Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Earl Rich ~ one quarter century gone

I've been trying to write the perfect essay about Earl Rich for all these years.

This image, via Google Street View, is where Earl died on September 7, 1997. A guy named John Pluta (died in 2013) was driving in the opposite direction and suddenly turned left into the side street, his pickup truck becoming a wall of death at the instant Earl barreled into that t-intersection.

Just a few seconds either way and Earl would have been fine.

I've written about Earl on this blog many times, usually on the anniversary of his death. I did miss observing the anniversary in 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018. But I've had this blog for about seventeen years now, so not a bad record. And I've written about him a few times on other dates besides the anniversary, so that kind of makes up for it.

It seems to me that more people should know about Earl. He was a sort of celebrity in his own world, which is probably common for very attractive people. He resembled a young Warren Beatty. Earl's father-in-law (died in 2019), an editor at the Philadelphia Daily News, was quoted in the newspaper, saying that Earl was "one of those guys you got to know within minutes and felt like he was your buddy."

Who was Earl Rich, to the world at large? He was a nobody, a tax-paying citizen with a 9 to 5 job and a mortgage. For all his exceptional beauty and charm, his legacy is little more than my binder full of emails and this minimalist web site.

But Earl could write an elegant turn of phrase, as in this email:
Dearest Nancy,

You are the swizzle-stick of my eight-hour cocktail. I hope I didn’t upset you today with that email stuff. No more from me, I promise. You have your hands full. It seems that everyone wants a piece of Nancy!

I hope you re-read Confederacy (of Dunces). I doubt very much that you can enjoy or appreciate it fully in a one-sitting reading. But who knows? You never cease to amaze me.

I’ll leave you with this quote from the Journal of Religious Thought: “Chance is a statistical concept which ‘explains’ deviation within certain patterns of probability. “ Hey – it beats the hell out of confession.

Hoping to see you shortly,
Your Friend and Fellow Co-Worker,
E.B. Weatherington, IV

Now nobody wanted a piece of Nancy. But that's how Earl made you feel, like you were as fabulous as he was. And that line: "You are the swizzle-stick of my eight-hour cocktail." I'd had many different jobs up to that time (and many more after) and neither before nor since have I had a co-worker who could write a sentence like that. Nor want to write such a sentence to me.

Part of my problem in writing an essay about Earl is that I feel I have to tell everything - as if he was a celebrity and I must brag about every time we connected, like smoking a joint in my car in Valley Forge, or when he loaned me his surfboard, or the time he pretended to be in love with my sister and called her on a dare. Or the time he was vacationing in Key West and tracked down my ex-husband, who lived there at the time.

Since Earl had the knack of making everybody feel fabulous, I often wondered if our friendship meant anything to him, or whether I just happened to be there and he would have established such a connection with anybody else. But his widow seemed to confirm that I had been special to Earl when she invited me to meet with her and Earl's sister at his favorite Cape May restaurant, on the first anniversary of his death.

After writing about thirty different versions of my Earl essay, both on this blog and off, I think I must resign myself to focusing on only two main themes: how our co-worker Lisa was obsessed with him and sexually harassed him - this was the 1990s, her behavior would never fly today; and the ESP incident.

Because Earl really was, technically, a nobody, no matter how special to me. If I want others to care about his existence the essay itself has to be notable. So the quest continues.