Arturo

June 18th, 2013


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

T.S. Elliot, from Little Gidding, Four Quartets.

It is impossible to accept that Arturo is gone.

Two weeks after his death, I am stumbling through my memories of him. I catalog them and try to refresh each one in the hopes that by doing so they will last longer, that I can somehow prolong the afterglow of remembrance. I go through a hard drive of photographs searching for his face, and wish that there were more images.

Rose told me not to read his obituaries, but I can’t help myself. I’m searching for the man I knew, and through it all I have this urgent need to testify, even though I’m afraid I won’t get it right, afraid I won’t be able to articulate how special he was.

“Ramones Logo Designer”-The Ramones was only one expression of the man I knew. I have a feeling Arturo gave them the same nurturing love that he gave the dozens of young artists he adopted in the last ten years. We were so lucky to have him believe in us. As we aspired to earn his faith in us we became better artists, and better friends. I would visit the loft, and over the course of an hour, become reacquainted with an old friend, catch up on all of the projects of another, or even meet someone new, another orphan Arturo had adopted.

New York makes orphans of us all. It dazzles us, confuses us, and hammers us, skews our sense of what truly matters, sucks our time and energy away from those who love and need us. Through it all, above the din of this wretched and beautiful city, Arturo was a beacon of love. In spite of the fact that he had loved and lost so many friends and family members, he was adamant that we must love each other more. His mural on the side of Oliver’s shop near the Bowery, declares, “Life Isn’t Tragic. Love is just being ignored.”

It is impossible to accept that Arturo is gone.

He was one of my most vital and vivacious friends. One night in London, when I wanted to sleep, he dragged me to a barge on the Thames at three in the morning where we salsa danced, and sang, and drank tequila. Hours later at sunrise, back at our hotel, he jumped on his bed and exclaimed, “let’s stay up late, I want to enjoy this trip.” ( He was one of my fittest friends, he started mountain climbing when he turned sixty. )

His art career was energized. With shows in England, Europe, Mexico, and New York, in the past few years he was getting the attention he deserved, not just as The Ramone’s designer, but as an important artist who was a contemporary of Hambleton, Haring, and Basquiat, an artist who still had so much to teach us all.

The second to last time I spoke with him he begged me, “Enjoy your life.” It was shocking to hear that from him, I think I was in denial about how sick he had become. In retrospect, I think he was coming to grips with the gravity of his situation, but also trying to teach me one last lesson, because he so passionately wanted us all to love life.

Heartbroken and afraid, I responded, “My life has been so much more enjoyable because you are in it.”

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