Wednesday, May 20, 2015

His name is Slatts

I first "met" him in September of 2005, the 24th to be exact. I know this because we both blogged at LiveJournal and that's the day he first left a comment on my blog. His comment had nothing to do with my entry, but was in response to the "Current music - Bob Dylan Desolation Row" tag at the end of the blog.
Great song! Did you catch Dylan's performance of this in No Direction Home?
Of course our first conversation would be over music. Slatts was a bass player, played in real bands. I play guitar, alone, in my room, with a cd. But we bonded over an affinity for the same music - old rock-n-roll, blues. This began our friendship - over Dylan and a blog posting.

Our friendship continued to grow over our shared passion for music. But Slatts lived in Massachusetts and so we also bonded over the Red Sox and our love of Maine. He went on vacation in Maine every year it seems, paddling on the lake. Maine is my spiritual home and seeing his photos always made me smile and just a little homesick.

How did I become "friends" with Slatts on LiveJournal in the first place? My ex-wife is a writer and blogged there with her writing friends. That was my entry into LJ and you see, Slatts was an artist - a damned good one. He made the most incredible drawings of celebrities, many of them musicians. Don't take my word for it. You can see for yourself.  His entries often showed the behind-the-curtain world of art in progress. One of my favorite Slatts techniques is his drawing of musicians' heads on other people's bodies. To call him a Beatles fanatic would be understating the word fanatic. One of my favorite examples of this technique is the piece he created by putting all of the Beatles' heads on top of his own body. Slatts became the Fab Four. It's just brilliant.

I grew up in Lubbock, Texas, the home of Buddy Holly.  Buddy was my hero growing up. It was pretty cool to a little kid to think that one of the guys who started rock-n-roll grew up on the same streets as I. A simple kid from a small town in West Texas could change the world. So imagine my surprise the day Slatts asked me if I could take some photos of me holding my Strat while wearing a coat and tie, so that he could make a Buddy Holly piece. Of course it took all of a few seconds to say, "yes!!!" I took the photos as requested but knowing Buddy also played around in jeans and a white t-shirt, I took some of those, too, and sent them all along. And then on February 3rd, 2007, the work was completed. Slatts had made me Buddy Holly! I really cannot describe how awesome it felt to know that Slatts had turned me into my teen idol. He sent along an original for me to keep. Sometime later, Slatts took those photos of me in the t-shirt with my guitar and turned me into Keith Richards. I was always a Stones fan, too. So imagine how it felt getting to be both Buddy and Keith.

As our friendship grew over the years, we talked about meeting up on one of my trips to Boston, catching a game at Fenway, having some beers together, jamming to some old songs. It always seemed that work or life got in the way and we never got to meet up. You see, Slatts is my friend. But we've never actually been in the same place at the same time. The age of the internet created the opportunity to connect with people without ever having to actually meet them in person. I've often heard and even used the term "virtual friends."

A couple of years ago, I found out Slatts had cancer. It turns out it was terminal. He kept working during his chemo treatments, finishing an autobiographical magazine where he told his story with his own illustrations. After his diagnosis, I had a trip to Boston planned. We talked and decided we wanted to get together and share that beer that we had always talked about. But my schedule and the timing of a chemo treatment ruined those plans. "Next time," we said. Two weeks ago, the cancer had gotten to the point where hospice became the appropriate treatment. In that time, I've thought a lot about my friendship with Slatts and all the good times we had. He was such a fun-loving guy, always there with a big smile on his face. We always had something cool to talk about. And, I have a whole collection of coffee mugs with his artwork on them. Slatts has passed on now. In the age of the internet we can make friends with people we've never actually met. As I sit here and remember my friend Slatts, it hurts like hell, as much or more than if we had grown up together in the same town. He was truly my friend, and god, am I going to miss him.


Elizabeth said...

Nice eulogy, Jeff. I 'met' Slats by way of Cindy Lord. We comments on each others' blogs a few times. I am saddened by his death.

Kelly Fineman said...

Lovely post, Jeff. He will be missed.

Anna M. Lewis said...

Feeling the love of our old livejournal writer/artist group today. <3

Jill Griffith said...

Beautiful post Jeff, sorry for your loss, thank you for sharing this wonderful story with all of us...