Leroy Aarons lived in Sebastopol. I went to his memorial service today because we didn't have time for an obit for the paper and I thought we should have something. I had never heard about him until I read his obit in the Press-Democrat, and after I read it I found myself wishing I had known him, sorry I had missed the chance by so little.
The music for the memorial was all show tunes, mostly Cole Porter, sung by someone who probably sang karaoke with Aarons at the Coffee Catz cafe in Sebastopol, where I gather he appeared regularly. There was a slide show of him, showing this incredibly shrewd and lively character, usually laughing.
His brother said that Aarons often told him this fantasy he had of his own funeral. He would be in his box, lying there, and all the people he knew would be there in this great outpouring of unconditional love, and "he would be basking in it," the brother reported. This was a man, I felt, who had really made something (including, possibly, a minor nuisance) out of his desire to be loved, out of a blazingly affectionate heart.
After the ceremony there was a gathering of people and snacks. I recognized the publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, whom Lucia had introduced me to a few years ago, but I couldn't remember whether he was nice or not, and I was sure he wouldn't remember me at all. Mrs. Maynard, the widow of the founder of the Maynard Institute, was there but I didn't recognize her. Lots of journalism and gay community folks. After Rawlie, the publisher of our paper, left, there was no one I knew there except the mayor, Linda, and I couldn't find her. I felt lonely and sad and like I would have liked to be part of a community that Leroy Aarons had been the center of. It would, I was sure, have been a warm and friendly and smart and tolerant and stimulating one. But that scene and that time was not the time to go looking for friends. Or maybe it was.
Like I said, I left feeling lonely and sad. Came home and did what I do when I feel a little down, curl up in bed with an art book and fall asleep. I just want it to be very quiet around me. So that's what I did.
Later I took the dog for a long walk. While walking it occurred to me that I had exacerbated my low feelings by constructing this feeling of connection to Aarons. I didn't know him at all. But at the same time I realized that I was feeling the lack in my local life of people of my ilk. People who live by the word, people with, simultaneously, gregarious curiosity AND detachment. People who live in their imaginations, the way I do. People who dramatize everything. People who are compelled to turn everything into a story. People who are unsure of their identities so they just sort of make it up out of old tin cans and rubber bands and paper clips. People who don't really expect help with their problems. I definitely have some problems I need help with, like getting a better job and getting over the two years in St. Kitts, but on the other hand I have a lot of problems that don't really require help; mostly they require someone that I can bitch to until I and the other person are giggling.