My friend Jerry picked me up on a cool, sunny January morning for our monthly time-killing lunch excursion to Louisville. As is often the case, there was a song Jerry wanted me to hear, and he plugged it into the CD player.
You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
It was Jeff Buckley’s moving, ethereal version of “Hallelujah,” a song written by Leonard Cohen.
Had David Roark known that I was thinking about him while listening to “Hallelujah,” he would not have been impressed, not one little bit, but his characteristically hyperbolic objections to mawkish sentimentality had been jarringly rendered silent on Thursday. He had died, presumably of a heart attack, at the crazily premature age of 47.
Or, for those keeping count, exactly my own age.
Although I had known Roark – almost never as “David” – since some time around the 5th grade, we’d been out of touch for a few years. As I recall it, roughly six years ago the medical profession made him aware of a severe diabetic problem, and according to our mutual longtime friend Byron, it didn’t appear as if Roark stuck to the letter of his treatment instructions.
To his ultimate detriment, of course, but that would be just like him. He always wanted to be a tough guy. The first time he brought a primitive cassette player to school, the only song on it was the theme from “Hawaii 5-0,” and this set the tone for our early friendship. Like many boys of the era, we grew up emulating macho characters from television and movies like “The French Connection,” “Dirty Harry” and “The Godfather,” even if we remained genial in the hallway and physically clueless on the playground.
The school years passed by, and Roark and I were in high school, two uncoordinated, posturing and bookish only children seeking an outlet for our creativity. As freshmen, we famously published the Weekly Wad, an underground newspaper, quickly running afoul of the reigning authorities not only for the Wad’s inexcusably tasteless editorial content, but also owing to our expedient decision to steal the paper from the audio-visual department.
The Wad in turn helped bring together the gang that ran amok our junior and senior years, although in fairness, we had to wait a couple more years for all the eventual members to move into the school district, and an exact accounting of the official membership was never attempted.
The exact impetus for eight high school students, each of them a good four years removed from the proximity of the legal drinking age, to come together as the self-billed “brew crew” is completely lost these many years later, but that’s what we did, and somehow, we got away with it.
In my case – ironically, considering that beer has become my career – membership in a drinking clan wasn’t something to be owned up to at home, and yet there was an aspect to this peer group mentality that I’m sure appealed to Roark in the same way as it did to me, because we were the only ones present without siblings.
He and I always had that in common.
Growing up alone in big houses with working parents in what was then still a genuine countryside gives a person plenty of opportunities to think about life, and one of the things I though about was how growing up would be different with a brother or a sister. Chores, sports, scouting and school were supposed to fill the gap, and they did. But they didn’t. The brew crew was different. We chose ourselves as members, not primarily because we were snobs or elitists. It was all about a common attitude and shared interests, and not only drinking beer. The camaraderie was genuine, and while it lasted, those guys were my brothers. I can’t say that there has been anything quite like it for me since.
Time passes, the door slams shut, and we all know the drill. Someone dies, and the tears you cry are for you, not the departed. You feel damned guilty that you hadn’t bothered to call, and a bit miffed that he didn’t bother calling you. The “innocence lost” lament insinuates itself into your brain and is impervious to the beers.
Of course, we all intended to amount to something huge, and to be honest, none of us ever really did; in the end, all the obvious talent and unlimited potential we saw in ourselves merged seamlessly into the predictable lives of purely ordinary people, the eight of us, with little of it being of significance in the larger scheme of life … and that’s the way it usually works.
Isn’t it ironic, in the end, that the two only children in the brew crew turned out as adults to be the childless ones?
Funny. I'm feeling very alone again.
David G. Roark 47; former New Albany resident
Funeral services for David G. Roark, 47, of Indianapolis, will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, at G.H. Herrmann Greenwood Funeral Home, State Road 135 and Olive Branch Road, Indianapolis. He died unexpectedly Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008, while in Chicago.
He was born March 30, 1960, in New Albany, graduated from Purdue University in 1986 and was a member of Theta Xi Fraternity and the John Purdue Club. He enjoyed live music, scuba diving, reading and sharing stories. He is loved and will be missed by his family and friends.
Survivors include his wife, Pamela “Shirley” Roark; parents, Glen Edward and Mary Frances Roark; three dogs, Sophie, Ripley and Rocky.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the funeral home.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Jack Russell Rescue League.