Bob Arihood passed away about a year ago around September 30th, 2011.
I said a few words at the vigil outside Ray’s that some of Bob’s friends from the neighborhood held shortly following his death. I didn’t put anything down here, though. While it’s a year later, I figure it’s never too late to pay tribute to a friend who has passed on.
I remember losing my breath. Firstly, because it was just a lot of death to deal with at once. And, secondly, because it was so unexpected.
I’d had my last conversation with Bob exactly a week prior. Friday afternoon. On the corner of 7th and A. Where else.
We had been emailing back and forth earlier in the day. Regarding his recent venture into video content for his site. When I later bumped into him on the street, he mentioned how he had just got a new computer and a turbo-boosted internet connection so he could more efficiently process and upload footage at the high quality he desired, and always demanded of himself. I told him he was his own toughest critic. He laughed.
I also updated him on an earlier chat we’d had about my recent apartment search. I had just signed a lease that week for a new place about a block away from Bob’s. As we parted, for what turned out to be the last time, we agreed it would be nice to see more of each other down in our neck of the ‘hood.
As I mentioned at the vigil, one of the things I found so unfortunate was the number of people who spoke or commented elsewhere, saying that they had lived in the neighborhood for years, saw Bob all the time, and yet never once struck up a conversation with him. I said it was really too bad, because Bob was such. a. nice. guy. He would stop and speak with anyone. And he was so incredibly warm and friendly.
I, too, had “seen Bob around for years,” we nodded occasionally during late night stops at Ray’s, but then finally spoke at length one afternoon as I was helping Ray clean up outside his store.
From that point on, Bob and I would regularly chat whenever we’d cross paths. Often for hours. There were many occasions where I’d say to my girlfriend, “I’m going to run over to Ray’s for a milkshake. I’ll be back in five minutes.” And then I’d bump into Bob, we’d go on and on about something, and when I’d return home two hours later, she’d joke, accusingly, “So, what’s her name?!?” ”Bob,” I’d say. We’d rap about Ray. The neighborhood. Politics. Architecture. Engineering. As those who knew him were well aware, Bob’s wealth of knowledge was vast and deep, a true Renaissance man.
In the weeks following his death, I was taken aback at the number of times and how often I found myself thinking “Man, I wish Bob was around. I’d really like to ask him a question right now.” Or, how sad I felt every time I rounded the corner — Bob’s corner — on the way to Ray’s and would be hit by the fact that something, or in this case, someone, was missing.
I still miss him.
I feel the same any time I pull up one of his old posts. I miss his work.
Regarding Bob’s work, aside from the content, which could often be so riveting in its simplicity, what I appreciated most was how “invisible” Bob was in the reporting. Whether he considered himself a proper “journalist,” a blogger, or just a guy with a camera, the stories were never about him. Only his subjects. It was telling how big a personality Bob was by how many people at the vigil and/or various “groups” in the neighborhood wanted to claim him as “one of their own.” As flattered as Bob might have been, it was refreshing to see through his lens a style of reporting that was raw — simply raw — with no editorial, subtle or otherwise. In today’s tawdry, hyper-partisan news environment (conscious or not), Bob stood apart just by giving his subjects an honest and fair dignity, showing them “as they were,” — good, bad, ugly, — “neither more, nor less.”
Even though he’s gone, we can all still learn a lot from Bob.
Rest In Peace.
PHOTO: One of my favorite shots of Bob’s. From outside Ray’s. Bob got such a kick out of that old New York Newsday awning. How perfect it was for the setting, he’d say. “Truth, Justice, and The Comics.” That’s actually the same awning that hangs above the entrance to the store today. It was painted over years ago. I hung a copy of this picture in the store on the night of the vigil. Lindsay and Chico were inspired and collaborated to draft a design for a mural in tribute to Bob that would go up on the awning the next day.