Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Now Cracks A Noble Heart.

I first met Rob in a high school production of The Wizard of Oz around 1992. We were in the chorus, and I think we wore shoes on our knees as Munchkins (this really happened). I don't think I've gone a full month since then without hearing from Rob. He remained my friend, always standing by me, always being there for me. In the past few years, he very much became my closest friend besides Laurie. He was the one person I could tell anything to. He really was like a brother to me. I doubt I will ever have a more dedicated friend.  Unfortunately, so often we only realize these things in retrospect.

But my friendship with Rob was not just personal. If I wrote anything serious, I would pass it by Rob for editorial assistance and he would often do likewise. Rob went a professional route I have always wished I would have gone. Rob went to Berkeley and got his Masters degree. Then he went to New York to teach creative writing and literature at City College of New York. When it came time for me to put out my volume of poetry, Rob edited it free of charge. After he first read it, he said to me, "You know, you are the only poet I know who I consider competition."

That was a high compliment. After 9/11, Rob wrote a long poem called Crossing the Staten Island Ferry (with a nod of thanks to Patchen) which was as excellent an American poem as I know. I remember him painstakingly putting together a volume of holiday themed poetry which absolutely blew me away. Rob (who wrote as Robert H. Morris) was, and I'm not exaggerating just because I also dearly loved the man, in my educated opinion one of the greatest living American poets.

He was also brimming with life. He always had music in the air, often dancing with whomever was within arm's reach. Today I opened one of my cd chests to see if I could find some Rob type music. I find that almost all of it is Rob type music. Rob got me into Phish. I think I got Rob into Tom Waits, although I'm sure he would have found Waits on his own without my help. I think of Rob when I listen to early Tom Waits. He thought of me when he listened to late period Tom Waits. 

He knew movies, art, history, and literature. Rob was the person to introduce me to the character of Falstaff for a scene in a high school theater class. Even though he was only four months my senior, we had sort of a Falstaff/Hal relationship (although Rob usually referred to me as his "spiritual advisor," which he seemed to take very seriously).

He loved food and wine and was a bottomless pit of knowledge about both. Laurie remembers when Rob and Jess came to visit us during the worst storm in the recorded history of Chico. The electricity was decidedly out for a long time to come and while we had a gas stove, she had no way to mash the potatoes.  Rob asked for a large fork and mashed them by hand smoother than we'd ever got them with an electric mixer.

There is too much to tell. Too many Rob stories which keep flashing in my mind: the reason he never forgot my birthday, the phone calls, Jerry Garcia's vigil in Griffith Park, my regrettable tattoo on Telegraph, the 24 hour Church of Elvis, the car crash when we got too excited while talking about Peter Lorre, the post-high school paper bonfire, the fruity drink party, the Love-In, Existential Rider, the bathrobe, the funky monkey, Sentimental Journey, and so much more.  A lifetime's worth.  Heck, four lifetime's worth.

I will miss him tremendously and even if I have yet to live more years than he ever lived, I doubt I will go a day without thinking of him. One of the main things I wanted to share with you was that this is not the first time I've had someone very close to me who "just didn't wake up one day."  I know I say this often, but I really want to go around grabbing people by the collar and telling them this while shaking: "You do not know when will be the last time you see someone! Treat everyone accordingly!"

In this case, Rob and I had a very pleasant conversation on Friday. He knew that I loved him and I knew that he loved me. At the end of it, I was looking forward to reading the paper he was working on. The worst thing in the world is having the last thing you said to someone along the lines of "I hate you and wish you were dead," especially if you then discover that you loved them and did not ever want to see them die. Second to that may very well be, "Gee, I'd been meaning to get in touch with him for the past few months, but never got around to it." Really, everyone, if there's one thing I could tell everyone in the world so that they'd believe it, it's that life is too short. Don't presume upon second chances. 

As a guy who gets dumped a lot, Rob was always there for me, continually a friend. I don't think we ever fought, that I can remember, although we did have very different opinions about some things (he and I spent many accumulated hours arguing if Kerouac was an important figure in American Literature. He was decidedly pro and I was decidedly con on that topic.) and we certainly didn't carry animosity for any period of time. He never divided from me. He was always my friend. I could tell him anything and he could tell me anything. Aside from Laurie, I don't have anyone else like that and have my doubts if I ever will see the like again.
I really just wrote this because I came upon a Ray Bradbury quote today:
"You fail only if you stop writing."
And my brain told me that I needed to write about Rob tonight. I spent half of Sunday and most of Monday staring out our front window, occasionally weeping openly.   It's time to get up and write something.

In spite of what they tell you, some wounds don't heal with time. You just learn to walk around with them.


  1. Good and excellent friends are rare. If a spouse is best friend, you have a treasure. If in addition you have such an excellent friend elsewhere, you are doubly blessed.

  2. Paul,
    So often people say when they read things like this, "His words were so moving" and then they do not move. They feel touched by the words or the sentiment but do not change. When I read the last post about Rob I was determined to really take your words to heart and have it affect my actions. Shortly thereafter someone in my extended family wronged me (and the rest of my family). I chose forgiveness and grace and I chose to love them despite the wrongdoing. And you know what? I am only doing what has been done for me so many times. Two years ago I had wanted to go see my dad and instead I listened to a family member urging me to wait until Saturday. My dad died on Friday. That is one of the greatest regrets of my life. So now I make sure to call my mom and listen to her and not feel rushed. Keven will keep the babies busy and play with the kids because he knows it's valuable for me to give my mom some time. Thank you for your words. I'm praying for you.

  3. Thank you for the kind words. They really do help in a time of grief.

  4. I am sorry for this loss Paul...so tragic...thanks for the advice about treating people as if it were their last day on this earth. I need those kind of reminders sometimes...love you friend.