i was in 8th grade when i first moved to Washington State from New York in January of 1981. everything was different, right down to the clothes people wore, the accents people talked with, the slang they used. the school was a lot smaller, there were less class periods in a day, you walked outside between classes...even the weather was different. College Place Middle School was the 6th school i'd attended in the last 4 years, so i'd gotten accustomed to making changes, but to say i experienced some culture shock this time around was an understatement.
on the other hand, i had a pretty good idea of what was in store for me. it's not easy being the new kid. everywhere i went, i was always a year younger than most and nearly always the smallest guy in my classes. i didn't play sports and i didn't do great in school, and i usually got picked on a lot, so i wasn't surprised to find myself confronted by a group of kids, on my second day at College Place, in Mr. Steiner's class, while he was out of the room.
one of those kids that started in on me was Bob Marriott. whether the kids, or Bob in particular, were serious or not, i was scared, and cornered. there was some shoving, and some desks got overturned, and some punches thrown. i held my own for a bit, but i ended up on my back on the floor. Bob reached down to grab me, and i kicked him in the face, once, hard. it was enough. i don't remember exactly what happened after that, except that Steiner returned, and it was broken up, and i wasn't damaged. i had my share of problems with different kids the rest of that year, but after that day, Bob was really friendly with me. he invited me to his house to hang out, and i went; he became my first friend in Washington.
we spent a pretty fair amount of time together in 8th grade, and the summer afterward. we'd hang out at each others' house (his more than mine) and listen to music, especially Journey and the Scorpions- both of which he turned me on to. he loved to sing. he was smart, and he had a fantastic imagination, and he cracked jokes constantly. his family always made me feel welcome. we'd take off on our bikes around Edmonds. he used to catch lizards, and i remember he had a chameleon. he'd put it on a plaid shirt, and watch it try to match colors.
we didn't have any classes together in 9th grade, so we didn't hang out as much in school, but we shared a locker out by the shop classes. i got in a fight by our locker once, and Bob happened to show up just after the other guy took off. when he saw me on the floor (i got kicked in the balls), he took off running to try to catch the guy. he didn't find him, but hey...he tried.
in 10th grade we ended up with the same chemistry class. we muddled through Mr. Burger's (often very dry) lectures and drew pictures and generally goofed off. one day in chemistry someone came to tell Bob he'd been called to the office- and when he got up to leave, he said, "see ya, man. i'm moving to California." i said, "what?!" he said, "yeah, right now." i was totally shocked, he hadn't said anything about it before. and then he was gone.
maybe a year and a half later my band was playing a battle of the bands at Lynnwood Roll-a-way, and right before we went on, from out of the blue, someone calls my name, loud. i turned around and up walks this long-haired guy in a black leather jacket. i didn't recognize him, and then i did! "BOB! what's UP man?! hey, i gotta go, we're playing, like, right now." he says, "really? cool, i play music too!"
we started catching up after the show, and we were thick as thieves all over again. the next year or so saw uncountable parties, rivers of liquor, endless days at the beach, a lot of girls, lots of new friends, and a lot of music played and recorded and listened to. good times.
when i moved to Florida in '86, Bob was there to see me off, and when i flew up to visit for a week, he was there. when i moved back from Florida, and started playing in a band again, he was there. after a while, i got kicked out of that band, and fell out with everyone involved for about a year. Bob and i only saw each other infrequently after that, but when we did, it was clear we were still friends.
life went on. i had a kid, got married. i was playing in another band, i was pretty busy. i had other friends that met Bob, and they only knew him from "now", and they didn't always mix well. once in a while he'd do something that rubbed someone the wrong way. we occasionally got together, but we'd mostly grown apart. i lost track of him for long periods, and i'm ashamed to admit that i sometimes felt like that was easier than dealing with him. i still considered him my friend, just...one who was hard to deal with sometimes.
