Got an email from Rich this morning and, after the entry about Tim last week, I thought I'd jot down a quick note about everyone's favorite psychopath.
That's what I thought about him when we first met. Now "first met" is a highly subjective term. What it really means is "when I first noticed he was there".
When I first noticed Richard was there, I was at a party in Costa Mesa. The point of the party and why it was given has long escaped me but I remember it drew in my small circle of friends way back in late 1984/early 1985. We were all on the staff of the el Don, the newspaper back in college. Here's a quick rundown:
Kelly Ward: Editor-in-Chief, Pain-in-the-Ass, Fat-Ass. Okay, she was nice enough but she was one of those people who spoke down a steep hill.
Mohammed Reswan: Kelly's boyfriend. Not on the newspaper staff. What was this nice looking, middle-eastern guy (who, for all I know, ended up at Guantanamo) doing dating this bitch? What I didn't realize back at the time was that some guys go for ugly girls. This guy smoked so much, he made me look like a non-smoker!
Cynthia Fitzpatrick: Kelly's friend and the only person, next to Rich, who I would know after college was done. (Graduated? No. Finished? Yes.) She was on the newspaper staff but, for the life of me, I cannot remember what the hell she did. Richard and I used to say she was too cute to... um, have sex with.
Barney Thompson: I have a feeling I'm getting the name completely wrong here. This guy considered himself a muckraker, a real old-fashioned reporter... he also took himself far too seriously and did a lot of macho bullshit to prove himself to himself. I'd never met anyone so Republican, either. He wouldn't be the last. Oddly enough, nice guy.
Richard Lind: Sports page editor. I had no idea who he was. I never read the sports page - it could have knitting patterns for all I cared.
Ken La Salle: Here's this guy who left high school the hero. Everyone thought he'd be winning an Oscar and a Pulitzer just a few months after graduation. Then, he hit the real world.... and began to experience that tangy taste of shit. He couldn't afford college and ended up going to Santa Ana College (community college - how sad!) because, at least, he could write for the paper.
It was a Friday night and the party was at Reswan's apartment at the Aspen Apartments - at the time, a swanky complex near South Coast Plaza. I went alone. Odds are, with the apartment complex only a few miles from my mom's house (where I lived at the time), I walked there.
I wasn't there long. I couldn't stay. Though Reswan was the perfect host, it was hard to sit near Kelly without wanting to strangle her. And Barney was talking up the movie "Red Dawn" as if it were portending some absolute threat that must be met, in lieu of a time machine, immediately. I had made the mistake of meeting this argument with reason... and if I didn't leave the party soon, Barney would see me dead.
"I'm going to get some smokes," I probably said, or something like it.
Rich, who had come in with beer - nineteen years old and he comes in with beer! - said he'd go with me. Now, I knew how this played out. I'd been here before. When this person found out I didn't have a car, I'd be in for humiliation. So, I headed him off. "I'm not driving. I was just going to walk over to the gas station."
"That's cool. I'll go with you."
So, we walked. Nothing was said at first. I don't know his reason but mine was because my mind was reeling. After high school, I'd grown used to being alone... this guy was intruding!
But we did start talking eventually and, if I remember correctly, it started with very common things. Girls. Writing. Star Wars. Stuff like that.
Half way to the gas station, the topic jumped into uncomfortable territory: sports. Richard said something like, "Yeah, I've got a softball game this weekend. I don't know if I'm going because I dislocated my shoulder and tore five tendons - but that just goes with the territory." My worst injury to date: writer's cramp.
And, so, Richard Lind became, in my mind, everyone's favorite psychopath.
(I'm one to talk. Only a few years before, I'd jumped off a three-story parking structure just to see what it was like!)
At the gas-station now and I get my cigarettes. Actually, mine and Reswan's. One pack for me and two for him. I light one up and Richard asks for one. I give him one and he lights it, holding it gingerly to his lips - and COUGHS.
And I thought, "Ah, you're not so tough."
And so, we became friends. Richard could tear tendons and walk away from it but he couldn't smoke worth a damn. I could hardly hold a baseball bat (as he would later learn when we started going to batting cages) but I could smoke. Actually, I think the real attraction back then was that Rich lived like a writer should live and acted like a writer should act.
Back then, writing was THE THING to us. We were determined to become writers. Whatever Richard had to prove - and being an artist, unlike being an accountant, is all about proving something to someone - I knew I had to be a writer because I'd been such a failure as an actor. We would talk writing, argue writing... we never really seemed to write that much...
Well, Richard and I last track (as I previously mentioned) and have since reconnected. Richard sold me on the idea of writing a book about our lives from then to now (or a pre-determined now-like period). The idea of it, writing a book about my life from just before Rosa to just after, appealed to me greatly and I've been itching to start since. But, as I mentioned, I got an email from Rich this morning. In it, he expressed the difficulty he's been having in starting this project.
I can just imagine how difficult it would be. Memory fades, events blur, whole months vanish. And if you don't write facts, you write feelings. This is even more absurd. I'm not sure of my feelings today - how am I supposed to assume what they were yesterday? Where's the history book that tells me what happened?! Oh, it's in there, in our heads and in our hearts. It takes finding but it's there to be found.
Mind you, Richard's always been more of a perfectionist than I - and, for those of you who've worked with or for me, that's saying something. He would never show me his work, for fear of a misplaced apostrophe or misspelled article. Me? I'd make gold out of road apples. I didn't care how much any of it stank; I'd say, "Look at this!"
Don't be afraid of crap, I've always said to other writers. Crap can be fixed - as long as it's not all crap
... okay, one more story just to wash away all that crap imagery...
Richard has a daughter through his first marriage and I was fortunate enough to be named the child's god-father. Mind you, with Rich being is a different state through most of the girl's life, I haven't been able to be the best god-father in the world but there was one time and, having missed out on having children of my own, it a memory I'll always cherish.
I'd come out to Missouri one August for a visit. (Couldn't Rich have warned me about mid-western summers????) One night, Rich and his wife let me put their little girl to bed. Uncomfortable? You bet! I didn't know what to do! I found myself asking her! (The girl could have said, "They always give me a quart of ice cream before I go to bed," and I would've believed her!!)
So, I tucked her in and pulled out "Where the Wild Things Are", her first request of the evening.... and couldn't understand the story for the life of me. And, having no children of my own, I started analyzing the story - as if she was Rich by proxy! Well, she didn't disappoint. She jumped in with a very clear deconstruction of the book, helping me understand it.
Then, it was something more my speed, a Disney book with Mickey, Goofy, and Donald. (I think it was the Jack and the Beanstalk rip-off.) I couldn't do a decent Donald Duck impression but she loved my Mickey and Goofey and gave me big hugs.
I just wanted to go out and make babies. Rosa was back in California, though, and babies were the last thing she wanted, anyway.
Later, Richard and his wife were fighting - divorce-level fighting. I shouldn't have interfered but the last thing I wanted them to do was break up. I'd much rather they move back to California and play board games with Rosa and I. So, Rich and I went for a walk in the middle of an sweltering night and he listed grievance after grievance. And I told him, "It doesn't matter what your problems are. If you love her, you need to do whatever you can to work them out."
Later, I was proven to be full of shit. I lost Rosa.