Shine On

I lost an old friend today; shine on Joel, you Crazy Diamond.

I can only hope that someday…somewhere…somehow, maybe we can sit down with The Wizard between us, Pink Floyd (or Artist, God and Doctor?) playing on the stereo, the Young Ones playing backup off an endless loop Betamax, and another chance at that Conversation I’m now wishing like hell I hadn’t kept putting off…

I was just thinking about you the other day! And I can’t help but wonder, waking up on this so very Dark Side of the Moon morning, with these shadowy thoughts as my only company…if at the very moment I was musing “…you know, I should go see Joel today…” (maybe find out if he still has that incredible tribute to Salvadore Dali painting he started working on not too long after I first met him, way back when in the sweltering Summer of 1988)…maybe at that precise weird tick-tock-of-the-clock, you might’ve decided this life seemed for one-too-many times too dark and unfamiliar to go on…? Of course, that’s just masochism at its finest…and after all, this is not about me…except it is, selfish as that sounds (and is).

And I remember sitting by your hospital bed the last time around, when you tried on some of these self-same selfhate one-liners for size…they fit you better than that assless johnny did. And as I recall you tried to scratch your veins open and shaved your head. I remember making a bad joke that you were trying to one-up Van Gogh but it made you laugh. As I recall.

And recall and recollection is all I’ve got to go on, now and forever more. This death thing seems to be serious. And permanent.

 I wish I’d gone to see you and told you what I try to tell myself: you got to keep on with all of it, one, two, three. And believe me old son, I’m not the type to flip open the Wallet of Happy Thoughts and pull out the crispy currency of pleasantries and philosophical pound notes. Because my truths are hard to spell and harder to count and I don’t even know if I’m making a damn bit of sense half the time.

Just wish I’d said some things…the same things I need to hear myself, true enough. And maybe that’s why I never got around to that conversation.

If I had some extra time I’d read Jitterbug Perfume to you. That always makes me feel better. And why’d you have to shoot yourself, man?

I lied because I didn’t lose a friend today. I should’ve, could’ve and maybe in another more perfect place I would’ve played out a different hand…and maybe in some other alternate universe you didn’t pull that goddamn trigger.

But this all happened Monday…which WAS the same time I was thinking about you, now that I think about thinking about it. But you’ve been just as dead these past few days even though I didn’t feel it until today, didn’t KNOW it until today.

And that reminds me of this odd little sliver of meaningless science (or maybe it’s fiction…I can’t now recall)…

The closest sun beyond our own bright star is so very very far away that it takes 8 minutes (or hours or days or years?) for that light to find us hiding here on the Dark Side of our Moon…the light we see is always old…and so, when that star dies or fizzles out or blows up or burns out…we still see it.

Shine On Joel.



  1. Even through the night does Joel shine brightly. In my darkest hours and in my brightest days, he still shines. Even after two years, his memory is still a flame.

    I carry him with me tonight because I too am selfish. I need his voice, his reassurance he always had more for me than he did for himself.

    I miss you Joel. As I gaze at the paintings you made for me and work on a tribute as well, I feel your presence. Through all my pains I still hear your voice. ~puffs on cigarette and says~ “ahhhhhh Amber, sigh, he should tell you everyday how beautiful you are because you were the most beautiful woman in the world to me. Your hair alone has 14 different shades and each one I see in all their beauty. And he does not hold you while you cry?! If I had the chance I would hold you and never let you go. If I had that chance I might still be here today….telling you how amazing I think you are and you are my best friend. But instead of hearing your voice, I heard the other side, the dark side of the moon, calling my name. I had to go be with them instead of you, my dearest friend. At least now I can always be with you like I truly wanted to be. And when you are sad and hurting inside I will be there in spirit.”

    It’s funny how he communicates too. The day I found out Joel was no longer in the physical realm, I cried until my heart bled then walked out to my car and the song “Galileo” by the indigo girls started playing. The indigo girls were our thing. Then “damn I wish I was your lover” came on. The first song we ever danced too. Funny how we get these messages from the other side.

    Bless you for your blog. It comforts me knowing he has others who still see his shining light, lighting our path even in the darkest of nights.

    Cheers to old friends.

