When, in preparation for my move to Portland, Maine, I was packing up my New York apartment, it took more than 50 cartons to contain the books and, of course, I was required to handle every one of them. In doing so, there were many surprises and I rediscovered some gems that I’d forgotten I own.
On the bottom shelf of a bookcase in a back corner of the living room, I picked up No Commercial Potential: The Saga of Frank Zappa. As I dusted the cover and sides, I was struck wondering about the book’s author, David Walley.
I met David when I was still producing my then-husband’s radio show in New York City and booked him on the program during his tour when the book was published in the early 1970s. David was such an astute critic of the culture – establishment, counter and pop – that I brought him back whenever we needed someone with his kind of sharp insight to the zeitgeist.
David and I kept in touch after my husband and I went our separate ways and I recalled, as I dusted and leafed through the book that packing day in New York, many long nights in the company of David and other friends fueled, in those days, by plenty of wine and weed, dissecting the problems of our world.
Then – who knows how these things happen – I lost track of David and decades passed. Now I wondered how he had fared in life.
These days we have the internet to help find lost friends and after I waded through links to another David Walley who runs a resort somewhere (certainly not how the David I knew would wind up), I found his website, Walley’s Witzend, filled with bits and pieces of his writings over these 30-odd years and – his email address of which I made immediate use.
Soon we were catching up via telephone, words tumbling on top of one another’s, and whoa! - he lived in York, Maine, not more than 30 minutes from where I was moving. David had his publisher send me a copy of his new book, Teenage Nervous Breakdown – Music and Politics in the Post-Elvis Age which he was eager for me to read and we made plans to reconnect in person when I was moved.
Once I was in Maine, we spoke a few more times on the phone but put off getting together until I was settled, and had finished a deadline project I was working on throughout which I thought often of David and was looking forward to again enjoying his fierce intelligence and always unique view of the culture, politics and society.
About ten days ago, David died suddenly, unexpectedly and way younger than today’s average life expectancy.
When people die, our sadness is not for them, but for ourselves; our loss of their love, their companionship and the qualities that made them special to us. Do not construe this as selfishness, for our pain at their absence honors them and, depending on one’s beliefs as regards the hereafter, they have gone to a better place or to oblivion where, in either instance, they are beyond the cares of this world.
Some say it is a curse to live too long, that in our later years the deaths of friends and other contemporaries come ‘round more frequently than in our youth and loneliness can be the only possible outcome. That, I think, is individual depending on temperament, family, outlook, interests and many other variables. But in age far more than youth, one lesson is to not procrastinate.
I would still have found a way to meet my deadline if I’d taken time to visit with David. I would still have settled into this new home if I had taken a couple of days off to read David’s book. The lesson for me – an old one that I ought to know by this age - is to do it now; there is no tomorrow.
In an odd bit of synergy, David’s daughter works at Sirius Satellite Radio with my former husband. I don’t know his daughter, but I am in regular touch with my former husband and for no good reason I can think of, it comforts me in some way that they know one another.
In a culture so invested as ours in the pursuit of entertainment and dumbed-down education, and with a current president who takes pride in his anti-intellectualism, it is good to be reminded of something David posted in the right sidebar on every main page of his website. I would like to think that although we are not averse to having fun on this blog, it applies to Time Goes By too:
"This site is for thinking, not surfing. There are few if any artificial additives. Remember, thinking is a subversive activity, especially in this glitzy age. Anyway, what do you have to lose?"
- - David Walley