RICHARD “DICK” STEVEN SINGER
November 22, 1941 – June 24, 2016
When someone you know and like dies, the areas in your life in which they most commonly showed up will shine brightly like the always-surprising burst of light from a camera’s flash. But soon enough the light fades and normal vision returns. Memory is that way. What you can no longer see with your eyes and no longer occupies Euclidean space and time is thereafter cast indelibly, like a work of art, in the cerebral synapses like one of Brian Eno’s music lightbox collages.
Dick was primarily the close friend of my oldest brother Daniel, but I never held that against him. (Am I clear enough as I mumble, tongue in cheek?) I knew a lot of Dick’s history, but the bulk of it was filtered through that oldest brother whom time revealed as the most unreliable of narrators.
So Dick was Danny’s college friend, but he lived with my parents and with Ricky (my younger brother) and I on numerous occasions. At Jackman Street, when Ricky was between 2 and 3 years of age and I was 12 or so, it was 1965 and Dick had his own bedroom in our house.
Dick was kind to me as a pre-adolescent. In 6th grade I actually started writing a science fiction novel, though I never managed to write but one chapter. Dick read it and critiqued it, judiciously praising it, keeping in mind my age and inexperience in order not to discourage me. When he purchased one of my books online decades later, he reminded me of that time and that early attempt at self-expression, and I was surprised he remembered.
He must have been 23 years old or so when I was in seventh grade, my first year of Jr. High. Among others, I took a printing class, and one of our projects was to make business cards. (No doubt the mastermind project of a lazy teacher. I mean, what 7th graders in the early 1960’s would have wanted or had a purpose for business cards?) When Dick learned that I was in this class, he asked me to make one for him. He wanted it to read:
Citizen of the World
And nothing more. I made the cards, and I do believe they were his first business cards ever. Lord knows whom he passed them out to. Over the years when we talked, whether by phone or in the person, I would often greet him as “Dick Singer, Citizen of the World,” and he would nod, chuckle and clap me on the shoulder.
As with my brother Ricky, we always hugged and kissed each other on the cheek.
At Jackman Street he brought a fancy FM radio tuner on which he played jazz, and Playboy magazines, quite a heady mix for a twelve year old. I fell in love with Wes Montgomery, Tony Bennett, Lena Horn and Billy Strayhorn and Miles Davis and Bill Evans. I also fell in love with the airbrushed beauties from Playboy magazine, and yes, it is true, I loved the fiction that they published. Honest. I read and fell in love with the short stories of Jean Shepard, which later became the book “In God We Trust; the Rest Pay Cash,” which I bought. I read “The Lost City of Mars” by Ray Bradbury. And there were Arthur C. Clarke, J.G. Ballard, Thomas Disch.
I attended his wedding to Suzanne Jayne, whom he called Susie. Oddly enough, though, I never met his three children (grown and with children of their own for some time now), nor did he ever meet my wife and two children. That was the nature of our acquaintance. We’d cross paths by accident at some restaurant, or run into each other in the various courthouses we practiced law at: Los Angeles Central on Hill Street, the L.A. Federal court on Temple, or Van Nuys Superior. Sometimes we would meet at the office of the late F. Adrian Muñoz, in El Monte, where he got me my first regular lawyering gig. We even ran into each other out in the boondocks of Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court one time. It was always a surprise, always a laugh and a hug and a game of catch-up and a promise to get together for lunch. And yes, we did have lunch every so often, sometimes just he and I, a few times with Ricky. He never failed at trying to play the goodwill ambassador trying to get the four dysfunctional de Anda brothers to lay down their hatchet and let bygones be bygones, at least for the span of a meal. We’d bitch to each other about friends or relatives, and sometimes each other. We would sometimes amusedly piss each other off — about small things to be sure — but we always made each other laugh, or grow somber with melancholy, lamenting that the days keep getting shorter and shorter, remembering those gone, and observing the cliché that there was, and never would be, enough time to do everything we thought we had to do. He had known my father, who died in 1980. He always called him “Poppa,” and while she was alive, he always called my mom “Momma.”
Our acquaintance spanned over five decades, and we lived those decades not very far from each other. Yet I loved Dick like the cousin who lives in another city, the one you see every time he’s in town, with whom you talk to now and then and exchange heartfelt homilies, pleasantries, inconsequential chatter that gains depth and dimension not because of subject matter, but because you’re doing it with someone whom you consider family. These are people with whom silence is just another form of conversation. He was a reminder to me that the idea of family doesn’t always work, but that when it does, there are few things more satisfying. Kin, clan, member of a tribe. Shake the dust from your sandals and sit. Let us talk about the wide, mysterious world out there. Salud!
With his passing, he has moved farther away now, the furthest away he’s ever been (though I’ll catch up with him sooner or later).
An ancient Greek philosopher wrote, “There are tears in things, and all things doomed to die touch the heart.” Dick will be in my heart for the rest of my life.
Dickmeister, Citizen of the World: I love you. Rest in peace, brother.