Missing my friend (updated at end)
For the last three days, it has rained from the sunshine.
We live in one of those places where half the people you meet aren’t natives. It’s not like Florida, where people go to live out the rest of their lives. This is a place where people come to work and decide they are home again.
That’s what Gulfman and I did. He came from Long Island. I came from the middle of America. We both found our way here by way of places that were too humid to breathe. We both came here with precious little experience in Southern living. We both came here to work and ending up calling this place home.
This place isn’t like where we came from. Though we both held great nostalgia for our old haunts, we both bought homes here. We dealt with the ice storms and we sweated through the summers. We knew we were better off, because on any given night, we could probably sit outside, have something cold to drink, and laugh about nothing. Or not talk at all. Gulfman was big on that. He appreciated people who could just sit and not talk.
From the time the phone rang Friday morning until this very moment, the sky has been most frquently full of sunshine. The sky is that impossible Carolina blue. The breeze is both warm and cool. Just enough to make you say, “Damned nice day.” And yet, every few hours, there are some raindrops that fall from the sky. It’s just enough to make me–even if it is trite and far from poetic–think of teardrops. And Stevie Ray Vaughan. And Gulfman.
Gulfman was supposed to get up early and head to work on Friday morning. A photojournalist–the kind of shooter who made stories better than they ever could’ve been before he touched them–he was hoping to grab an early story so he could get home to his wife and home. Overnight between Thursday and Friday, Gulfman got sick, collapsed, and never woke up. The eventual diagnosis was a brain tumor that had exploded and bled into my buddy’s brain. As I learned a few years ago with my dad, blood is like poison, like acid almost, on the brain.
I saw Gulfman, unconcious and on life support, Friday morning. Because I’d been granted a miracle with my father, I somehow believed I’d get another miracle with Gulfman. He was only 34 years old and was in perfect health. The guy that used to be on the party circuit with me had spent the last three years not drinking, not smoking, not partying at all. I was already planning to spend a few days a week visiting him in rehab. Because I believed he was going to be okay.
Saturday I learned that the miracle wasn’t coming this time. Saturday night, I had Gulfman’s friends to my house. We sat, cried, laughed, looked at pictures, and told every Gulfman story we knew ten times. For every person Gulfman met, there are tons of Gulfman stories. He was one of those people you meet in life who is, in short, a “character.”
Many people don’t know that Gulfman was the inspiration for Bradoween. During one of his frequent rants, Gulfman suggested that we all have holidays in honor of ourselves. After a lot of ranting, we decided my holiday should be called Bradoween. Gulfman won the first ever Bradoween Photographer Footrace.
Before and after that time, Gulfman and I spent days upon days on the road together. We crashed in hotel rooms, ate counteless meals (both good and bad) and told every story we could find. He was one of the few people I’ve ever met who was completely different than the first impression he offered. Brash, cranky, and outspoken, he was among the most gentle, caring, and thoughtful people I have ever met. He was one of few people in this world that actually cared about others more than he cared about himself. Of course, most people would never know that.
I would like to write more, but I don’t want to do it now. Part of me just hasn’t accepted that my buddy is gone.
One thing though. It’s a joke nobody would get unless they’d spent a lot of time around Gulfman.
A notorious list-maker, Gulfman always had a slip of paper on the dashboard of his news truck. Whether it was the groceries he needed to buy, the stock he needed to price, or what he needed to do to his lawn, the list was always there. And I liked to needle him about it, primarily because there was nothing funnier than a Gulfman rant. As we rode around one day, I needled him a bit about his list. Later, I mentioned to him that I’d just bought two new pairs of shoes. Without missing a beat, without even cracking a smile, Gulfman pulled a pen from behind his ear and scribbled on his list: “Brad got new shoes.”
That was Gulfman.
Damn it, I miss him.
Update: Visit this site to see the memorial story G-Rob did on Gulfman. G-Rob did a great job with what had to be the toughest story of his career. Not sure how long the story will be up, so if you want to see it, look now.