Toasting A Wonderfully Irritant Writer
by Oleh Hodowanec
I met Richard on MySpace, the old social platform, in 2003. I can't remember now how or why exactly, but it's likely in discovering the fact that we were both passionate fans of The Fall. Soon, our long distance friendship - I lived in the US - grew to the point of a regular correspondence by email. We shared many lesser-known musical favorites in common, but quickly, Richard demonstrated an outstandingly superior awareness and detailed knowledge than I could ever hope to have. I was sublimely hipped and enriched by him. And in his inexhaustible kindness, he regularly showered me with dubs of these largely international arcane treasures. Everything from avant prog Japanese bands to obscure and vintage Peter Cook and Dudley Moore skits. This was when postage between the US and England was much less expensive. I still have them all in a large carrying case, which soon became impossible to zip closed.
Richard sent delightfully chatty, energetic and mirthful emails. Aside from our music discussions, I discovered that we shared a fondness for proto-Dadaist writer Alfred Jarry, and that he enjoyed writing poetry. In time, he sent me a chapbook of some of his works that I still own and hope to feature examples of it in this remembrance.
I don't think I knew in our years of correspondence that he wrote for PSF until more recently. It wouldn't surprise me if he hadn't mentioned it or at least only vaguely mentioned it; I never knew him to be much for tooting his own horn and bragging. His cheerful humility and kindness is so very much part of my memories of our interaction. We of course shared details of our lives and families in our emails, and here and there, I came across instances of pain, but I didn't learn about how much pain he had to swallow down until the last year of our correspondence.
For about eight years up until about 2021, Richard suddenly just went dark in correspondence. Nothing at all untoward had happened between us to cause it. When I last heard from him, he was enjoying dancing in Northern Soul dance venues and had a special woman in his life. So, I figured initially that this was a very good reason to shift his energies and attention. But then months turned into years, and I began sending him an occasional greeting by email and hoping all was well. No answer, ever. It was a constant source of worry.
Then in 2021, by happenstance I came across his presence on Facebook. I was thrilled. After a little awkward, but genial reconnecting, we were back on track. We filled each other in on personal events of those missing years, but I don't think I ever did specifically learn why he had stopped correspoding. I did have guesses though, as he spelled out some truly horrific events in his life, but without timelines.
My last contact with him was about two years ago when we arranged to make use of the more recent technology of FaceTime. One of the first things he asked me after hearing me speak was if I had adenoids. God love your Aspergers forwardness, Richard! I was taken aback, but then he mentioned that I sounded like Jonathan Richman and I then knew this was a compliment. I also snickered at his audio verite inclinations; at one point, he had to take a piss and took me into the bathroom. He was living a pretty Spartan life. He had had to retire from his local government gig because of a heart attack and talked about having got rid of a lot of possessions, including surprisingly much of his music collection. I think it was now culled to just a half dozen or so prized albums, one of which I remember him mentioning was Belgian group The Outsiders. I was worried about him again. He was on his own and this time with a bum heart. We laughed a lot, or at least I did. Richard always had a greatly warm sense of humor and especially so in person.
And then the mug soon unfriended me on Facebook and was mysteriously gone again! I was more irked by it this time, but still blessed his name and friendship. This time was different- after all the confessionals, I just let him ride. And then two weeks ago, just as I had come across him by happenstance the first and second time on social media, I did again, but this time to learn of his death and tribute. I turned on Facebook and the PSF memorial was the first thing in my feed.
Rest well Richard, dear friend. Everyone should have a wonderfully special irritant like you in their life.
Also see Richard's wit, wisdom and obsessive music lists via 20+ years of emails
And tributes to Richard from other friends and colleagues
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