and unique, it was a true artist colony. It was an incredible experience. We originally became friends after slam dancing into each other at a Plumbobs show at the Blind Pig in 1995. We introduced ourselves, I had seen him before hanging out with some of the bands I admired at the time. He had noticed me too, he said, asking "who is this free spirit?" He took an immediate liking to me, a little too much and we had to eventually discuss that, but he was always very respectful. We smoked, drank cream sherry or sake in his space, which was hidden in the back of the studio, and he showed me his paintings (mostly of pretty boys), and sketches of historical landmarks, and talked to me about his adventures traveling the world. And he had been ALL over. He looked it too, his skin was severely weathered, and his vocal chords were chronically hoarse. His life project since retiring as an architect and urban planner was to design a political system that would achieve world peace. He had a business card "Synergy - a requiem for world peace," and spent everyday working on his notecards, on which he wrote ideas from articles or books he was reading. We grew quite close, I felt comfortable telling him anything; talking about insanity, about lust and love, about war and confusion. I cried to him. He sat me in front of a mirror and had me look at myself..."you're so beautiful, you know," he said. "You have power." So of course I moved in. The heating system in the studio was primitive, and therefore it was freezing in the winter, and with the lack of air circulation, it was also hotter than hell in the summer (he didn't mind though, he got to see us boys walk around without much on). But it was romantic. And we rocked. Life was art there. Every scenester in Ann Arbor knew the place, or someone who lived there at one point. And i don't just mean 90's scenester, I mean 70's, 80's, and 90's. Rich had been living there since, I think, 1968. After I moved out we still met for dinner at least once or twice a month. But he stopped asking me about how I was doing and we spent the time discussing the Trilateral Commission or oil industry conspiracies. Rich didn't want to waste time. He wanted to leave a legacy and he wanted us, his children, to do something about the world. As time went on, his political ideology became non-negotiable, and when that's all you talk about, it stops being a good time. But I understood. Still, I drifted away. I don't really know how to feel about that right now. It's hard. And I had heard his skin was deteriorating, but I never called. To be honest I was hurt that our period of intimacy was replaced by politics politics politics. But I should have called and I'll regret that.
Rich was on the front page of the Washington Post in 1945, a picture of him laying the wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the end of World War II. He said it was that moment that defined his life. "This can never happen again," he said. He once told me the story of his attending a speech by his hero and inspiration, Frank Lloyd Wright. He said at one point Wright looked straight at him as he sat there in the audience and asked him to continue his legacy. After telling me that, he asked if I would continue his. To try and create a world where solving conflicts was done honestly and peacefully, so that there will never again be war.
I promise I will do my best. I love you, Rich.