sometime during the time we weren't in contact much, drinking became a problem for him. when i did see him, he'd often pass out after a only a couple drinks- not because he couldn't hold his liquor, but because he always had alcohol in him already. often he'd "go down" quickly, sleep for a while, wake up, drink something, go down again, repeat. he could sometimes be really argumentative. one time i thought he was going to punch me over whether or not i'd actually put quarters in a malfunctioning electronic dart board at a bar. sometimes he'd debate something almost incoherently for a long time, without ever opening his eyes, and no one could figure out what he was talking about. sometimes he'd say or do something that was just way out of bounds, but he wouldn't remember it later. when everyone else was waking up the next day with a pounding head, Bob would often get something to drink.
i finally decided drinking with him wasn't doing him any favors, and i told him i wouldn't drink with him anymore. i told him some people shouldn't drink, and he was one of them. he didn't like that, and it might have easily turned bad, but when i told him i was trying to do the right thing by him, he checked his pride and took my word for it. i think that says a lot about what kind of person he was. he didn't stop drinking, and i didn't drink when he did, for a long time.
somewhere along the way he wrecked a really nice truck he'd built; he put it in a ditch i think. he was lucky he didn't get killed, because it knocked him out and it was quite a while before he came to. if he'd been more seriously injured he could have died without anyone finding him. whether it was from this incident or another i don't know, but he got arrested for DUI. i don't think he fought the charge. they mandated alcohol counseling, and though he completely resented the state's intervention in his life, he tried more than once to comply, but he just couldn't bear it. i don't think he ever completed a program, or got his license back.
to get to work, he felt like he had to drive, so he did it anyway (like lots of people), but he was really nervous about it; he REALLY didn't want to go back to jail. i think this perpetual anxiety, which lasted for years and worsened, contributed greatly to his state of mind.
we were out of touch for a long time, but eventually he tracked me down again. i was glad to hear from him. he was living a few miles from here in Clearview. i went to see him and his roommate, someone we both knew, though Bob was much closer to him than i was. in a lot of ways it was like old times, but also not, in the way nothing ever can be. he usually had a beer in his hand, but he never seemed drunk. i actually had a few drinks with him on a couple occasions, but i never felt good about it. there was a little tension between us, but maybe not between us particularly; it seemed more like between Bob and the world. he was different, more serious, more troubled. it made me a little sad, but i didn't know what i could do for him. i invited him over to my place a few times, but he always made some excuse why i should come there. though he never said so, i came to realize it was because he was afraid to get caught driving, and probably over the limit a lot of the time. i stopped asking him to come, and i'd just go over there instead, but this made it less often.
not long after this, he had a falling out with his roommate, and he moved again. he moved in with another mutual friend, in Puyallup. i had some issues with his new roommate, so i didn't try to get in touch with them. while Bob was there, i learned later, some more things went badly for him; he couldn't get a job, and he had money problems (some of them again involving the state), and some more personal problems that i won't divulge. he felt more and more alienated from the world. he got seriously depressed, more so than he let on, and more than anyone noticed.
without telling anyone, Bob quietly put his affairs in order and committed suicide, six years ago today. i was driving when his roommate- devastated- called to tell me he'd found him, in his bedroom at home. i almost drove off the road, i had to pull over.
everyone who knew Bob is familiar with his story of how he'd once died. he repeated it too many times to count, to pretty much anyone who'd listen, even though he knew he'd told it a million times. for those who haven't heard it, i'll summarize: trying to save a friend who was being electrocuted, he got electrocuted himself, and he had an out of body experience. he was absolutely convinced that he died. i argued with him about that many times; i said if he'd actually died, he'd be dead. eventually that debate got skipped altogether, since neither of us could ever convince the other, but he'd still talk about the experience. he described floating up above his body, looking down at it lying on its back on the ground, and then being drawn toward a light. he really wanted to go to the light, he knew it was a good thing, but something snatched him back, as if it wasn't his time. until then he was never religious in any way, and he'd never believed in any life after death, but afterward he was absolutely positive there was something peaceful waiting on the other side. i can't help but think this peace is what he sought when he checked out.
i went to his memorial, a small gathering of family and friends at his father's house. i'd collected every piece of music i could find to which Bob contributed, burned it all to CD, and brought it to give to his father- who immediately put it on the stereo. Bob's voice was filling the house for quite a while before things got underway. the service was completely informal. it was about what you might expect; everyone was sad, people spoke about him.
