Strong Weak Man

A Eulogy For Richard Moore.
By Jeff Smith

IT WAS LOVE at first sight. The night I met Richard Moore I knew we were meant for each other. How many high school kids do you know who can quote Pogo, T.E. White and Little Richard? Richard Moore could.

Smith How many do you know who play a D10 Martin guitar and know nearly a hundred verses of "In China They Do It For Chili"?

How many can take you next door to meet his mom's neighbors, Hank and Polly, and offhandedly remark that Hank used to play mandolin with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, and get Hank to play along while we sang Woody Guthrie songs, badly?

How many live right next to the city dump?

That was where we were a couple hours after Jack Robson and Connie Wilde introduced me to Richard--in the dump, in Pantano Wash, out behind Laura's house in Kingston Knolls, back in '63 or so, getting knee-crawling drunk and singing limericks and protest songs.

Of course it was all terribly wrong and I'd never behave that way today. Today we understand that you shouldn't locate a landfill in a streambed, lest you pollute the aquifer. Today we'd probably be getting toasted and singing politically incorrect ditties in an EPA-approved recycling center.

If it weren't for the fact that Richard Moore is dead. We won't be getting drunk together and howling about the man from Nantucket until the roll is called up yonder.

Another thing I loved about Richard Moore: He knew a lot of gospel music and got a huge boot out of those churches where the fit seizes folks and they roll around on the ground and speak in tongues. Moore's people were from rural Texas.

Anyway, that first night we drank up all the underage beer we'd laid our hands on, and sang ourselves hoarse, and Moore, as I pretty quick recognized as standard behavior, lost his equilibrium, so I ended up slinging his Martin over his shoulder, and then slinging him over my shoulder, and with the rest of the crew--I think it was Rocky Wright and Pete Lucas--picked my way through the garbage and old bed-springs and water heaters, and up the creek bank.

That wonderful Martin guitar, hanging by its strap around Richard's neck, hit every solid object along the way, and bore the scars forever.

Me, I only bear the memory, as does Richard's family, because I left him and his guitar in a pile outside the kitchen door. They were not unaccustomed to seeing Richard hors de combat, but up till then nobody had just left him on the carport floor. But it was summer--I knew he'd survive the night.

Much, if not all, of the tone of our long friendship was set that first night. I learned that Richard was a quiet man, except when in the company of the tight group of friends and family he shared ideas and feelings with. I learned he had the same goofy sense of humor I was cursed with. I understood his politics and ethics. And I experienced the communal altering of states--whether by alcohol or other chemicals--that became a sacrament of our circle of friends, our whole generation.

It was something that eventually took over Richard's body and soul, and damn near destroyed both.

Richard Moore was perhaps the strongest weak man I ever met. As witness our first meeting, he had a capacity for overindulgence. It never rendered him mean or even disagreeable.

Plus, he didn't like discomfort or pain in any form. He and Jack Robson stood by and watched me fistfight three guys twice in the same night at the Midway Drive-in, and the only reason I got into it in the first place is that one of the three guys wanted to pick a fight with either Richard or Jack. Neither of them was interested.

"Sorry, but I just don't like pain," Richard said. Jack just grinned the way Jack did. Richard and I got be pallbearers for the first time a few months later, when Jack fell off a cliff and got killed. We were 20.

In the years between we got to carry quite a few of our friends out the back door, and then last month it was Richard's turn to roll out feet first. He died the same way his dad did, before I ever met Richard: He rolled his car and died beneath it.

I doubt that drink had anything to do with Richard's death, but I guess it's possible, directly or not. Richard got into AA and various other disciplines of recovery from the drink and drugs which made his life such a stretch of whoop-de-doos. His third marriage was on the rocks and he'd lost his job and a counselor for recovering addicts. It's one thing to empathize with the clients, quite another to be counseling through a hangover. He was back to pounding nails again, back to square one for the eighth or tenth time.

But it never got him so far down he couldn't laugh at himself. He was a sweet human being, and I can honestly say that the worst thing Richard Moore ever did in his whole train-wreck of a life was he got his hair permed once, back in the late '70s. That's nothing:

Lincoln Thomas once bought a powder blue leisure suit.

Link was there when we all said our goodbye to Moore--along with all of us who were alive and mobile, from the bad old days and the good old days, including two out of three of his ex-wives. And the only reason Linda didn't make it was she was crying and drinking and broke.

You couldn't help but love the poor bastard, even while you wanted to wring his neck. TW

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