It smells like varnish at my desk. I don’t always notice it, but every now and again I catch a whiff and instantly my mind is distracted from whatever task I’m being paid to do, and I drift off into a sea of memories. The smell of varnish is going to be the lingering last line of the tome that is inked into my memory as an era of distinction. Fitting then I’m on the couch where I’ve written so many manic lines, RTJ in my ears about as loud as my headphones can manage, an homage to his own methodology of creation. I very much doubt this will be the last line in the story, but it’s the end of this chapter anyhow, and what a good one it’s been.
I was lost. Absent. Disconnected. Detroit was bleak. I had just moved in with someone “special” against my better judgement. I was missing something, but I didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was, especially for soccer, someone I had just lost to the fishing village up north. My childhood friend, oft enemy on the field, subsequent teammate, and the one who brought me to my first Timbers game just a few weeks after I touched down on my Portland sojourn, he was gone. It happens, careers must be attended to. I was alone in soccer again, but particularly unusually so. The World Cup was in full swing again, but I was in a strange city for an undetermined number of weeks, and no one cared to talk to me about it. No one in my life knew what it meant. It was “cool”, but that was about it. I happened on soccer podcasts to help me fill the void, something for no one. I’m sure my therapist has some thoughts on that… I’ll have to bring it up sometime.
Then it happened. I wrote the email which started a friendship. Well, many friendships to be sure, but one particularly. I was writing an email to a podcast. To some strangers who sounded like I sounded when I sat with my friends back home. Effusive in praise of the game. Breathless in excitement of possibilities, and impossibly overwhelmed with the background against which each World Cup took place. Who writes an email to a podcast? Instead of a signature I ended it with an offer –
If you come down to cheerful bullpen for the Germany game I will buy all you guys a beer. Maybe a whisky too. Just the core timbros tho. Not that I know who you are.
The reply I got, though I didn’t know it at the time, was quintessential.
I think we can arrange a trip to the bullpen. Until then, enjoy Detroit if you can. By that I mean buy some pacifico’s and lanolin.
There was of course more to it, but I think that conveys the sentiment succinctly.
Six days later I met up with a co-worker, crowded into a room full of AO types, wrapped myself in faux jingoism and did what I always did, root for my team. For some, the USMNT isn’t much more than a distraction from their club team. That’s not the case for me. Growing up when I did, the national team WAS my team. Yeah, I got to see Preki from time to time, banging them in on the concrete at the Tacoma Dome when I was very young, and that was amazing. But I never had a team other than USA (and I should also point out the Women’s national team here as being equally formative in my soccer development, especially in ’96, but that’s an aside)…
Eventually I got a text, or an email, or something and was searching the bar for a couple of strangers, for whom I had a vague admiration if for no other reason than they gave me an auditory slice of home. Strangers were found. Beers bought, whisky’s shot, a few handshakes and a promise to meet up again some time and I was back to my front row seat where I had not saved them room. He would later tell me how funny and awkward it was, but much like the lanolin crack, I think he would later learn that was my quintessential awkwardness.
That might be the end of the story, but for some reason it wasn’t. I got pulled into a podcast. Then got pulled into another. Watched him proselytize for every unique voice he could find. There were most definitely unique voices. Then got pulled into writing a weekly column about referees of all goddamn things. Then got pulled into dumb twitter fights. We can skip most of that.
I want to talk about creating. The unwavering desire to create at all costs. A podcast. A website. A travel log. Another podcast (for some reason the dating one really took off, but it’s hard to keep up once you fall in love I guess). Then came the photography. Fun at first. The most fun he knows how to have. Over, and over, and over again it was said. The. Most. Fun. I. Know. How. To. Have… I was jealous in a way, having no discernible talent of my own, unless neurosis and obsession count as talents. But here we were, on a cup run, in a strange city, belly distended full of smoked meats of unknown provenance, and whisky. I think that night was the most open I’ve ever been, just naked of any emotion except for joy, with a funhouse mirror reflecting a more interesting version of myself. I’ll never forget that blur.
I don’t know anyone else who has literally put their life on hold with a singular focus to contribute to a community to which they were not native. He carved out a space in a very busy dialogue which was explicitly for others to use. He created a platform that anyone could use, without context, without edits, without judgement. There’s a section for 2-sticks. There’s a section on referees. There’s a section on referee performances. There’s a section on fan reactions. There’s a section on gifs. There’s a podcast about soccer movies. Whatever it is you want that’s not on STF, it’s here for you.
Or rather, it was. You see, without someone egging everyone else on, without a ringleader for the troublemakers, most troublemakers keep their trouble to themselves. Once he couldn’t figure out how to monetize, or activate, or whatever other internet jargon you want to use… and the savings ran low, and the weekly bills for renting his lens added up, and the rent kept coming due, well he got a real job. It was boring, but it took up enough time, and sapped enough energy that he couldn’t give back the way he had previously. We were left only with his pictures. His singular style. His view of the games. His view of the players.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a fundraiser, knowing full well that he was going to be moving away – no, it wasn’t confirmed, no offer was extended, but considering that there was an opening, paid full time job taking photos in professional soccer, he was going to get it. Why wouldn’t he? – I was there to buy some strong mescal cocktails, eat some arepas, let my 20% throw a few bucks in the coffer of a community football club, and maybe, just maybe spend some money I didn’t have on a piece of art.
That’s why my memories flood back to me every time I smell the varnish on the handmade walnut frame, and I look over at a 3-character play, frozen in time. Adi. Opara. Soccer Ball. A delicate and brutal ballet with a black curtain backdrop. “That’s my favorite picture I’ve ever taken” he said as my gaze hung across the room examining the timeless moment. I could write a thesis on that moment, but I didn’t need to justify my purchase. This was, after all, a fundraiser. I guess I was lucky no one else had picked that one out, about half of the pieces were gone already. I don’t think anyone else heard him say it. I don’t think it was necessarily said to me, or really for me to hear. It just sort of had to be said. My favorite photographers favorite picture doesn’t have a place on the wall yet. I’ll probably put it near the “Love Conquers Fear” one I have. Or maybe by my Maelstrom. I don’t know yet, because it hasn’t picked its’ spot yet.
You will be missed my friend, but I know you will keep creating, and that’s all I could ever want for you.
Take care Roscoe. Maybe we’ll make that flight to New Zealand eventually.
1 Comment on This story has a happy ending
Roscoe is so special and it always make me so sad he catches so much shit. It makes me even more sad that a city like ours, who proudly touts that diy lifestyle, is losing such a creative and talented person, and I only wish that one of our teams would have scooped him up first. Good luck in Utah, BCD. I hope someday this fo steals you back.