    • Amber: Your reply to Joel’s Eulogy on my blog hit me like some spiritual hammer, a punch, a…I don’t know if I have the words to describe it without sounding more drama than depth…perhaps: that feeling you get in the solar plexus when your emotions are readying to overflow all the built-up walls and flow over into some dark, deep, cold river. That isn’t right either, too much poetry than personification. Sorry.
      You see, I hadn’t opened my blog since my father died–unexpectedly–in 2012, less than a month before your reply was written, waiting until now for me to see it. Reading it made me weep–for Joel and my father. I found that a bit strange but I am not ashamed to say it. I am not particularly given to sudden strong emotional reactions producing a physical effect i.e. tears–most often my emotional reactions–to art, say, or attraction to some other thing or person or idea produces wonderment, enthusiasm, or sadness, but not WEEPING.

      The rub is, I cannot figure out what about your words did this.
      Maybe I should introduce myself a bit and tell you how I came to know our lost mutual friend.
      My family moved to Mentone in 1982 from Florida. I was just a kid, and even though it was quite the culture shock it was a magical place to grow up. I went to Fort Payne High School, then U of A in Tuscaloosa. Living off-campus at 18 with that much freedom was a mistake, and I came home more interested in art and inebriation than immediately returning to University. I met Joel (and then Brad) within a month or so of coming home for the summer, in 1988. Joel and I hit it off pretty quickly, as his interests in music and art were nearly identical to my own. He played a song (I believe it was called “Black Limousine”) that went on to influence me to learn the art of recording technology. I believe he and Brad recorded it under the name Artist, God, and Doctor. If you want to know what it FELT like (because it had a spooky quality I cannot describe) check out Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Red Right Hand”–the feeling you will get is identical.

      Anyway, that summer I spent a lot of time at the Bumgardner Estate. I LOVED that property, and we would go down into the woods to a waterfall and talk about IDEAS and BOOKS and FILM with a few like-minded people. It was great. After stringing colored lights in the trees, we’d have late summer/early autumn parties on the weekends. I was in AWE of his ability to paint, and though he offered me one once I would not take it without paying him something and he said, “Well, what do YOU think it’s worth? How about $100?” I said he was a fool if he didn’t get $1,000. He laughed, and said, “That’ll work.” Of course, I didn’t have $1,000 (which I truly felt it was worth) or $100 for that matter, and so I left the painting in his care until I could come up with something. To me, an artist SURVIVES by whatever art they practice, just like breathing and eating. It is a necessary function.

      I am a writer. EVIL ROBOTS was just a blog for fun. Until a girl I knew a long time ago who was married to Brad told me one day that Joel had shot himself. I was with him through a suicide attempt in the early 90’s and (before that) a brief stay in hospital. I guess I understood because that “dark side” you seemed to reference is very familiar to me as well. I write “dark southern gothic” mostly (or, that’s what I call it, don’t know what other people will) but went through a LONG dark period where I did almost nothing. I still had the need to produce art (as I said, and you know yourself, to me the same need to eat or for water) so I formed a band, moved to Florida, and played music for a while, learning to record, mix sounds together like paint, etc. (It was a Nine Inch Nails-type project for a quick description). But Mentone and DeKalb County were still in my spirit I guess, and I was never truly happy in Florida. Finally, in 2006 I moved back: to Scottsboro, taking a job with the local paper. Then I moved to Fort Payne and went to work for the Times-Journal. I lived in the old Davis Hosiery Mill I used to take B&W photos of as a kid. I wrote some on my novel. But most of my friends had moved away. Until I saw Brad at a pawn shop looking at guitars one day. He said Joel wasn’t doing well but didn’t elaborate. I think this was 2007 but I might be wrong.

      Anyway, I kept MEANING to go see him. I DID. But…I DIDN’t. And then it happened, what he had tried a few times ( that I knew of) before.
      It crushed me. I felt such intense guilt as I have never felt. I just KNEW if I had gone up there (I did call once and leave a message as I recall…then again maybe the phone just rang, but whatever it was, no one picked up)…IF IF IF IF…IF is a bad, terrible word sometimes. If I had gone up there, rekindled our friendship…but I don’t know.

      I do know that your reply touched me, and from the bottom of my heart I thank you for it and would like to know more about how you knew him or any memories you care to share. You can send them to my private email address so they won’t come to the blog if you like. It is


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