My friend Larry Davis, who I met via our high-school newspaper, the Hurricane Courier, embraced life on this planet from March 14, 1951 to November 7, 2013.
Our friendship began in September 1968, when I became a writer/cartoonist for our school newspaper, of which Larry (one year ahead of me) was editor-in-chief. I admired Larry’s earnest, intellectual breadth and he enjoyed my irreverence. But over the years, to Larry’s dismay, I placed him on a pedestal as the arbiter of what was good and bad in the works I created. He, rightly so, was not comfortable serving that role — totemic was how he described the position I put him in. (I’ve never heard this word since.)
Our friendship lasted until 1977 or 1978, when either Larry or I or the both of us conceded that we had increasingly less in common, and at some point a letter was not responded to, and the lack of a response was not addressed.
How I regret this!
Our disconnection was a joint undertaking, I think. I had married, become a homeowner, had our first child and buried my nose in the grindstone of my career. Meanwhile, Larry charted his own path, eventually heading to New York where, in 1991, he became director of the Bloomingdale School of Music. But I did not know this — by then I had lost touch with Larry and with the value of long friendships. As he had with me.
In 2014, a whim led me to put my internet skills to the test and see what Larry was doing. That is when I learned he had passed away the year before. I was crushed.
I had hoped to reconnect/rebuild our friendship on a more mature basis. Sadly, I didn’t even get to say hello again before I was forced to say goodbye.
Larry, who was now going by Lawrence, had begun to write a blog in (what would be) his final year. His essays captured his dedication to his students, his professionalism and his love of music. Reading these writings after his death only made me sadder about thoughts unspoken and experiences unshared over the many years of our separation.
• • •
On September 9, 2014, I launched lawrencedavis.org, a tribute website of my own design. It incorporated Lawrence’s later-life blog posts, as well as the correspondence, poetry and other writings I had preserved from our friendship years. I contacted his contemporaries, letting them know about the website and hoping they might contribute their own thoughts and remembrances to the site — or even better, some musical and/or lyrical creation that Lawrence had composed during his tenure at Bloomingdale School.
Though Bloomingdale School suitably lauded Lawrence on its own website, my appeal to his colleagues for items to memorialize Lawrence elicited nothing. So lawrencedavis.org would remain one-sided, dated and fragmented.
Which brings me to now. My web host recently informed me that lawrencedavis.org is coming up for annual renewal. Being that almost no-one has visited the site for six years, despite its Wikipedia link, I have decided to shut down the lawrencedavis.org domain. But I am preserving the pages of the tribute site at chcollins.com/ldavis, which you are encouraged to explore.
I have added a link to the tribute site in my “Links to Friends” in the sidebar of this blog.
I wish you had the privilege to know Larry — he had a cynic’s eye, yet was optimistic and delightful. I loved to hear him laugh. I wish he had lived longer and that I had known him in his later years.
When we are transported … by music and human endeavor, it is an evanescent moment. And when we return to everyday life with its multiple headaches and stresses, I can only hope we bring something back — something that is life affirming — something that proves that, even if it is only a moment, life can be perfect. — Lawrence Davis, “The Soul Speaks”
Reach out to your old friends, now. Because they are more special than you know, and because you should take nothing for granted.
In the image above, probably from 1971 or 1972, Larry is shown shooting a photo on a walk we took along Neshannock Creek. The manila envelope he was holding contained a copy of the latest edition of my zine, Reader’s Disgust.