Sunday, March 28, 2010

Robert Bray Jr.

Robert and his entourage

A little snooze


Marisela's favorite

There seem to be a few Robert Bray's in this world. There is an actor who used to appear on the television show "Lassie." A psychologist in San Diego... a photographer in Canada, a neurosurgeon right here in L.A. The very name Robert Bray Jr supports the fact that there exists a Robert Bray Sr, which indeed there is, and on the morning of March 6th, a Saturday, while attempting to pick up his son who was not responding to telephone calls, Mr. Bray Sr. asked a neighbor if she knew which room his son lived in. Yolanda did and offered to check on him. His door was unlocked, as Robert Jr. often misplaced his keys, and his body was discovered lying peacefully on his bed.
I was alerted to Robert's passing when my lovely case manager, Erin, called me and told me that he had probably not made it through the night. I told her I would check it out and hurriedly made my way downstairs to find out what I could. I saw two police officers sitting at the entrance to Robert's room as I passed his hall, and couldn't find anybody in the lobby until one of the officers came down who when I asked him what had happened to my friend Robert, quite tactfully informed me, "He's dead."
I spoke to Erin again and confirmed the death, telling her tearfully, "Erin, I'm running out of friends."
Unlike my other friend, Jose who recently passed away, and who I'd only known for a few short months, I'd known Robert for as long as I've lived here, which is over seven years now. He was part of the background of this place, always appearing out of nowhere, making his presence known, then disappearing again into the woodwork until the next time. I first met him, if I remember correctly, where most people first met him, in the kitchen, usually cooking his breakfast of various combinations of eggs, tortillas, bacon, chile, etc.
To say Robert was very... personable would be an understatement. He was not shy at all about engaging in conversation with those he did not know, so everybody eventually got to know him. That's all fine to a point, but after a few encounters one would recognize the fact that he would trap you into conversations that more often than not would have no point, because Robert would always ramble from one topic to another without alerting the listener to the change or purpose thereof. And he could talk, and was almost always very willing to talk, for very long periods of time, so much so that if you were in a hurry and you saw Robert nearby, it was always best to avoid him, or else you would most likely get involved in a fifteen minute, one sided conversation, quite often involving up to thirty seven different topics that were not of your choosing, and had nothing to do with you.
He would quite often say something like this to me, "Rick, Rick, Rick, what was the name of that movie... you know the one I'm talking about, what was it... what was it, the one about the... you know, what was the name? Come on, you know."
There's a line in a movie or television show somewhere that they often play as a segue on the Stephanie Miller program, "When you tell a story it would be so much easier for the listener if you had a point!" That was Robert. He just liked to talk.
Case managers soon discovered this about him. Unfortunately for all those poor bastards over the years it was their job to listen to him. Erin tells me that Robert would come to her office two or three times a day and sit and talk while she tried to get her paperwork done. It was a great amusement to me to see my little case manager chase the hulking Robert out of her office every time he violated her sanctuary when she had clearly posted her "Doing Paperwork" sign on her door, which she often posts when pretending to work, and which Robert would freely ignore.
All in all though he was most always good natured, complimented by a goofy little laugh he would often employ after enjoying his own musings. He was also exceptionably opinionated and very intelligent for a Republican, although he voted against his own best interests in the last general election, voting for McCain then benefiting hugely from the extensions in unemployment benefits which were a direct result of Obama winning the election. He was also a self proclaimed Christian, admonishing me, or anyone else for not following so-called "Christian Ideals," denouncing homosexuality while at the same time having a wall poster of two very naked and cozy looking ladies on the wall in his room. When confronted with this shameful hypocroscy, like most Republicans when confronted with the facts, would just shrug and move off, steering the conversation toward another direction.
Speaking of Robert's room is like speaking of an enigma, a difficult problem that can not be explained.
Every time I ever visited Robert in his room it was always in a state of total disarray. All his clothes, or furniture would be on his bed (which was never, ever made), plates and eating utensils were on the floor, sheets scattered, half empty bottles of condiments, lose change all over the place... and in the middle of this constant chaos was Robert, sitting calmly, more often than not with his little portable TV set switched on to broadcast channels. It was always okay though to him because he was constantly in the act of cleaning it. I can't think of a time I didn't go in there and he wasn't supposedly in the act of "cleaning," his room. And it was always in a completely different state of disarray each time you visited. Truly an amazing feat.
Robert and Jose were the only neighbors of mine (except for Mike who moved out suddenly after living next door for only two months) who I've ever gone to the movies with, and I went to the movies with Robert on at least two or three occasions. I remember going to see "The Mist," with him at Citywalk. We would take the Red Line subway to North Hollywood, Robert dozing off on the way as he was a borderline narcoleptic (whose last job was that of a security guard. Guess what he got fired for?) Any time he would sit in any comfortable setting for any length of time he would inevitably doze off, and soon start snoring. On the bus, on the subway, in Erin's office. On the last day of his life Robert wanted to visit Erin and Paul who were trying to work. It was agreed that if he could just sit there and not say anything he would be allowed to remain. Bob tried his best, fell asleep then woke abruptly, calling out "Hey Paul, you know..." "No, no, no, Robert no talking," Erin told him. He fell asleep again and they let him sleep there for about an hour, providing a good deal of amusement for them as he would snore himself awake, drift off again, talk gibberish to himself, and so on.
But when we were in the actual movie theater he was able to stay awake for the entire film, as opposed to our Movie Day, in the lobby, which he would typically come to, grab a bag of microwave popcorn, munch it down (while spilling a good deal of the stuff in the vicinity directly around him, reminding me of the character Pigpen, in the Peanuts comic strip), fall asleep, then get up an walk off half way through the movie.
Robert was a big man who loved food. The few times I got into arguments with him was over his hoarding of food, always trying to take more than his fair share at the Cooking Club, or other public affairs. He wanted to be a professional cook, and I encouraged him to go to school as much as I could, even getting him to a few classes on one occasion, but that soon petered out as Robert was one of the few individuals I've ever met who were totally devoid of ambition. Anyway, he loved to cook, and loved to eat (I once went with him just down the street where he purchased two watermelons, and he weighed himself on a large scale they had there. "Rick," he said, "can you believe that? Two hundred and eighty three pounds." I believed it), and people loved to feed him and kept giving him food, as if he'd starve or something if he didn't get a disproportionate amount. Marisela, his last case manager before Erin (and her favorite client) was especially onerous in this habit, coming in sometimes on her days off bringing him stuff to eat, or making extra tacos for poor starving Robert. Even Paul gave him all of his crispy bacon and sausage during a recent outing to Denny's when free Grand Slam breakfasts were offered. What a sucker.
So Bob was quite a character, a fixture of this place who will be greatly missed.
He had his demons. He smoked marijuana almost constantly (hence his lack of ambition), and I knew he had used opiates (he once wanted to show Erin what heroin looked liked, and spilled it all over her desk), but not to what extent. There have been hints that he was involved with some powerful proscription drugs near the time of his death, but I have no idea what the actual cause of death was, and probably will never know.
We all had our own private memorial for Robert on the Tuesday following his death. About twenty of us showed, which was a very impressive showing for around here.
But everybody knew Bob, and everybody, after a short time either liked him, or loved him. He was just that kind of guy.
May he rest in peace.
by Robert Bray
Make a promise
And add it to a hope
Secure it with a deed
Divide it by a reason
Multiply it by assurance
Fraction it by luck
And combine it into a WISH
And ground it in faith

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