About two weeks ago, on April 14th, 2015, one of my best friends in the entire world, Dale Comer, passed away after fighting for 14 months with aggressive brain cancer. It’s taken me a while to write this, but since I’ve stopped crying all the time in real life, I think I might be ready. (That said, I keep having crying jags over Dale in my dreams.)
I just don’t even really know what form this is going to take, and I’m not sure if I’ll do too much re-writing just because it’s really painful. I’m glad I got to see him the Saturday before he passed, and I’ll always remember the very last time I saw him, when we were saying goodbye — Dale couldn’t really talk in the end, it hurt him too much, so he could only make gestures — as we left, he gave us the peace sign, as he often would. It was so Dale.
I’ve known him since I was a freshman in college. We both worked at the student radio station. I think I’ve told the story a few times on Crush On Radio about how we met, where I made a joke about our current slogan during the show I did with Jeremiah while he happened to be in the booth fixing something. And, after that, we ended up hanging out a lot.
It was one where we just did a lot of stuff together. There was one summer where I was still in college and thankfully didn’t have to work, and Dale was currently between jobs. (This was shortly before he got hired for the Delilah show.) And pretty much, we hung out every day, watching movies, watching his tapes of Kids in the Hall, doing all sorts of stuff.
This is kind of the interesting thing, we were both hardcore comedy nerds, and we both had the same favorites, Mystery Science Theater 3000, SCTV, the Kids, Night Court, and we’d kinda stumbled upon them growing up and latched onto them. The thing that always blew me away is that Dale had a photographic memory for this stuff, and would sometimes drop really obscure references to sketches I’d only half remember — and they usually wouldn’t even be the punchline, but other lines that were equally hilarious, even if not as memorable to people who weren’t Dale.
And we were both music nerds, except that he could actually play. We turned each other on to stuff — I got him into the Who, and brought him to a couple Residents concerts, and he got me into folks like Don Ellis. He’s on some of the Kittysneezes music tracks, which I always deeply appreciated even though I think he’d sometimes get frustrated at how.. wrong? they were? Since I didn’t have any compositional background or anything. I know we’d sometimes argue about technical skill in music, since he came especially from a jazz background, and I liked self-taught bands like Half Japanese. But there were tons of crossovers, including POLYSICS, whom he loved probably as much as I do.
One of the things I remember especially about his skill is one time when he and I and Carly (his longtime girlfriend who cared for him for his entire illness, and is one of the strongest people I know) were playing around in my dad’s studio on some of my weird instruments, and he was able to actually play a song on my theremin. Which is amazing. He claimed to only have relative pitch rather than perfect pitch, but, dang if he wasn’t close to perfect pitch. I’d sometimes ask him what a note was, and he’d deliberate a bit, and then get it right.
One other time, we were killing time in the studio, and bored, he walked over to the drum machine and started playing the drum track from DEVO’s version of “Satisfaction” live. Which again, pretty dang amazing.
But then Dale was and is amazing.
I feel really bad that I didn’t talk to him as much as I should have when he was ill. He didn’t want to see anyone, since I think he didn’t want to worry anyone. But still, it was hard talking to him on the phone, as the tumor had made him slur his words, and have trouble thinking. But the last time I talked with him on the phone, I kept getting snatches of the real Dale there, with his normal, non-slurred voice. It really sounded like he was getting better, and would get to beat this.
Unfortunately I was wrong. It was a week before he died that Carly let me know that his time on earth was best measured in weeks. And it turned out to be week, singular — exactly, in fact. She called the Tuesday before he died — which was on a Tuesday.
In Seattle, we’ve actually had really nice weather lately — with the notable exception of two days. One, the Saturday when my parents and I visited him for the last time, and Two, the day he died. Carly even said that very shortly after he passed, a bolt of lightning hit nearby, and the resulting thunder was so lound and strong his entire house shook.
I don’t go in for miracles or supernatural things like that, but every once in a while, something coincidental happens that just seems magical. And that’s one of those things.
It’s Dale’s birthday today.
I miss you so much dude.
I love you.
And I always will.
The fine folks at KBTC, the public television station where Dale worked as an engineer, put this video together and has been running it between shows. Thank you so much for doing this. Dale clearly touched you as much as he touched us all. I’ve been having a bit of trouble with it showing up via FB, but the direct post is here.
We miss you, Dale!
Posted by KBTC Public Television on Saturday, April 18, 2015