March 10, 2004

Bret Osterberg

Ray helped me buy my first brand new car. I must have been 22 years old, and Ray 25, the day we drove up to the dealership in Carson, CA to look at a model I had considered purchasing. The stop at the Ford dealer was completely improvised. We were sort of on a general mission to see what the day had in store for us, with no set plan. The next thing we knew we were going to check out some automobiles. I figured that Ray knew a lot about cars so I wanted to get his impression and feedback before I made an investment.

We pulled up and walked around the lot for a while. The intention that I had was only to window shop for a future day when I'd actually do a deal. Before long we were corralled by the nearest salesman, then shortly afterwards wound up in his office and the guy began discussing the details of a purchase with me. I was very naive about the car-buying process, and everything that I was hearing from the salesman was sounding really quite good to me. It didn't take long for Ray to step up and ask the hard questions. Eventually, once Ray got into the mix, the guy behind the desk started sweating and getting frustrated all by himself and felt compelled to run for help. He went and grabbed his manager for back-up. Maybe 10 minutes later the finance guru joined in and, I swear, Ray had all three guys eating out of his hands. I just sat in the chair dumbfounded watching the redlining and negotiations that were taking place, while needing to answer only the simplest of questions. As you already know, I bought the car -- but through no help of my own. Had I tried to go about the process alone I would probably still be paying for that vehicle today.

I then gave Ray the keys to let him take the well-deserved first drive in the newly acquired sports car. I'll never forget Ray's first question as he positioned himself behind the wheel, adjusting the seat backwards and to its maximum recline so that he could fit: "How far is it to Costa Mesa?"

Ray had been waiting for a good time to go and see The Goat Hill Tavern, known by some for its World Record number of tap beers (140+, Who knew? ...Ray of course!). To me no time sounded better than immediately, so I began to navigate him toward the correct freeway. Aside from its unequaled assortment of icy cold beverages, Ray said that he wanted to go and do a little research into the setup and systemization of running this type of establishment for his father. I only needed one reason to get excited about the journey but now we had two purposes for going! Very cool.

Shortly after arriving we began to scientifically test the liquid fare and found that each and every one of the many tapped beverages that we sampled were equally frosty. Soon Ray found the owner and introduced us to him. After engaging in a bit of conversation the man ended up giving us a behind-the-scenes tour of the place, all the while sharing its history and inner-workings. Some people that we had later met through the owner invited us to catch the end of a volleyball tournament and party down by the beach, and a great time was had by all. What a fantastic day that was.

But that was typical of a scenario where Ray was involved. An ordinary, otherwise mundane day could turn extraordinary if Ray were in the picture. A trip to Santa Barbara to visit some friends would somehow wind up incorporating a secluded hillside concert populated by Hell's Angels and assorted mountain folk (my Hawaiian swim trunks and surfer T-shirt were a big hit by the way and didn't look at all out of place, yeah right -- I didn't remember Ray mentioning that I should try and find a leather jacket before we left) followed by a hang gliding lesson off the bluffs of the beach the next day. No matter what it was, it was always memorable and amazingly fun.

One day we were driving down a very busy highway in Ray's convertible and the wind took my baseball cap. It was just a hat, and I laughed it off and chalked it up as a loss. To Ray though it was not just a was my hat. "What are you doing, Ray?, no, no, forget about it...", fell on deaf ears as he began to U-turn and double back past the hat which was now on the other side of the highway. Another U-turn, a bit of maneuvering, an open driver's side door and a long arm down to the road and back in the car came the hat. A few vehicles had had their way with it in the meantime, and the brim now sported a handsome tire mark across it, but that somehow made it even better than before. I still have that hat in my closet.

Ray was a man who led by example. He was genuinely as nice of a person as anyone will ever meet. By remembering how he lived, and how he conducted himself on a daily basis, really helps challenge me to strive to be a better person.

The world and I will truly miss you, Brother, and I deeply regret not having kept in touch over the recent years. Once again you have taught me an important lesson about what is important in life, and how time can pass so quickly that one can get caught reflecting upon lost opportunities to keep in touch with those who are important to us.