February 25, 2005

Andrew Breitbart - New Jersey '89 - Thanks, Ray

In 1989 I took a semester off from Tulane to blow a minor inheritance from a deceased great aunt. I took to New York City and spent money worse than the drunken sailor cliche. I blew through $22k in about three months. At the end of this stupidganza, Ray and Dave White, who were three years ahead of me at Tulane, and has graduated the year before, invited me to their humble cabin home on a lake in New Jersey. For all of my bravado, I was scared about being way off course. By taking off a semester I was now four classes behind and poor, to boot.

Ray, like a big brother, offered me sound counsel in New Jersey: to go back to Tulane and suck it up. I warmly recall this New Jersey experience because I was beyond homesick and Ray was the familiar and comforting voice I needed to hear at that exact moment. His advice and friendship affected me far greater than the limited amount of time we spent together would suggest.

When Ray moved to Corona, Ca a few years later, I was living in Venice, Ca. I remember him ending his cross-country motorcycle journey with the Aussie MTV veejay Andrew Daddo (sp) and visiting my new bachelor pad cum post frat frat house by the sea. I remember how easily Ray ingratiated himself with my roommates. I remember he stayed many nights on a disgusting shared stained couch (don't ask) in our living room. But then he would have to venture out to the Inland Empire -- California's New Jersey. He sure had a thing back then for living in the sticks. What a trooper!

Ray became friends with my now wife and even her brother, Max, and even many of our friends from yet another social circle. How easy Ray could integrate into any social situation. He even indulged Dave White's board game fetish. OK, I'll admit Bret Osterberg and I, too, enjoyed playing 'Trump' -- easily the most underrated boardgame on the market (OK, it's not 'on the market any more, but it sure should be. Is it on eBay, Dave? Let's play a game in Ray's honor next time we're together.)

The last time I saw Ray was at Dave White's wedding weekend. The day before the wedding in San Francisco, we were at a BBQ in Murphy and Dave's honor in Palo Alto where I met Ray's wife, Sophie, for the first time. I remember feeling so happy that Dave, Ray and I had all met great women, that we were all there having beers like in the old days but the meaning was all the more significant in that place in time. We all had made great choices in our lives despite having been classic Tulane derelict cases for some of our sweetest formative years.

I was in New York City, strangely enough, when I heard of Ray's death. I was there on business -- to promote the release of my first book. New York was the site 15 years earlier where I squandered a lot of dough and proved to myself I wasn't ready to take the town, or even take command of my own life. I couldn't even keep a job at the Hard Rock, for crying out loud. I was nostalgic in a nice way that I could come back to the town with a minor life victory. A bit of redemption. After a whirlwind day of media, and utter excitement, I walked into my hotel room exhausted, turned on my laptop computer and my AOL Instant Messenger session started. Immediately I got an IM from Dave White telling me he needed to call me. I knew something was wrong. And when he called to tell me, I was simply devastated.

Even though Ray was not in my class at Tulane, he mattered greatly to me. He was not an insignificant character, an extra in my life. He was the kinda guy in the movie of my life would win best supporting character. And that's what I will always remember about Ray: he supported me even though we weren't perpetually close. At a low point point in my life, he really was there for me, giving me solid advice when I was in more pain than I wanted to let on. And for Ray to have died on what was most surely a high point in my life, I took as a divine message -- that life is precious and fleeting and to always cherish more than anything one's friends and family. That is what matters most -- not being feted by news cable and AM talk show hosts who go through hawking more books in a year than any can possibly remember or care. Ray's death gave me instant perspective, something he was great at providing me when he was alive.

I have contemplated for the last year offering my condolences to both Sophie and Rose, along with Ray's entire family. I miss him so much but wanted those who spent more time with him to get out their thoughts and emotions first. I felt as of tonight I could wait no more.

Ray was a profoundly decent man, the kind of person who literally deserves all the high praise you are reading. I hope these words at least give you some comfort. Rose, your dad was awesome.