Apologies in advance for the downer:
A friend of mine died today.
I wrote this actually thinking that I wouldn't post it here. There won't be a funeral and I don't do social media. So you lot have the pleasure of scrolling on past my ramblings. I just miss my friend and wanted to put it somewhere.
Madman, lunatic and conflicted: yet capable of extreme generosity and warmth. He will always be the person that introduced me to the American West. The place where I am now proud to call home. But really he did it for my father who was dying of cancer. He arranged a trip and (ultimately paid the majority of it) solely to show my ailing father as much as was comfortable for him. My struggling father had a life long ambition (installed whilst growing up in a the shadow of the 2nd WW) to experience the majesty and drama of America’s great frontier. Robert gave him that gift and I will forever be grateful for what he gave me an and my family.
I had struck up a friendship with Robert for a number of years as a member of an orchestra that Robert donated money too. I would stay in his house along with other musicians in the “club room” which looked out over the Gulf of Mexico. We talked and argued politics, but enjoyed the nature of the Florida West coast and classical music (which was my career.) We talked of family and in 2009 he visited England! I took him to an English Premier League Game vs Arsenal (Zak Knight scored in the last moment to tie the game.) His generosity to my father and friendship with my father blossomed on his 2009 UK visit.
For our trip, Robert rented the largest SUV possible, and rented the nicest cabins. He planned a trip that was unforgettable and drove myself and my parents though Arizona, Utah & New Mexico and making every moment as comfortable as possible. My love and admiration for the what Robert did is that he had nothing to gain form this. He did it purely out of generosity. He just wanted to be a good guy for that period of time.
The irony is that the same illness would ravage Robert 10 years later. But anyone who knows cancer knows that the time of death doesn’t tell the whole story. There are months, years and sometimes decades of doctors visits, diagnoses, fear, hope and eventually a sad slide into the inevitable end.
The last few years of our friendship existed in a strained silence as he consumed the current Republican Party dogma (I refuse to mention the name of its instigator.) Robert was intelligent, very intelligent and had lived a lot of his life around the academia of the North East. He eventually renounced all of that, with a distain for “intelligent people who didn’t have the good will to salt their driveways for guests that they had over to their homes.”
The place he chose was the West coast of Florida. Cape Coral, or Cape Coma as he and his wife called it - when they moved there it was anemic but the last 25-30 years of baby boomers generally grabbing all they can has meant that the service industry and population density of Cape Coral is unrecognizable from when he moved there.
Florida allowed him his indulgences. Guns, and a rugged idea of self reliance form the government. It also brought him the realization that alcohol was killing him. As extreme as Robert was, this also meant that he indulged in AA to the point of obsession. But if he was able to save some others from death - and lets not beat around the bush and deny that alcohol causes death - then good for him. AA probably gave him 20 years extra life. Although the penchant he had for helping out other AA folks by bringing over the house to ‘fix’ things probably cost him a lot financially in the long run even if it did feed his soul.
He liked to travel. He loved to talk about it even more. I spent hours taking to Robert about places to visit. He advised me on Arches National Park, Africa and more. His South Africa trip to Kreuger was one of his highlights and he loved nothing more than finding a solitary place in California or Utah where he could look at the view, go hiking - but the place always needed a piano so Carol could enjoy herself playing for no-one but Robert.
His love of guns was weird to me. It baffled me that someone so intellectual could still be a racist. Why could he not understand systemic racism was the cause end issue of poverty within communities of color. This was his laziness which annoyed me and made me think less of him. Sadly, the last few years of his life gave him a President who allowed his ignorance and laziness to flourish. This was a sad ending to many things, but mostly, the fact that we didn’t talk as often as we once did. What a loss.
The madman, the patron, the Robert Hicks. He lived his life his way - running around Manhattan in the 80’s with pop-starts and his dog, Fred. A Saint Bernard. Yes a Saint-Bernard at parties in Manhattan who would swing his head and leave stalactites hangin form the ceiling. Robert knew Fred was going to die when he went out to poop in a Nor-Easter but got stuck. “Man rescues St. Bernard from snow storm.”
Generous, ridiculous, curious, infuriating, heavy metal fan and supporter of chamber music and the Symphony. Another cancer victim. Another dead person. Happens to us all in the end.
I know this doesn't flow - it's not a eulogy or an obituary - but I just wanted to write something.