Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Death In the Family

A well-loved blogger, Acidman - Robert Smith, has passed away. His funeral took place today, Thursday, June 29, 2006, at 4PM.

His second-to-last post contained a suicide note, a very explicit one that's since been removed. And he'd been leaving dark hints to that effect for some time.

On the other hand, his health was terrible. He'd recently survived a bad bout with peritonitis, for example, and that's hard to do. That'll kill many a healthy person, and as a prostate cancer survivor, recently recovering alcoholic, and much more, his overall health was not good. Reportedly, no guns, pills, or alcohol were found in the house when his body was discovered slumped over on the couch. At 2AM Monday morning, that was.

So for me, the jury's still out; he may have died from suicide, or natural causes.

As many others have noted, he's dead, either way.

I'm pretty much a non-participant observer in all this. The fights that went before were not my fights; and the loss here at hand is not my loss. I never knew the man, or he me; and, I'd think, neither of us much cared. Hell, my antique cat alone would've done nothing but send him running for one of his non-existent guns.

In this big pond called the blogosphere, ksquest is an insignificant and unknown tiny minnow. About the only thing notable, in the bigger picture, is what an impenetrable lameass I am about blogging itself. So I highly doubt my own post about this tall dog will matter much to anyone.

Still - just in case: I truly do wish no one any offense at the things I'm going to say here today. If you're among the many who clearly loved this man, please consider not reading on. I think I'm not an unfair person, but personal taste also comes into play, and at this time your feelings would be way tender. I am not always gentle and I don't wish to hurt any of you.

What does matter to me - like to lots of other bloggers and readers out there - are things like understanding and honesty. So I've been pondering how to understand and describe my own response to Acidman's passing.

You see, he was a person I neither liked, nor respected, nor admired.

Worse yet? His writing didn't even rile me up. I really don't think I'm without a sense of humor either. But he mostly left me indifferent. Even when I disagreed I never cared enough to join the fray.

Many people disagreed with him sometimes or often, including his most ardent fans. Some of the recent comments on his passing are from people who, like me, cannot say they respected certain things about him.

He hurt someone I care about. He hurt her terribly and needlessly. He was very hurtful to all his friends; his last rant, that second-to-last post, was against a friend of 30 years' standing, and it was nasty. Unlike his writing content, those actions did piss me off.

Unkindness is a trait that I deeply disrespect. He had it, in spades.

Like most alcoholics, he was a liar and a hypocrite. He combined this with soul-baring honesty, with exposes of his own faults. Maybe, too, with dishonest exaggerations of faults. Like many alcoholics, his seemed to find his own shortcomings unforgivable and his own self unlovable. Part of a pattern, there.

He was charming and sweet, and vicious and putrid. Mean as a snake. Intensely loving to his family. Capable of great kindness and generosity. He was too chicken to see a doc until he was almost dead from something like peritonitis, yet he shot stuff into his dick with a needle. That takes balls.

Unfortunately, to me, those extremes don't cancel each other out. All the sweetness he could give didn't erase the useless hurt he caused.

See, I dislike fighting, and stirring up shit, and all this drama bullshit. It's just not for me. Don't believe for one fucking minute I'm saying that out of naivete, either. Oh, you have NO idea.

Nothing new for me there, beyond some mild amusement. It's not just because I knew, years back, that someone who's proud of calling themselves an asshole isn't interesting to me. I simply have no use for reading more stories about that way of life.

That doesn't mean I forget, for even one minute, that someone else might.

One of his favorite rants was how people didn't take personal responsibility for their own actions. Over and over I read posts where it was very clear to me - and according to comments, many others - that he wasn't taking personal responsibility, himself. He would bitch about his shoulder pain but he wouldn't do the physical therapy that could fix it, and usually is a required prelude to the surgery he wanted. He didn't seem to get that it wasn't a quick fix.

Certainly I'm not the only person to call him a whiner. One of his favorite whines? Whining about how everyone else was always whining.

Whining, in and of itself, is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. IMAO. Hell, I do it all the time. It's not just human nature, it helps us blow off steam, work things out - in a greater context. Are you doing some therapeutic whining, on the way to solving the problem at hand? Good. Are you just whining to whine, cause you're bored, or to duck the fact that you're responsible for addressing your issue? Don't waste my time. Whine on your own dime, okay?

He had a good job with a big oil company for 23 years. Looks like he got there by virtue of having a degree in English - famous for NOT being of much use in the job market, to most jobseekers. He said he was fired for blogging. Actually, he was forced into early retirement, along with other employees. That's not splitting hairs. Anyone who's been really fired knows the difference.

He left that company with a wealth of stock options or such, and had no real financial worries any more. Well, except one. The IRS said he owed back taxes from cashing in some of that stuff. He'd decided not to use an accountant, and also decided to ditch the meetings the other early-retirement folks went to, where the company explained those complicated tax ramifications.

Despite his avowal that he Doesn't Do Math, he refused to attend. Out of spite. Or pride. But of course, it only hurt him. Which he interpreted as, Here I go again, the world's out to screw me and the IRS to steal my hard-won earnings...

