Last week on a date that doesn't really matter, the second anniversary of life without Nathan quietly passed. Phil and I observed it simply and in a way Nate would have appreciated - we went to a bar and got drunk.
If Days of The New are a constellation (and we are) then Nathan Robinson is very likely the black star at the center, keeping up the gravitational pull.
At the time of Nathan's death, Travis and I hadn't talked or seen each other in a few years. We got back together to play a memorial for Nathan. We played "Wish You Were Here" and Nate's brother accompanied us on guitar. It was the first time we had played in four years and, in ways that I still don't think we understand, it was the beginning of a new chapter that runs up to and includes this moment. The following is a piece I wrote for the Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) the week of the memorial.
Nathan Robinson Remembered
by Ray Rizzo
I cannot tell you about Nate in 500 words. I will try to find him in a few haikus printed in a paper that I am pretty sure he never read. Not that he disliked LEO. I think Nathan appreciated LEO because his friends and the musicians he spent his time working with read it, if only to see their names written inside.
It is good for the paper – hell, this city - that Nate’s friends are among its community.
It is good of this paper to give 500 words to Nathan Robinson, sound engineer, musician, friend, brother, son, grandson. All over the city this week, many of Louisville’s Most Eccentric Observers can gather upon this quarter page memorial, smoke a Red or a Green, toss back some Makers and ask our newest space traveler, “S’uuup?”.
It isn’t good that we’re here and Nate is gone.
For those who didn’t know him, Nate would like you to take these 500 words and rearrange them in any manner you see fit so that they may work for someone you know who might leave this world loved but with not as much in print.
Now you know.
For those who did know him, 500 words are just not enough. And yet – Nathan: one word opens a universe. Nathan, a memory: “Let me eat it!” Nathan, a sign: “Peace!” Nathan, a sound: “The bass tone is the fuunk!”. Nathan is reaching beyond his body now. That is some wild shit, Nate! It’s crayyyzy!
You better cut this out and put it on your fridge. Because any place of Nathan’s was a place worth gathering. Dog shit on the floor, ashtray runneth over, fuck it. In Nathan’s home, pizza from last night’s crew was daily bread. You bet your ass I gave thanks to have it. Nathan showed me that there was nothing in the loaves, ya dummy. It was the people you broke the bread with. He also tried to talk me out of eating stale pizza.
Nathan never sat at table, at a bar or recording studio where he didn’t take you in as a friend. I believe the ledger of Nate Dawg balanced all debts, graces, and minor thefts in the currency of essence. Now, Nathan would be first to say that “essentials” like friendship, sonic alchemy, and laughter were not as good as cash when you are starting your own recording business, but he was just starting to get calls from people who understood his worth. In his presence I always felt lucky.
I’ve thought about Travis Meeks a lot this week. The day Nathan died, Travis told me he saw Jesus once. In Los Angeles, late into an emotional night. Travis looked upon his couch to see Jesus sitting smoking a Marlboro Red. When he outed Jesus from his disguise, Travis says Jesus sat back on the couch, got real quiet, and grinned a shit-eating grin until the sun rose.
Nathan, the word in Hebrew: “God has given!”
One more thing – I’m sure I’m over my limit, but this is important. I’d like to tell the other driver, on behalf of at least a few of Nathan’s friends gathered here at the Quarter-Page Memorial, there is nothing you need forgiveness for. But if it helps, you are forgiven. I mean, I am sure if Nathan could have got up and kicked in your bumper and cursed for a month, you would have heard nothing like it, laughed your ass off, and eventually become “cool”. If he were here Nathan would tell you that this is just some fucked up shit that happens. I know you don’t know me, but here it is in Nate’s 500 words.
Or you could take Travis’ Mom’s word for it. When she called Travis she said, “Goddammit, Trav, I know that boy, and when he went into critical condition I knew he’d take one look at the other side, look back at us and say, Fuck ya’ll!”