it wasn't a large gathering, and the few friends that attended were people who'd known Bob for a long time. i was easily the friend who knew him the longest, but almost certainly by this point not the one who knew him best. i felt really, REALLY bad for his father, Bob Sr., who i'd also known for 22 years. he said something to me, when just the two of us were talking that day, that i'll never forget. he looked around at the other few friends who'd come and said, "maybe if Bobby knew he had this many friends he wouldn't have done what he did."
which brings me to why i'm writing this. sometimes people we care about are going to be hard- maybe very hard- to deal with, but not making that effort can be worse. i'm not vain enough to think that i could have made the crucial difference in Bob's life, but maybe, if everyone around him had tried a little harder, things might have been different.
i miss Bob a lot; i think about him often. i know some people who didn't care for him at all, but he was my friend, and this world's worse off without him. i keep his picture up in my house where i'll see it often. not so much to remind me of Bob, because i won't forget him, but to remind me to try to be a good friend.
circa 1985, my folks' place, Edmonds
1986, the day i moved to Florida. that's my Mom and Dad grinning at Bob cracking jokes.
same day. from the left, my Dad and Mom, Scott Bloom, me, Jeff Sawyer and Bob Marriott.
same day. from left, Bob, Jeff, and that's Beth Bailey on the right
same day. Bob gettin' his dork on.
the next two are from Bob's memorial service
1979 480p a perfect circle accountability ADSR adventure age progression AIDS AIG alfred molina alternate geography alternate history america animation anxiety apology apprentice array instruments art crimes attention spans audioslave avatar bad weekend bailey's bailout beach beavis being broke benefits beverage big three bill the cat bitching black and white blogger blogging blue screen bob marriott book bored brinsley schwarz bus schedule butthead c.s. lewis cable coiler car crash car repair carolan's cartoon cate blanchett charles darwin charles van doren chloe moretz choir chores chowder chris cornell christians christina ricci christmas christopher mintz-plasse chrome cigarettes cinnahoney cinnamon class envy coding coffee comcast comedy commuting contact list cooking crime da vinci code dakota dan brown daylight savings time deconstruction display resolution dodge dog park domino dozer dream dreamworks drinking driving e.t.a. economy edmonds edmonds marina electricity elvis costello email england epic escape ethan everett chorale evolution fabricate facebook fantasy fiction film trailer first post fitness test flag flash flickr font ford fotomorph free hugs free market freedom freedom of speech freeware friends futility galapogos geology GFHS girl glitch GM good will google gratitude green screen hallmark version handwriting happiness harley harry potter harry thompson harry turtledove HD headache healthcare hershey hershey's syrup hip hop history of knowledge HMS beagle hollywood lights honey hosting HTML human rights IE immigration indispensable opposition intelligentsia internet explorer interview Ira Glass irish cream irish whiskey it got big jakob dylan jason jenny lewis job hunting journalists julia navarro junk kalimba kansas kick-ass kitty knights templar la fete nationale lacking motivation last airbender lego lineman live looseworld loren love m night shyamalan malacandra malaguena manifest destiny mark millar marriage martha stewart mbira mcafee megamind melissa memorial mickey microsoft monotony montreal music music video my life my music mystery natural philosophy naturalist new car new chair new computer new TV new zealand nick lowe nicolas cage NSFW obama old friends opening atlantis opinion opus organ out of the silent planet overheat peace performance pic post picasa polygons PUD puget sound quebec qwest field racey radiator random realD 3D realism recipe redletter media reggie watts reginald veljohnson repairs reunions ridley scott robert fitzroy robin hood robin williams robot rockstar russell crowe sarcasm science fiction sea voyage seahawks shroud of turin sick puppies siphon smoking sorceror's apprentice soundclick south america special effects speech spring starling stats suicide summer sundome syntax error syphon taking offense tesla test the atlantic the bus This American Life thriller tim hawkins tokyo plastic toni basil trade-marx train trouble turning 40 TV UAW understanding unemployed unions vacation video vimeo virus vundo W3schools walter lippman water pump wayward son web design weekend whiskey white house windows 7 windows live mail windows vista wordpress work writing xmas xmas spirit XP yakima yourfonts zoey deschanel