He Was A Friend Of Mine
My longtime friend David G. Walley died suddenly on August 5 at his home in York, Maine, of a massive heart attack. He leaves his wife, Geli, their four children, Melissa, Lindsey, K.C. and Sean, and a book that needed only one chapter to be complete. (Which is probably the thing pissing him off most about being dead.)
I met David on July 5, 1968, when I had recently begun working at Jazz & Pop and had gone back to my former place of employment, Macmillan, to visit friends. David was “The New Patricia”, as the friends teased us both; he had taken over my old job of editorial assistant to the department writing a new children’s dictionary.
I thought he was funny and cute, and gave him an Oreo (the reason I happened to be traveling with a bag of Oreos is lost to the mists of time, though it seems likely to have had something to do with drugs). We started dating, moved in together briefly, found it was a bad idea (we fought a lot, and we were never in love). (I've been in love with exactly two men in my life, and David was neither of them. And he wasn't in love with me either; he never fell in love with anyone until Geli came along. She was, and is, the love of his life, his only wife as he so often called.)
Anyway, he moved out and I moved out too. And then I met Jim, and of course that was that.
We stayed friends, though, which was a far better thing for us both than being boyfriend/girlfriend. Soon after we met I had given him a job writing for Jazz & Pop—likewise his Rutgers friend and roommate, Lenny Kaye (soon to meet Patti Smith due to a Jazz & Pop piece on doo-wop and join her band, where he is to this day)—and he turned in some extremely good work.
Chief among them an interview with the MC5 which is an absolute classic of 60’s rock journalism (this can be found online in various places, if anyone’s interested—on my old site www.lizardqueen.com, though you must now go there through the WayBack Machine, and I believe the MC5’s site as well, as I gave permission a couple of years ago to Robin Tyner’s wife) and another with Iggy of the Stooges, as he was billing himself at the time.
After I left the magazine, David left New York and spent two and a half years in LA. We got him back by offering him a job as an ad copywriter at CBS Records, where I was then copy director, bunch of former rock writers worked there, and he stayed there for a while.
He was living on the Upper West Side then, which is where he met his future wife, the lovely (in all senses of the word) Geli Pearson, and married her in 1984. They subsequently moved to Stephentown, New York and Williamstown, Massachusetts, where I often visited and watched with fond amusement the transformation of this rabble-rousing crazyhaired East Village freakazoid into a country squire with a wife, four kids, dogs, horses, cats and, I believe, bunnies.
David never stopped rousing rabble, though, or anyone else who crossed his personal or writerly path, and that was one of the best things about him. Also his pure, fierce, indignant, Swiftian outrage, still going strong when so many of our contemporaries sold out and threw in the towel. When he began writing various books, I remained his editor, and one of the things I’m proudest of is that he said I was the only person who knew how to edit him properly.
We had our snitfits, of course, no long strong friendship is without them, but we always found our way back into friends. We were on a “hiatus” when he died. I don’t know, this time, if we would have ever gotten back to being friends again, it seemed not to be going to happen, I hoped it would. But though the friends may have been on a break, the friendship never was. I always thought of him with love and I always missed him. And now I always will.
He was a good man, a beloved friend, and he took a lot of my personal past, our past, with him. There are only a few people in the world, outside my family, that I knew as long as I knew him. All things considered, I couldn’t really afford to lose even one.
People with whom you have history, to whom you don't have to explain, with whom there is immediate understanding, a history that you don't have with newer friends no matter how much you love them.
People you can call and say "Do we know So-and-so?" or "Remind me what went down with What's-his-face that night at the Fillmore East?" or "When did _______happen and who was there when it did?" And they will know exactly what you mean, and more.
That's what's gone now with David.
We didn't go in much for presents over our 38 years, at least not for the usual occasions, but he did give me a few treasured things. One of which is a Tiffany sterling stashbox, uh, right, pillbox, engraved with appropriate sentiments for my birthday in 1973. (Typically, he groused that the engraving cost more than the actual silver box.)
Last night, after Geli called to tell me, I got the little box out of the jewel case where I keep it, and round about midnight, I polished it so that it shone again.
And I’m quite sure he and Jim will be sitting down over a beer real soon, if they haven’t already, to shake their heads and clink their glasses and duly bond in fraternal sympathy over that crazy chick Kennealy. And that’s just fine with me.
Rock on, Mishkin! And thank you.