Thursday, October 10, 2013


My friend Robbie would have turned 37 today.  He passed away in an accident on the 29th of August of this year.  

To date, I have lost my father, both sets of grandparents, and a handful of fairly close friends.  As I’ve gotten older, losing people has happened with more regularity; it has always seemed like a sad but inevitable part of life.  I lost a childhood friend and a cherished co-worker most recently, and I was fortunate enough to be able to write about both of them in this space.  Writing about Desiree and Michele took some of the edge off of my helplessness in trying to cope with the fact that two young, vibrant people would lose their lives too soon to cancer.

None of this prepared me for how I would feel after losing Robbie.  

I could tell you about how I met Robbie and his partner, Jason when I first started flying out of Chicago in 2005.  How elated I was to start hanging out with them as without hilarious gays, I am nothing.  About how we ate our way around Chicago, and other cities when we worked together.  About how we enjoyed all kinds of libations, which always led to us having the most amazing conversations.  About relationships, about work, about politics, about music, about everything.  I could tell you about sleepovers and birthday parties and concerts and weddings and movie dates and karaoke and Dance Dance Revolution and yoga and how we regularly had more fun than people should be allowed to have.  How Robbie and Jason have been immensely supportive of my artistic endeavors around town, how I always looked forward to the next time we could spend time together, no matter what was on the agenda.  How Robbie always brought a mix of sweet, snarky, thoughtful, hilarious, and sad to everything that he touched in perfect proportions.    But if you knew Robbie, you have your own magnificent stories.  If you didn’t know him, I guess you just had to be there.

I could tell you about how sad that I am that I can’t tell Robbie on this birthday that I love him more than I love Jason, which I joked about every year.  Or recently when I found out Fiona Apple was coming to Chicago this month, that I reached for my phone to text Robbie to see if he might want to go for a birthday night out.  Or when I saw a story about Gwenyth Paltrow being a complete a-hole, that I couldn’t wait to send it to Robbie and proclaim, “SEE!  THIS is why you’re not allowed to like her!”  It was probably almost a minute before it hit me that I couldn’t do these things.  Or that I recently tore apart my basement looking for a cartoon that Robbie drew of me on a cocktail napkin that was on my refrigerator in my last apartment, a napkin that I know that I would never throw away.  I could tell you about how my whole body physically aches sometimes from being heartbroken over not being able to see him.

But I don’t want to spend Robbie’s birthday dwelling on that.  I just keep coming back to this one trip two years ago that the three of us worked together…possibly one of the silliest ones of my career.  Jason, Robbie, and I worked one leg into LaGuardia, overnighted there,and worked one leg back to Chicago bright and early the next day. 

E and the boys take to the sky

It’s the kind of trip you do when you just get stuck with it, if the scheduling wheel of fortune doesn’t offer you something that’s a more productive use of your time.  When we hit town, we opted to get a cab instead of taking the subway to the Doughnut Plant on the Lower East Side as we were already delayed because of weather and we wanted to start enjoying our brief stint in the city.   We proceeded to spend $40 on doughnuts, then we wandered around looking at Big Apple crazy, then we took a cab back to the hotel as we just couldn’t bear to sit on the subway after stuffing our faces and walking around.  We kept pointing out our folly, how ridiculous it was that we spent more money than we made working the trip on cabs and doughnuts.   I had just put the Old Camera app on my phone, so we had to commemorate our ridiculousness in sepia tone splendor.

I didn’t grasp then how blessed I was to be on such a goofy adventure.  I do now.

The last time I saw Robbie was at the end of July, seeing Heart at Ravinia, a beautiful ampitheater north of Chicago.  He greeted me as he always did, with a big hug and kiss.  We listened to the Wilson sisters tear through some classics, enjoyed some great summer weather with friends, food, wine, and jibber jabber.  Robbie and I had some time to chat alone, where we decided to both sit in a friend’s camping chair together, which was oodles of hilarity until we broke the arm off of it.   When we went our separate ways, we hugged and swore we would put together a slumber party plan soon.

One of the main things that gives me peace, that keeps me from losing my shit on the regular over all of this, is that the house of our friendship was in order.  There was no question how we felt, there was nothing I wished I’d said or that I hadn’t said; there was simply unwavering support and adoration and love.  We were always honest with one another.  It was perfectly fine to be tired, or pissed off, or bummed out, or confused, as long as it was genuine.  We just accepted each other as is, without question.  

When I feel overcome with sadness, which is a daily occurrence, I take solace in the fact that having his love in my life for eight years was an amazing gift.  He taught me so much about acceptance, about kindness, about friendship.  At his memorial, I was comforted by seeing so many people who felt the same way about him, an army of people who knew exactly how special he was.  The harshest blow I’ve been dealt in this life was made much more bearable with the help of true friends, who are the family that we choose.  

“To live on in hearts we leave behind is not to die,” wrote Scottish poet Thomas Campbell.  Robbie lives on in everyone who ever loved him….when we eat fried chicken, when we drink bourbon, when we hear Tori Amos, when we finish a race, when we change the lyrics to songs to make people laugh, when we see Susan Sarandon, whose Arandon is truly the greatest Arandon around.  We carry our memories of Robbie forever, and mine will always be sweeter than a bag of big city doughnuts.


  1. What a beautiful tribute... to a beautiful man. I am so glad you have many memories. :) Vija

  2. This is such a beautifully written piece of sheer wonderfulness. I have many fond memories of Robbie but none even remotely recent but reading this is just proof he never changed. He was still the sweet, silly, remarkable man that I remember. Thank you for sharing this. :)