Wednesday, May 19, 2010

By Julie Downey

I met Raymond in the mid '60's when we were both working at a magazine affectionately called "the nudie lewdies." I was really a high school English teacher looking for some extra earnings during the summer vacation so that my husband and I could extend our planned trip to Europe. Raymond was really certainly something other than a writer/editor of those tacky little rags. He was so smart and cultured he was destined to leave that grimy underground business, but where would he end up? Who knew he'd end up teaching special ed for LAUSD?

I think I helped get Raymond his job at Widney because when I returned from an extended trip to Europe, I substitute taught there and developed some contacts with the district. In any event, whether I really helped him get that job or not, Raymond seemed to appreciate me and seek my company. I always felt I had to work hard to keep up with him. I could never slide by, saying I had seen "Cosi" for example and enjoyed it. He wanted details: who sang what role, how was it staged, etc. Recently I tried to get him to join me at the Opera at the Movies Series, but he had an objection, in detail, to each opera included in the program. He could have won a bundle on Jeopardy if the subjects were all the fine arts.

(About that trip to Europe, Raymond joined my then husband, Ken and Jim and Marlene Henerson and me on parts of that trip. I'll leave the Raymond in Europe stories to Jim Henerson who has ample detail and samples of Raymond at his best and worst with which to regale you.)

When we returned from Europe, our lives took separate routes, other than a Chinese lunch downtown at Yang Chow where he chastised me for eating off the plate without first wiping it. We lost touch for several years, until last June he read about my ex husband Ken's death and joined us at a memorial gathering in his honor. It was in these last 6 months that we renewed our connection. Sadly all we had time for was one Chinese and one Japanese lunch and a few phone conversations in these last few months.

Although we talked about going to the movies, theater, music, whatever was of interest, we never put it together before he went through this last period off illness, hospitals and convalescent homes. I spoke with him last when he was returning home from the care facility. He promised to call me as soon as he felt up to an outing. I was still waiting for that call when we learned from Louise of his passing. He was one of a kind and will be sorely missed.

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