Thursday, April 21, 2011
Gerard Smith was a friend of mine. We crossed paths while working at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City from 2000-2004. We were both artists, trying to find our way. He was much more successful with the process. We had a friendly, extremely sarcastic rapport while working through the long ten hour days at the museum. I nicknamed him "Boxcar" for his nomadic, yet fascinating life as a musician and busker, mostly at the Bedford Avenue stop on the L train in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He practically lived his life out of a rucksack back in those days, sleeping on friend's floors and patching together hard labor, freelance jobs to support himself, for the privelege of living in NYC. Most of the dreamers in NYC do the same, I know I did. He would often be seen down on the Bedford platform, working through his songs on an old acoustic guitar, mostly for cigarette money, and good coffee.
Gerard gave me a burned CD of his original songs, which I still have, and will pull out and give another listen to today. I digress, as the news of his passing hit pretty hard this morning.
Gerard made good. And life in Williamsburg strangely paid off for him. Upon my first return to New York after moving to San Francisco in 2004, I ran into him at Verb Cafe, a popular coffee shop on Bedford, where most of the card carrying hipsters in the hood java-ed up regularly. He was working behind the counter and told me things had been going well. He was in a new band with a guy named Kyp, a former employee at the Verb. We chatted briefly, hugged and I was on my way. We never saw each other again, but I read about him from then on. That was pretty easy. He would turn up often in my daily web crawl for music news.
Gerard and Kyp's band turned out to be the immensely diverse and popular TV on the Radio. Gerard had switched to bass from that rustic axe of his. I assume he was having the time of his life. The band is 4 albums into a brilliant career, and has been on best- of lists with every album release, experiencing world tours and TV appearances galore. He was a rock star, damn it.
The news just over a month ago of Gerard's cancer hit me like an ice cold slap in the face on a brutal February morning. Lung Cancer. Jesus. He would not be joining the band on tour in support of their latest album Nine Types Of Light, and was seeking treatment.
Lung Cancer. I know it well. My beloved sister was stolen from this earth by Lung Cancer just under three years ago. Nobody lives more than five years with Lung Cancer. There are barely any symptoms except for back pain, headaches and a rough cough. Yeah, every day aches and pains and "cold like" sickness. What lung cancer does is disguise itself for years, growing pain free until it wants to travel to a spine, a liver or a brain. Fuck Lung Cancer. Every time I read about lung cancer somewhere, I die a little inside as well.
Gerard Smith died yesterday at age 36, a mere month or so after his diagnosis. I will miss his wide smile, his playful guffaw in response to our sarcastic sparring, and his endless artist spirit. See you on that train ride on the other side, Boxcar. I hope to ride those rails with you, someday, somewhere.
Posted by Seano at 8:13 AM