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Rory Root’s Memorial

Brian Hibbs

I haven’t seen anyone else write about it (or, at least Tom ‘n’ Ace ‘n’ Dirk ain’t linked to anything yet), so let me take a stab at saying something about the memorial for Rory Root at Comic Relief this past Saturday night.

I traveled to the Memorial with Jeff and Graeme, as well as Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan. We arrived right around 7 PM, while the event itself was scheduled to start at 5. I was told that the actual Stand-Up-And-Say-Something portion of it started about 6 (and it lasted until 10:30 or 11 or so, wow!)

When we showed up, the street in front of CR was packed, with probably 40-50 people milling about talking, reminiscing on the sidewalk. Immediately I recognized tons of people who came in from out of town — oh, there’s Diana Schutz, there’s Larry Marder, there’s Bob Wayne, it went on like that pretty much all night, every time I turned I saw someone in comics who’d flown in from out of town for this. To a certain extent, it might have been almost good that it happened the same weekend as Heroes Con, because otherwise maybe it would have shut down traffic, y’know?

Then there were all of the retailers. Wow, there were a lot of folks flying out-of-state for this — Jim Hanley and Steve Gursky, Matt Lehman, Brad Bankston, Mike Malve, Hell Kelly Down came down all the way from Alberta – and I’m missing a couple of people there. Then there were at least 25, maybe 30 retailers from inside California. Honestly if you wanted to pull a string of comic book store heists up and down the left coast, last Saturday would have been the day to do it — all of the owners were out of town!

I’m awful at eyeballing numbers in a crowd, and it’s even harder in CR because the store is so ginormous it throws off my sense of scale, but I’m guessing that at certain points there were likely upwards of 125 people inside the store at one time. It was packed.

It was also kind of like walking into an oven. Thursday and Friday had been EVIL hot days in the Bay Area (at least by Bay Area standards), but Saturday had started to cool off. So, OUTside the store it was a wonderfully pleasant summer evening, with a nice breeze and all, but, wham 20 degrees hotter once you get two steps in, from the heat of the crowd, and lack of any real ventilation.

I heard a lot of great Rory stories, both delivered to the crowd, as well as shared in small groups, and we talked a lot about comics more generally, and saw people we might not have seen in a long time, and had lots of food and beer and just generally a good ass time. Which is pretty much what Rory would have loved.

I’m young enough that this kind of thing is really rare for me (and thank god for that), and I never really know what the etiquette of things should be. Everyone asks “how are you doing?” and I am sorta not sure if that’s in the “What’s up?” sense or the “How hard is the loss hitting you?” It is maybe even weirder now, because “enough” time has passed that most of his friends are just now starting to “get over it”. I open with “my condolences” to a handful of people — Rory’s family, Todd, ex-Partner Mike, because I feel like they really deserve more than the “how are you doing?” but I still feel kind of awkward and strange with what to say and how to say it. Or how to respond, sometimes. Death is weird.

Heh, so I’m standing outside (AND NOT SMOKING A CIGARETTE, mind, so that’s good)(though I got offered many from people who know me as a smoker, which is also nice, if no longer practical), and some girl walks by and asks “Wow, what’s going on here?” and I tell her that it’s a memorial for the owner of the store, and that he was a great man, and that there are people from all over the country here to pay their respects, and she smiles, and says quite innocently, “Wow! Sounds cool!” She didn’t MEAN any harm, nor did I take any, but isn’t that like exactly the wrong thing to say?

Berkeley, y’know?

I ended up leaving just before midnight (If I don’t get on BART by then, I turn into a pumpkin… though I really timed my train right, I waited for less than 5 minutes, so was back in The City waiting for my Muni bus in under a half-hour… and that’s WITH the transfer at McArthur), and I think I was among the last people who wasn’t a CR employee, or past CR employee.

I left it to them, as it should be. (though I sorta pity whoever opened Sunday, heh)

I’ll miss the big guy, and I didn’t want to say goodbye, but this was an alright way to do so, if we have to.

Rory would have adored the party and all of the people and that they were all happy; but he would have been embarrassed as heck that they were actually SAYING all of the wonderful things they did.


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