I didn't know him well. In fact, I was thinking about it today, after I found out, and I figure that the number of times he and I actually saw each other in person in my couldn't have numbered much more than a dozen. It was an issue of proximity, more than anything. Johnny, his wife Linda and their four daughters lived in Michigan, which isn't ridiculously far away, I know, but is far enough away that it wasn't convenient for every Labor Day or Thanksgiving get together at my Aunt Brenda's house in Kentucky.
Still, he was always cool to me when we did meet. He had a dry wit, and he had the kind of disposition where he didn't really require you to be in on the jokes.
He was quite kind about the stuff I'd written. And when I lamented that work was eating up my writing time, he said "if it's important enough, you make the time."
He's right. Was, and is.
Thanks, Uncle Johnny. I wish I'd known you better.
Tonight at work, I saw that somebody had posted to my Facebook that Rowdy Roddy Piper had passed away.
I hope you won't think it too maudlin of me that I had to take a minute in the back of the store.
It's one thing to say that Piper was my favorite wrestler.
It's another to think of why.
I was a quiet kid. Smart enough, but never fully trusting of my verbal skills, at least when it came to one of the most important places--with the other kids. When it came to any sort of confrontation, I let myself be horribly outclassed, verbally. I'd stammer, I'd trip on my tongue. Or I'd just stay silent, fearing the stammering.
I was in awe of Roddy Piper. Who never seemed to be the most popular guy. Or the biggest. Or the toughest. But he always had something to say. I admired that. That complete inability to be cowed into silence.
I still admire that. I have moments still, where I don't trust myself to speak my mind. It's bullshit, and I get angry with myself about it. But it still happens.
Less, though, than when I was growing up. I'd like to think Hot Rod not being afraid to step up to Hulk Hogan, or Andre the Giant, or Mr. T., had something to do with that.