Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Last Goodbye

The memorial service for Rob Smith is going on as I write this and I can almost hear the sniffling mass of people at the site listening to the eulogies on the wind blowing through my open door. But it feels right that I should pay my final tribute from behind the computer screen since it was in the cyberworld where Rob and I conducted our friendship. Some, like Marcus, think a cyber relationship is less real, but for me, what Rob and I shared held all the warmth and connection of flesh and blood contact.

It was an unlikely and unexpected bond. I'm a (former) Yankee bleeding heart leftard who believes in global warming and tarot cards and he was unapologetic, trash talking, down and dirty redneck cracker who believed in nothing he can't see for himself. Yet somehow we came to respect each other and call each other friend.

I had just started blogging the first time I stumbled across Gut Rumbles. I was appalled. As I now know, that was shortly after Rob and Joanie had their famous meetup. I took a look at a few posts and the comments sections where there was a raging battle going on among the "wimmen" and booked right out of there. Not my kind of place I thought. I wouldn't last ten seconds in that crowd. I didn't go back for a long time.

Eventually I moved to the south myself. It felt like living in a foreign country. I was anxious to understand my new "neighbors" and started actively looking for "southern" blogs. Thus it was that I stumbled across Gut Rumbles once again. The first post I read was one of his personal stories and it got me all teary eyed because it reminded me of my old dog. So I stayed and I never left, even though many a post since, made me grit my teeth and mutter rude remarks at the computer screen. I survived because I forced myself not to comment on his politics, most of the time...

The first time I dared leave a comment disagreeing with him, he sent me a scathing email. We had huge fight over it. It wasn't the last time we fiercely disagreed, but we always managed to end the debates civilly. Our correspondence evolved into a mainly pleasant exchange. He would often surprise and move me with a thoughtful response to a chance comment and I often emailed him my support in the early days of his struggles with sobrieity. As time went on he bacame a daily read, and then a frequent stop on the daily rounds as I came to know the other Rumblers and gingerly joined the community in the comment section. I'd often go back three or four times a day to check on developments. Even when it pissed me off, it was always interesting.

Rob was the heartbeat of our world at Gut Rumbles. His was the house where we all gathered. Reading and participating in his blog was like having a conversation with old friends and the CrackerBox was the kitchen table we all congregated around. He was an impeccable host. Who knows what will become of us now that he's left us with this big black hole in our universe?

Rob is not my blogfaddah. I was already a well established blogger when I arrived, but he became a mentor to me by example, on how to be a better writer. He was a living and breathing lesson in honesty, in bare-all prose and I hope to honor his legacy by carrying on that tradition as best I can. I was going to light a candle today at 5:55 for his spirit but I think he would have hated that, so instead I'm going to post this photo. I sent him this privately on his 111th day of sobrieity. I told him at the time I was too shy to post it on my own blog but somehow it feels like the most fitting tribute I can leave him now.

Goodbye Rob. I hope all the girls in heaven have pretty feet with shiny red toenails.

[Acidman photo gratitude]


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