Friday, April 10, 2015
R.I.P. Lew "Moose" Hartman
I've dealt with the deaths of many friends and loved ones over the years, and when a death hits you so unexpectedly, as it just did with my old friend Moose, it's hard not to seriously resent those years as they march blithely on, their pace increasing as if they've been injected with caffeine, knowing one of them has got your number. I suppose it's better to treasure the time allotted; to be grateful to have had as many moments, days, years as I have; to consider that the alternative to watching their passing is to actually pass on. Sure, why not? For me personally, it seems that April is the month where the years gather up their meanest clout and just go to town. My dad died 14 years ago, on April 11. My sweet little cat, Charcoal, died on April 16, 2007. Right now, my oldest cat, Chester — the Siamese — is doing poorly, probably on his last leg. My mom's health has declined dramatically in just the past couple of months. And now the Moose is gone.
I met Lew at the University of Georgia in 1979, as I entered the BFA program there. He was several years older than me, pursuing his MFA. Lew was an artist, to be sure, with a special interest in fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Hard to fathom why we might have had anything in common, wot? We hit it off right away, and without even a moment's thought or hesitation, the Giving of Shit commenced. There were insults, epithets, threats, shaming, bullying, you name it. Never were two meaner people more meant to connect with each other. Quite by chance, in 1980, we ended up working the same rotating shifts together at the Dupont Nylon plant, and it was here, on our breaks, that we began to shoot the shit about our favorite writers, artists, movies, music... all things creepy and creative. It was Moose who introduced me to the work of Karl Edward Wagner, who, in later years, was to become a personal friend of mine and regular columnist for Deathrealm. Moose was perhaps the most die-hard fan of Roger Zelazny I was ever to meet, and he forced me, on pain of withholding bong hits, to read Zelazny's Amber series — which, to this day, is one of the single most memorable, pleasurable, and all-around inspiring pieces of fantastic literature I have ever read. At Dupont, we used to take smoke breaks perhaps a little too frequently, and we got called on it a time or two; but we didn't care. We didn't give a shit. We were talking about all things Zelazny, Lovecraft, Frazetta, Godzilla, the Atlanta Braves, Jethro Tull, the Moody Blues — you know, things that mattered.
After leaving UGA, I only saw Lew a couple of times, quite a few years apart. But he became a regular contributor to Deathrealm. He provided the cover art for issue #23 (Spring 1995). Somewhere around then, at one convention or another — I think it was in Columbia, SC — we met up with Karl Wagner, and the three of us spent an entire evening drinking bourbon, shooting the shit, and generally having the time of our lives. A decade and a half before, if we had known we'd ever be hanging out with Karl — who was such a profound creative influence on both of us — we probably would have had coronaries and never lived to see the day. I think, of all those bazillion times together with Moose, that was my favorite. Now, both Karl and Moose are gone. And just for a second there — a very fleeting second — I think I felt some real gratitude for those long-gone years we had in each other's company.
Back in the UGA days, I knew Lew had seriously high hopes, and I have to admit I sometimes thought his reach exceeded his grasp. I also came to find out that reaching was the only way to ever get to where you could grasp what you desired. Lew wanted to paint rock-and-roll stars he admired. Well, he went out there, met them, painted them, and sold them his work. He wanted to meet and paint his favorite sports stars. He did that. Lew reached and reached. Now, make no mistake, Lew was a decent artist. But his art paled beside his ability to inspire his friends and acquaintances. I heard that more than once tonight, just a few hours since he died. "He inspired me." "He was my mentor." "He reached out to me." Yeah. That's what that man did.
These past few years, Facebook allowed Moose and me to reconnect on almost as close a basis as we had when we lived just a few miles apart from each other, and — even recently — there have been any number of instances where the slinging of insults reached the intensity it had back in the late 70s and early 80s. We actually had a mini shit-slinging session a week or so ago. I never, ever expected those to end. Not yet. Not yet.
I think Lew may have told me how he came to be called Moose, but I don't remember. It's probably better I don't. All I know is that Moose is gone, and I'm going to have a drink to him. Probably several.
Goddamn, man, your life went too fast. Our lives are going way too fucking fast. But in that bloody race of time there was excellence. Not enough of it, but a lot.
Lew leaves behind his wife, Cathy, and his son, John, both of whom I knew to some degree back in the day. It's gotta be the hardest time for them, and my heart is with them. With them, and with everyone whose life Lew touched. It was a big, tough, wonderful...gentle... touch.
Rest well, old friend.