…consequently, I didn’t know Rupert very well. He lived full-time in Ajo Arizona, and I wintered there three months at a time.
I’ve read small sections of four books he’d either published already, or was planning on publishing. In 2011 we each had indicated our commitment to helping the other, and he’d read some of my stuff too. Both of us being self-published, any mutual help was appreciated.
About six years before that I’d first observed Rupert at the Ajo Vaudeville Show, from a distance, through a doorway and across the dim-lit heads of a hundred people, as he performed on a bright stage. One of his poems about a wolf. He wore an elaborate wolfish headdress or mask, self-made, as he howled and pranced about the stage in exaggerated low-humor. At least that was my impression from the audience reaction, but being so far removed from the action I really didn’t know what was going on.
I think that poem was from his first book, The Interview.
A year later he was facilitating a writers group at the Ajo library and I participated, as a songwriter. (No prose composition yet for me.) He was kind, and caring, and very supportive of everyone and their verbose creations.
His second book, a large novel titled The Mad Professor, was published sometime after that, and one year I bumped into him as he was trying to make an audio book out of it. Turns out, he had software that I could help him with, so I let him take over my brain, house and hardware one day as he recorded the Australian diction of Esperanza Stein as she read the bulk of the story into a microphone.
The following year, as he began writing his autobiographical book The Stained Glass Family, we traded more manuscripts and discussed self-publishing pitfalls. We sought triumphs, but alas, had not attained them.
Together we attended the Tucson Book Festival twice, and commiserated while seeking elusive success, along with 30,000 other individuals. I think he just wanted to get his story out there. His story.
And he kept coming up with any number of reasons that any number of niche groups of readers should be interested enough to buy his next book. I wasn’t about to talk him out of those dreams maybe they could come true.
He eventually bought my 16-year-old car, a Saturn station wagon, to have a reliable vehicle for his frequent trips to the VA Hospital in Tucson. Within a year it had run low enough on oil to blow the engine, but he never held a grudge.
Meanwhile, Rupert continued to battle his various health problems, including lymphoma of some sort. He’d be down pretty far, then bounce back and be quite functional and productive, rinse, repeat. Our conversations remained upbeat, and he would always share outlandishly wry commentary on his variable condition as well as his realistic prospects.
Until one day he finally had no more prospects. Eighty-one, they said. That was about a year ago.
He was already an old fellow when we’d first met, and that’s my permanent mind’s eye view. But sometimes one wishes one’s myopia could be cured, or expanded. Perhaps, with a closer reading of his books, his story, I’ll get there.