One of his last posts was a query on whether he'd had *good luck* or *bad luck* in his life. He truly didn't seem to grasp how much had been handed to him on a silver platter. He loved the sayings that go to: *you make your own luck.* Did he really not see how very much of what *bad* luck he'd had was of his own making? And how much of what *good* luck he'd had was NOT of his own making?

Maybe he did know, deep down inside. He seemed to use knowledge like that to gnaw away at his own innards, feeding his self-hatred and self-destruction.

Instead, you see, of actually fixing those things, of changing the parts of himself he didn't like.

He was a mass of contradictions. Then he called others *a mass of contradictions* as if it were a worse sin than murder.

He hated women. Well, he said he loved them, too. He liked to call them cunts. I bet some woman, some time, probably explained to him that that's just about our least favorite word. In a fit of temporary insanity or imbecility or something, I'm sure.

The internet is full of its rants, its vitriol, its venting. These things are often called "honest," "intelligent," "courageous" when I don't think they really are. I don't believe bullying is brave, and much of the rants I read just look like bullying to me. I don't think cruelty is ever kind. I don't see any *value* in people being shocking just to be shocking. And with the internet full of all that, it sure doesn't look unique to me.

I don't think either - or any of the many? - political sides is much superior to any others; certainly I've seen none that merit their own claims of moral superiority. I don't think it's unique to rant about the government. Talk about a time-honored tradition! Especially when hundreds to thousands of fans jump to sing your praises every time you do.

So why did I ever go there?, you may ask.

Because of my friend. I read what he wrote not because of him, but because of her. I care very much about her, you see, and if I kept up with the news on that end, perhaps I could be a better shoulder for her, should she want a qualified one handy sometime.

I read sporadically, just keeping up with that one story line, skipping over most of what else he put in there. Because, you see, most of what he wrote bored me. And the personality that so many found unique and interesting? To me it looked like a stereotype. Predictable. And not particularly admirable or funny or informative. I mean, he was all right, sure. But great? I don't see it that way, myself.

From what I've seen in those comments, most of his readers would have trouble believing that. Readers on all sides, pro and con. It is, however, the truth.

However...heh! I zapped him on his *however* lecture, since he couldn't spell, mr. english major you. See, I did drop a few innocuous comments here and there; with one exception, he only ever answered obliquely. Good. Just as it should be.

Death, now, that's something I REALLY don't like. Never was much good at accepting it. I hate its finality, that sense of unfulfillment, of possibilities that now can never be achieved. Of love that can never be won, of reuniting that can never take place. I think of a treasured son, twisted away and unseen for too long; a much-loved daughter losing her dad way too soon; a grandmother left to live, left behind as her progeny dies.

I can tell myself eighteen million times how it's a part of life, of that natural cycle I truly do celebrate and understand, and STILL I hate death. I hate it in the young and in the old. I hate it when it eats the life of a person that's still only 54. Even when they hastened it along by their own acts.

I don't give a rat's ass what kind of person that was. Not a serial killer, or such of that nature? pretty much good enough for me, then. You got a right to keep trying to get it right.

Death, here, stole away any hope of reconciliation for that woman I care about. I didn't think there was a snowball's chance in hell, anyway, but now it is absolute. Not possible. Cannot be done. All hope is gone.

I don't like that. No, no. Not a bit.

For all that, I grieve.

His daughter Sam, Samantha, posted the notice of his death. And I'm reading, poring over the comments that start to flood in, trying to absorb all this sudden turn of events.

I see things. I watch something unfold that I've never seen before. That maybe has never happened before.

This blogosphere of ours - this family - pulled together and set aside so much of its very recent and very passionate anger and outrage and moral high-handedness so fast it spun my head around.

Like brothers and sisters and cousins and family friends and old lovers and neighbors and maybes and wannabes, all pouring in from all over, setting aside animosities big and small, petty grievances and murderous intent all shattered by the impact of sudden death, with the sudden generosity of spirit that unexpected great loss can bring.

I read the comment posts of at least two people who credited this man with saving their lives. One had even gone so far as to pick out the spot and timing of the deed. With Rob's tales of his own trainwreck life, those two would-be suicides took hope, and decided to live, to keep on facing another day. And made it through and out the other side.

At least two or three credited him with convincing them to overcome their own alcoholism.

At least two or three, with getting their prostate cancer successfully treated - and another, with finding out he didn't have it. But if he did have it? Without getting that test done, he'd be dead now, not even knowing what a PSA is. (Well. Maybe only fellow sickies like me can really appreciate that one. I, you see, am A Person Who Does Not Have Pemphigus.)

More? Many, many stories of how his travails with his exes gave other beleaguered soon-to-be-exes strength to keep on going, to stand up for themselves, to remember that one way or another at least it would be OVER, at some point.

Men commented often about how he blew them away with his openness talking about very personal subjects. The sorts of things that often are easy for women to talk about. Did that have some bearing, I wonder, on why he could hate us so? Did he hate that part of himself?

