Last weekend, I was in a roomful of people remembering George Romansic. (If you don’t know who George was, you can read something about his work here and elsewhere on the internet.) Some of his people spoke that night, some played music, some just smiled, hugged, and wept. If I had spoken, here’s what I might have said.
I last visited George, who was my favorite DJ, in early January 2015. He would live a few more weeks; by then he was badly affected by the glioblastoma that killed him, but when I got there on New Year’s Eve, his George-ness was still quite evident. We hung out. As usual, in his living room, the music playing was vast and diverse and wonderful. George wasn’t up to DJing, so his son John Lewis was doing the work. George smiled when he told me John Lewis had been taking requests, finding just what his dad needed to hear from the freakishly-extensive music library. The music was good, no, not just good but delicious, like the best cafe latte (not Italian, not Starbucks, but a real Seattle coffee, like you’d find at Caffe Fiore or Cafe Lladro, anytime, but if you’re really lucky, when you were hanging out with George). At some point during the visit, John Lewis played some of his own music from his laptop, delicious too; it sounded really really really good. The child is of his father, and of his mother, but also of himself. The light in George’s face when he said his son was DJing was one of the truest things I have ever seen, that love. I see, anyone nearby who’s looking can see how George lives on in his children, John Lewis and Maddie, can see how the glorious light in these beloved grown children keeps the source of their father alive. I am grateful for this.
Now, I recall the room at George’s wake, brimming with creative people who knew and loved George. I want Maddie and John Lewis to remember that room too, and to know how many people (in the room, and elsewhere, everywhere) have their backs. (Maddie and John Lewis, we’ve got your backs. Joanie, yours, too.)
The other thing I might have said then or want to say now is that a couple months before I visited George, when I heard how really serious things were turning with his health, I happened to be reading Lynda Barry’s incomparable One! Hundred! Demons! (which I wrote about here.) I got to the part where she writes:
The groove is so mysterious. We’re born with it and we lose it and the world seems to split apart before our eyes into stupid and cool. When we get it back, the world unifies around us, and both stupid and cool fall away. I am grateful to those who are keepers of the groove. The babies and the grandmas who hang on to it and help us remember when we forget that any kind of dancing is better than no dancing at all. —Lynda Barry, One! Hundred! Demons!
And I realized that if I know one person who is a keeper of the groove, along with the babies and grandmas, it is George. Literally, in his many musical breathings in this life, in the boxes of CDs he knew so well, and in a more magical and ineffable way. George kept the groove in his pocket, in the way he would always pick us up at the airport, in the light behind his glasses, in the beat of his kind and gargantuan heart.