Monday, August 13, 2012

David Rakoff, my radio buddy

David Rakoff died last Thursday. I didn’t realize until then how much I liked him. But now, I’m searching for online appreciations, for YouTube videos, and looking forward, much more than I think I ever have before, to listening to This American Life this weekend which will feature a full hour with a man, I realize now, was my friend and an advocate of my writing, my coming out, my being myself.

Why couldn’t I realize that while he was alive, so I could have at least written him some fan mail? And said, “Thank you for speaking the truth in such a humorous way. Thank you for being out, but not being out and proud so much as being out and just your genuine neurotic self. Thank you for sharing that talented, caring and cynical self with the world. You made my world better because you were here.”

If I’d have known it would have been my only chance to actually meet him, I’d have probably hung around trying to get an autograph when he appeared at Kingsbury Hall a few years ago. But I didn’t know he was going to die, and I didn’t know how much really liked him until last Thursday, until it was too late.

Or is it? I haven’t read his books. They’re no different now than they were when he was alive. And if I really believe my religion, I’ll see David again. Who knows maybe he’s already met my mom and dad and stepdad and grandparents. Maybe they’ve told him what I could not, “Our bisexual son and grandson, really appreciated you. Your voice on the radio kept him company on a lot of weekends.”

And maybe it’s not too late to learn once again to value people here and now. And, maybe, just maybe, if you love someone, to tell them. Face-to-face.

If you don’t know of David, here’s his Wikipedia bio. And here's a vid of him talking about the difficult process of writing. If you’re interested in hearing more, catch This American Life this weekend.

As I think of David, I find myself hearing an old Bob Dylan song:

While riding on a train goin’ west

I fell asleep for to take my rest

I dreamed a dream that made me sad

Concerning myself and the first few friends I had

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room

Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon

Where we together weathered many a storm

Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn

By the old wooden stove where our hats was hung

Our words were told, our songs were sung

Where we longed for nothin’ and were quite satisfied

Talkin’ and a-jokin’ about the world outside

With haunted hearts through the heat and cold

We never thought we could ever get old

We thought we could sit forever in fun

But our chances really was a million to one

As easy it was to tell black from white

It was all that easy to tell wrong from right

And our choices were few and the thought never hit

That the one road we traveled would ever shatter and split

How many a year has passed and gone

And many a gamble has been lost and won

And many a road taken by many a friend

And each one I’ve never seen again

I wish, I wish, I wish in vain

That we could sit simply in that room again

Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat

I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that


  1. A well written tribute,Ned, and nice to know he still lives through his writings and presentations.

  2. Thanks, Dean. And his latest book, all written in rhyme, is to be published soon. One of his gifts to me is that I'm up and writing this morning. Partly because of Rakoff and partly because I'm re-reading The Artist's Way. One of the big recommendations of the book is to write daily pages. A free writing exercise that you do first thing every morning.