A drawing by “El”
I think it was the spring of 2002. I started chatting online with a fella in one of those bear chat rooms.
Boy he had a way with words. All these delightful expressions and vim. Laurence was overly complimentary and quick to offer an ear or lend advice.
We moved to writing letters and phone calls. His voice boomed over the receiver with authority laced with self-deprication. A charming character, all around.
A lover of gardens he said I must come visit Ann Arbor, to see the (insert flowers) in bloom.
That fall I planned a trip to a lake house in Canada and a visit was entirely possible—a nice break in the jaunt actually.
So after 5 hours on rainy roads, I remember pulling into the driveway of the house he shared with his partner of over 30 years—who happened to be an excellent cook. After some quick introductions and to verify I had no food allergies, Gerry tended to dinner and Laurence gave me a tour of the place—packed neatly with books and art hanging on what seemed to be every square inch of the walls.
He hung with the beatniks. Made drawings for the New Yorker. Protested, well… everything (and had buttons for it.) He knew people with names I should’ve known.
And after dinner as I sat there digesting absolutely everything around me, I could not shake that I was privy to greatness.
I left after brunch the next day and as I walked to my car, Laurence stood there waving in the shadow of his front door. That was the last and only time I would see him.