It was a most improbable friendship.
I was born in New Jersey and, except for a couple years courtesy of the U.S. Army, Iâ€™ve lived in Jersey all my life. Rob was born in Kentucky, but was raised in â€œGeorgiaâ€, and he was “Georgia” down to his bone marrow. I grew up playing in the streets and ate Taylor Ham and Italian hot dogs. Rob played in the woods and ate cornbread and boiled peanuts. We sure as hell didnâ€™t sound the same when we talked. Iâ€™m a lawyer, and I think we all know how Rob felt about lawyers. He would unleash his verbal flamethrower at the mere mention of the word â€œlawyerâ€.
Despite all that, we were friends. Go figure.
I, like others, was drawn to his words, and few people used them more effectively and eloquently than did Rob. Even back when he was working, every day he would manage to produce writing of a quality and in quantities that anyone would envy. I became a fan shortly after embarking on my blogadventure in late 2002. I donâ€™t remember exactly when I received my first â€œAcid Bathâ€ and ultimately ended up on Robâ€™s Blogroll, but I was honored and even more surprised to be there.
Ultimately, though, I think it was the music.
I always particularly liked Robâ€™s posts about music in general and playing music in particular. Rob spent a few years making a living with his guitar, his voice, and his gift of gab. Iâ€™ve spent a good portion of my life playing everywhere from grimy saloons and American Legion Halls to a slew of wedding mills and places like the Waldorf Astoria and the Sands Hotel. As such, I recognized him immediately, not just as a guy who played guitar and sang, but rather as a PLAYER.
Iâ€™ve been fortunate enough in my life to know many musicians but only a handful of PLAYERS. The difference is that lots of people can make an instrument produce music, but PLAYERS are much more. PLAYERS donâ€™t necessarily have to be technical masters â€“ indeed many, perhaps most, are not. But they do have music buried deep inside their DNA. It just shows.
I knew in my gut that Rob was a PLAYER, and I wanted a chance to meet him and play with him. I never thought it would happen. Hell, I had never met a blogger â€“ any blogger â€“ in person. Then in 2004 the Blogtoberfest in Helen came along.
By this time I had gotten to the point to where Eric and I would occasionally shoot the breeze on the phone. He asked me if I was going to Helen, and told me he was bringing his guitar, and asked if I might like to go and bring my guitar. I knew that Rob was going to be there, and it was something that I didnâ€™t want to miss. Of course, it wasnâ€™t easy trying to explain to non-bloggers why I was planning to fly to Atlanta and rent a car to drive to Helen just to meet a bunch of people I had never met before. My friend and â€œbodyguardâ€ Ken, always one to enjoy a good party, agreed to accompany me on the trip.
It wasnâ€™t too long after our arrival in Helen before we dragged out the guitars and began to play. (It came as a complete surprise to me that Denny also plays, and he plays very well indeed). It didnâ€™t take but a minute or two for me to confirm my hunch that Rob was indeed a PLAYER. Playing with Rob and Denny was more fun than any person ought to be allowed to have.
At one point, we all moved to a local bar, and Rob asked, â€œJim, what the hell ever possessed a guy from New Jersey to come all the way down here for a day and a half?â€ I felt more than a little silly when I confessed that the reason I had come to Helen was to meet him and play a duet. He waited a beat or two, then smiled his trademark grin and said, â€œDamn, Jim. Iâ€™m flattered. Glad you came.â€ I too was glad I came. It was in Helen that I â€œmade my bonesâ€ as an
honorary â€œJawja Bloggerâ€ an appellation of which I remain exceedingly proud.
I met Rob again at the Blogmeet in Jekyll (The Wreckl in Jekyll), and I got a chance to play with Rob and his brother Dave who, not surprisingly, is also a PLAYER. We played, sang and laughed our asses off for hours. Denny joined in for some tunes, and all of us damned near died laughing when he whipped out the kazoo and played the instrumental part to â€œRunawayâ€ and later to â€œRocky Racoon.â€ We ended up sitting around taking turns telling stories and generally shootinâ€™ the shit and howling with laughter until damned near six in the morning.
Most recently, I was with Rob in Austin, where we again dragged out the guitars along with Denny, and traded tunes. Rob hadnâ€™t had a drink in months, and he didnâ€™t drink in Austin, but he sure as hell could still play and sing. Hell, I think I would have traveled anywhere, if I knew when I got there Rob would be there with his guitar. In fact, not too long ago, Rob bought some fancy recording equipment, and I suggested that once he figured it all out, we should get a few bloggers together and make an â€œalbumâ€ for shits and giggles. That wonâ€™t happen now.
So, here I find myself â€“ a Yankee lawyer devastated by the loss of my Cracker, lawyer-hating friend.
It was indeed a most improbable friendship, but it was one that I shall cherish always.
Just keep pedalin’ on â€œCâ€ Rob. One of these days, Iâ€™ll show up, and weâ€™ll finish the tune.