Thursday, September 19, 2013

An Annual Sadness (I Had a Dream)

April 15th, 2007, my blood-brother and best friend of 20 years, Matt Welty, died of an unexpected and massive heart attack. He was 45 years old. October 18th is his birthday.

It's not uncommon for me to feel down around these days and I often don't realize why until I look at a calendar. Matt was one of the first people I met when I moved from small-town Kentucky to big-city Orange County. Matt was my backup. My safety net. He was one of the few people who witnessed my transformation from naive country boy to...well, naive and educated world traveler. I have a few friends I've known longer, one in particular is very dear to me, but none of them watched me struggle to figure out the world outside of the romantic fairy tales I'd built around myself.

A few months ago I went on a camping trip with some friends. Traffic slowed on the 405 just before the exit to Matt's place. For months I'd been feeling this impending sense of doom. The feeling was inexplicable--I had an amazing wife, I had a baby on the way, my job is incredibly satisfying and I'd finally picked up freelancing work in the gaming industry. Things could not have been better. Still, something was wrong. Just before the trip I'd realized that I've been so trained as a writer to invoke the Success-Failure pattern in my stories that I'd internalized it. Things were so amazing that something, somewhere, was going to go horribly wrong. And after Matt died, my sense of personal mortality had never been more real. Sitting within sight of the Jeffery Street exit, minutes from Matt's apartment, I broke down and cried.

By the time I got to the campsite I felt better than I had in months. I've made several close friends recently who never knew Matt and I got to share stories about him, which always makes me happy. I hadn't talked about him in a long while and remembering the half-my-life influence he had on me was cathartic.

When it comes to memories like these, having a powerful imagination can be both a challenge and a blessing. For example, I don't simply remember events like Matt's death, I relive them with much of the psychological and emotional trauma they generated the first time. Yet, I also remember the good times with the same vividness and emotional involvement. I can close my eyes and put myself in Matt's apartment again, hear his voice, feel his hugs. Sometimes, in my dreams, I get to spend time with him in such detail that the experiences form new memories, new smiles, new happiness. It's as if he comes to check up on me and to let me know he's okay. A few nights ago I had one of those dreams.

I miss you, Bud. Thanks for stopping by.


Sept 16th, 2013

Last night I had a dream.

Matt and I were taking a tour of African wildlife rehab facilities when our friend Alan Fatarini shows up on a convertible magic Caddy. I didn't know the Caddy was magical at the time but that thing drove across the rutted wilderness like the savannah was a fresh highway. We went up and down steep hillsides and across muddy flats like a roller coaster. Once Alan drove us downhill and launched off a cliff and over a lake. We were going so fast that we drove across the surface of the water for a good hundred feet until we hit the far bank. I've never been one for roller coasters, but Matt and I laughed with adrenaline-fueled passion.

Alan chauffeured us from one wildlife center to the next. The owner of one particularly elaborate high-tech place was a beautiful red-head that had a thing for Matt. He talked to her while I snorkeled through a huge maze of lake-sized pools, guided by the owner's young son and a pair of curious and friendly dolphins. One of the numerous outlets dumped me into a beautifully manicured forest. I climbed out of the water, dried off and changed clothes in instant dream-time, just as a guide came to introduce me to the workers, a mixed trio of Asian handlers, and the chimpanzees they were rehabbing.

When we left there, Alan once again drove like a Zen maniac through the wilds. I gripped the dashboard and tried to tighten my seatbelt. Matt and I laughed our faces off while Alan went on and on about the doctors at all the facilities being quacks.

Just before I woke up, we were back in civilization. We parked the car in a structure as high-tech as it was run down--automatic doors, elevator placement, digital interfaces, all covered in graffiti and worn concrete dust. We hopped out of the car, Alan grumpily rambling about how the doctors didn't know what they were talking about. Matt and I laughed at him, then sandwiched him in a huge hug that pulled him off his sizable soap-box. "Take that, you quack," I said as we squeezed the air out of him.

As the Caddy lifted away on an elevator, Alan dropped the keys in some kind automated storage bin that looked like a mailbox. I remember hoping it knew which car and driver the keys were supposed to be for.

Matt and I were still laughing as we walked toward the parking garage exit, and though I could see and smell and touch him, a part of me knew this adventure was one-time only. My brain nagged at me that Matt was dead and I needed to enjoy this moment for all it was worth. I didn't know it was a dream at the time, but I knew that, somehow, Alan was helping us relive past glories by chauffeuring us on one last crazy road trip.

We left the parking structure and found a retro 50s dinner to get something to eat and as we went through the double doors into a blindingly bright light I hugged Matt around the waist and smiled.


  1. Rich, thanks so much for sharing your memories, your thoughts, and your heart. You were always good at that. Matt was the kind of man who left an indelible print on the lives of everyone he met, and it's good to relive that once in a while. Blessings on you and your family. From, Kelly

    1. Thanks so much for posting, Kelly. He touched many, many lives and to this day I get messages about how a word, or movie, or comic, or turn of phrase made someone tear up thinking of him. If it's true that a man never truly dies until all the lives he's touched have passed away, then Matt is indeed immortal.

      Love you to and your family as well.

  2. If you have Matt stories of your own, please link over to and share them with the people who knew him, and the people who never got the chance.