Robert White

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The Old Love songs are what I grew up on: Tantem Ergo, Kyrie Eleison, Fat’s Domino and Gerry Lee, Funky Lee, Pinkie, Brenda, Jamie, Lee Harvey, Robert E., Robert E. Last Call old AA Meeting up on the hill.  He always put his hand up a few seconds before the chairperson called for prayer.  Went on and on boringly nonsensical, almost thinking himself a poet in those few minutes he’d smile while looking to heaven.  He didn’t really know what he was going to say.  He thought it inspired wisdom.  I wormed in my seat wanting badly to attack and throttle him for stupidity.   My God, thank God I am so blessed in sobriety.  Whew!  Praise God we are gathered here in sobriety.  You know I had a long time coming to this program.  I found every excuse to drink. Blah the blah fucking blah for ten minutes.   A few would fuckin leave in anger.  Smiling expansively with closed eyes, he’d put on his act.  Now Robert was one of the few Blacks who attended our Malvern Club House Meetings and had some limitations.  I say this charitably.  He was a hard worker.  One of the best.  Labored expansively and sober.  Kept jobs, did the worse work, and almost did it as a clown.  He had a long semi-black face, lightly bearded.  His hair was tiny afro.  Up at the plant I watched him haul up fifty feet to the mouth of the hopper and rip and turn that poisonous bag after bag.  It was a spectacle.  Heavy 100 lb sacks of Aluminum Oxide, an ingredient to expand the surface area of an ordinary Ford catalytic converter circa ’79.  He emerged white-faced and to all of us below it was a high circus act.  He followed that foul Johnson-Matthey across to Jersey West Deptford for years until the explosion and fire.  They said he did the most to put it out.  I’ve a fine portrait of this man from long ago.  Should I attempt to contact his family and present it as a memorial?

If one truly listened, he was a true poet by his sincerity and love.  Most found him an inconvenience.  Christ, there he goes again!  But I often thought a first comer could have sat mesmerized by his passion.  Maybe that convinced him/her to come around again?

Last heard his family collected millions both on the fact Robert was stoned drunk that night of the explosion and fucked up and his autopsy revealed lesions of cancer in his lungs, a form of meliothrombitus, related to Oxides like Asbestos, pure forms.   The lawyers collected millions.  The family, now, maybe fifty thou a person… um, that works out to ah… Ten million. 

The Old Love songs are what I grew up on:  Cletus “Pete” Boggs and his Family Eight, Porter Waggoner and Miss Norma Jean, Peggy Clooney, Doris Day, (wouldn’t that be a fine album today?), Elvis, Peggy Lee, Jimmie Scott, Buffalo Bob, Wilson Pickett and The Beachboys.  Christ, and I was totally unaware of all this till now.

Now Robert was an act. 


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