People who privately emailed him about their troubles got emails back, a hand stretched out to touch them through the ether.

Progeny? Someone should make up this man's blog family tree. He spawned his blog seed all OVER to hell and gone out there. Not just blogdaughters and blogsons are checking in here, folks, I'm seeing blognephews and blognieces and grands and at least a blogstep- or two. Probably he was his own grandfather twice or more.

A perfectly functioning and fecund Roscoe there, at least.

All over the internet, ladies are painting their toenails red.

All over the world, people are grieving. Many of them are stunned at their own selves. How - they ask - how come they can't stop crying over this person they never even met? A person that they - like me - so often disagreed with?

What a mass of contradictory commenters!

I read all the usual malarkey death brings out. All that goodthebadtheugly...the hypocritical...

I bet more prayers are being tossed around for this atheist than any heaven's seen for quite a while. Many are from people who say, *I never met him but I feel like I know him from his writing...* so I guess they must have missed that atheist part.

Well, truly, that doesn't bother me. As long as I can see it clear. That's why they say funerals are for the living.

Besides, some folks think that having lots and lots of people pray for you can make a difference. If that's true? and if Rob finds out? I feel like I know him from his writing well enough to say, *I bet that'd crack his cracker ass up...*

I read people snarking at each other, just a bit, for being honest about this guy, a person who at least looked to celebrate honesty and forthrightness. I read a most extraordinarily gracious post from, uh, jb I think? who may have been Acidman's A-#1 troll.

I read Bane's eulogy, Probably, as he himself honestly implied, the most honest one out there.

I discovered there's another lower-case k out there, one who was a frequent Acidman reader for years. Ha! And just why did I ever think I was the only k in the 'sphere anyway? But just in case anyone wondered, any comments about Acidman's death that k made to date anywhere but Livey's or Desert Cat's weren't me.

Not yet.

I learned that in the comments to his rant against his good friend Catfish, Acidman commented too. His last written words may well have been comparing Bane to Catfish About which, as Bane says, he isn't exactly sure how he feels.

I learned that Tessa seems to have the dubious honor of being the last woman he called *cunt.* She mentions that in the comments to Bane's *famous last words* post, too. Funny.

His family, it seems, is stunned at the outpouring of grief around the world.

I see here - me the blogdom lameass, this is all completely over my head - people pooling bandwidth to play his songs, CD's being burned and sent, sites being shored up to handle increased traffic or different types of it. His blog will be preserved. His writings will probably be published. I wouldn't be surprised if a professional CD is put together, too. He was a fine musician, by all accounts. I never heard his music, myself. I will, soon, I think.

Most amazing of all? His closest associates have also put together a blogosphere memorial, for all those worldwide who couldn't come to the services in person. This is running for hours, just as the world spins, with ways to post and link and all. I'll probably learn today, as I continue to read on, whether anything like this has ever been done before.

I have a sense - me, this non-participant observer - of a minute participation in a historical first, a new event. It's interesting. I find that I want him to be in a Heaven so he can watch all this, in his *ceaseless quest for adoration from people who don't know me.*

An astounding outpouring of love for this man who called himself Acidman, who felt he was unlovable. Who saved at least two lives and gave strength and caring and peace to many, many more.

That, I can respect. No, it's still not my loss. But so what? I can see that despite all the damage he caused, he still did an extraordinary amount of good.

This is a loss worth grieving. A loss, indeed.


Desert Cat said...

And now YOU're bringing me to tears...

Anonymous said...

K .. Thank you for a well said, unique, and honest perspective. DJS

k said...

you're very welcome.

pepektheassassin said...

A nice tribute to someone I never knew. But apparently a lot of people did, and will miss him.

Anonymous said...

excellent! and so very true.

k said...

Thank you, all. I'm starting to count myself in that number who say, I don't know why this is hitting me so hard...

Kris said...

WOW...without a doubt...this is the most honest and truthful blog I have read about him.

With all the drama that is going on, even after he passed, it just absolutley amazes me that these are professed grown adults.

It seems like a bunch of teenagers needing some hormone shots. Wonder what these people are going to say in say, 6 months, after the shock has worn off....

Wonder if they will see themselves as we see them now...acting like children.

I will miss Rob's posts. In the beginning, I read him faithfully, every Saturday evening after my kids were asleep. Then, it got to be so childish that I totally lost intrest.
The world has lost a great blogger. Too soon, way too soon.

k said...

kris, thank you. The post-demise blogdrama stuff was really distressing a lot of people, me included...I guess partly because we didn't expect it. Thought that part of it would end with his death, right?

But as of tonight, it looks like THAT is over too. Suddenly. In a way that kind of restores one's faith in humanity.

How long it'll last, who knows. But for now at least, I'm just reveling in the peace of it all.

Livey said...

k, you are one of my angels! I love you so much. Thank you so much for being my friend!

k said...

And you, my dear, are one of mine.