The Last DJ

On suicide

I’m a little late for World Suicide Prevention Day, but I revisited my friend Richard’s facebook page. They have it converted to an “in memory of” page.

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And I’m struck by the juxtaposition of his happy at the beach profile and banner pics with the word “Remembering” above his name. The name of the man so many people thought of as fun-loving Box. Just as people misunderstood Tony and Robin and so many others who die by suicide.

I have some expertise on this. Almost no one saw it coming when I tried killing myself 23 years ago. And if I’d succeeded, so many would second-guess and blame themselves.

It’s a silent epidemic.

And we need to all do better. We need to end the stigma of suicide so more people will talk about it. We need to reach out to others when we are in pain. We need to understand and listen when our friends and neighbors reach out. We need to reach out if we see them in pain, because signals can be very subtle.

We need listening and empathy. And listening. And love.

Lessons learned: don't wait

On my way out on the One Way Ticket, I drove a long loop to see friends and family. The first arc was down to Charleston, SC, to see my dear friend Richard Bachschmidt.

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I met Richard when we both worked in radio--SuperTalk 99.7, specifically. I was brand new and paying my dues, giddy to be a weekend board op making $8.75 an hour. He was already a legend around the halls.

And he approached me. Though he was so much cooler than I, we became friends.

Later I got a show, Saturday night/Sunday mornings, midnight to 2 a.m. My goal was to see how many people I could make mad, could I get all six of our phone lines to light at once. He had a show on before mine, and through some fortunate personnel shifts, I became his "producer" (though anyone who has worked with him knows he was the mastermind genius). And one of the reasons I'm not still in radio was because of him, because I saw that no matter how much time I put into practice and show prep and research, I'd never approach what he could do completely on the fly. He was naturally gifted. He did all the big and little things. I was watching greatness.

In the 16 years that followed, we stayed in touch. He'd hit his stride, and became a big deal as Box in the Morning on Charleston's 105.5 The Bridge. I came down to visit several times and always enjoyed it. I got to join him on the mic, we'd riff, we'd laugh. But more than any of those times with "Box", I most enjoyed spending time with Rich. When the mic was off, the persona slipped away, and he became real. Most people didn't see his complexity, his frustrations, his pain. But those aspects only made me love him more.

When I left we'd message. I knew about the dust-up at The Bridge and followed his decision to got it alone in podcasting--a risky move, but one that seemed to be paying off. I listened a time or two while I was abroad and it was damn good, no surprise. He even shouted me out live, talking about my travels and how "he's doing it right".

Soon after, I started making plans to come home. And I was making plans to work with Richard again--I had ideas and so looked forward to pitching them. But more than that, I just wanted to hang out with my friend again.

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Our messages from 3 weeks ago: what I would give to share that rum with him

Our messages from 3 weeks ago: what I would give to share that rum with him

And after I got back, I kept meaning to message him, kept meaning to listen to his podcast. I was getting settled, you know, and was probably going to do it next week. Now that I have transportation again, I was going to drive down to The Holy City and we were going to do it up.

Well, I will now be making that drive. But it will be for a funeral.

My world is a little dimmer today. I've lost a beautiful, inspirational light. I've lost one of my dearest friends. And I think I'll always carry the weight of guilt now.

If I hadn't waited...