This happened years ago in a parallel universe that Robin inhabited and that I visited from time to time.
It was a double date. Robin was in love with a lovely, smart woman he wanted my wife and me to meet. So the four of us set out for the row of Brazilian restaurants near Times Square and ended up in the most lavish of the lot.
It was a formal dining room, white linens, wait staff in short black jackets, very spacious with more help than customers.
The ladies excused themselves and Robin and I headed immediately to the bar where we promptly ordered a pitcher of caipirinhas. For those unfamiliar, the drink consists of cachaça, a highly potent white liquor distilled from sugar cane, a bit of fresh lime and lots of sugar. One of of these drinks, and you’ll be doing the samba for the first time in your life, without prior instruction of any kind, as if you’d been dancing all of your life. A full pitcher is unthinkable. Or put another way, what were we thinking?
We guzzled the pitcher in record-setting time, most likely chasing it with small sausages and grilled shrimp. Staggered, we joined the ladies at the table, who were getting along famously.
I don’t remember much about dinner. Duh… I do know that Robin and I continued to behave badly (excessively) and ordered, and consumed, at least two bottles of wine.
What I remember most vividly however, is how our evening came to a close. I turned at one point and Robin was no longer at the table. That is, technically he wasn’t seated at the table. Unannounced, as he often did, he decided it was time to sleep, and when Robin lost consciousness he simply passed out wherever he was for a power nap.
He’d pulled three chairs together in a line and stretched himself out lengthwise with his linen napkin over his face. I could hear his signature snore, and the grinding of teeth, through his impromptu mask.
To their credit, the waiters acted as if nothing was amiss. Since it was Friday night, the dining room was now packed…every table filled with people waiting and the owner beginning to chafe, looking ominously our way.
The three of us started to gulp our coffee, while casually acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary. That is, until a thunderous crash brought the entire establishment to absolute silence, not even the sound of a fork in use.
Robin, it seems, had rolled off his improvised bed to the floor, taking two of the three chairs with him.
I heard my voice call out “Check!” as I motioned madly for the waiter’s immediate attention.
The room remained silent.
Abashed, the girls left.
Lifting my friend, we made our way slowly to the exit.
Years ago, Robin asked me to take care of business, if anything ever happened to him and of course I said yes. We all knew it was a distinct possibility every time he headed out to shoot in the least hospitable corners of the world.
I keep expecting him to walk in the door and make disgusting sounds and light a cigarette. I see now that’s not going to happen. We’re all going to need a chance to talk about this great man, this human dynamo, and celebrate his achievements. Memorials are in the planning stages for New York and Washington. They will happen in early 2014.
But for now, grieving and funeral arrangements are a private family matter. First, we give his immediate family the space and respect they need and then we’ll have some fun remembering a man we all loved dearly.