Rich Macchi (picture via Kriss Barnhart)

Rich Macchi (picture via Kriss Barnhart)

This past weekend it was difficult to keep my concentration at work. I threw myself into whatever task I could find or create. The good thing was that I got through a lot of paperwork. My coworker on Sunday had little left to do, as I was pushing through all the work. The reason for the need to keep moving was that late Thursday I learned of the death of one of my oldest friends, Rich Macchi.

I met Rich in the Fall of 1984 at BC High. I was part of an “out” group of nerds, geeks, and other odds and ends. Personally I was more odd than end. Smart but ambivalent about school work. Hockey player but hated hanging around with jocks. I stuck to the clarinet from then on. We had claimed our own table in the cafeteria, and first thing in the morning we would gather for some coarse language and laughter. Usually at each others expense. Snort an Oreo? Sure! Practical jokes? Oh yeah. We even had our own Christmas Tree.

Enter: Rich!

Enter: Rich! (picture via Kathryn Moakler Goodman)

One morning as we sat at the table before classes, this kid came and sat down with us. None of us had met him before. Without missing a beat he fit right in. Within a minute he was an indispensable part of the group. We joined the new school band together. He was already an incredible drummer.

Over the next 10 years Rich and I would be each others’ foil. We pushed each others’ most deeply held beliefs and convictions, sometimes to the point of almost physical altercation. We tried on many ideas and philosophies: we were Catholic (him not so much), Buddhist, Atheist…never satisfied with one answer, but always searching. Always questioning. Never letting the other get away with convenience or accommodation.

We also spent much of the time talking music. On the 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s we drank excessively and deconstructed each song. Granted by the third listening we were reduced to “Wow…that’s awesome…cool…” but still.

Some people have said that Rich wasn’t afraid to try anything. I’m not sure that that is a completely accurate sentiment. I think that rather Rich was not afraid to become who he was. New experiences were opportunities to find boundaries, push past them. Learn.

Rich in one of his many communities. (Photo via Kate Morrissey)

Rich in one of his many communities (Photo via Kate Morrissey)

Regardless of our other beliefs, or whatever label we put on them, Rich and I shared two core convictions: the sacredness of Human Connection, and that “life is stories”.

Rich was forever meeting people, drawing them into his circle, and introducing them to others. He built networks effortlessly. For me this imperative is expressing itself in social work, where I try to make deeper connections with my clients and truly place myself where they are. For Rich it was a constant expanding of friends. And the stories…

He could pull you in with a few words, and before you knew it he was launched into storyteller mode. He collected them, remembered them all. And there’s the stories we have in common which I’ll never forget.

Spending a night with another friend from high school in my college apartment in Worcester in an altered state, trying very hard to rhyme something with “pachinko machine” and failing. The night devolved into a raucous seemingly hours long rendition of “Row Row Row Your Boat”.

Leaving campus between classes to take the train from Dorchester to in-town Boston. Walking around Harvard Square singing “Feelin’ Groovy” at the tops of our lungs.

The fact that he could learn anything he put his mind to.

I could continue on about the Rich I knew. There are many other stories of him out there, and I hope to hear them in the future the way he would want: in person with his friends. We had drifted apart the last few years, but always with the thought that we had time to reconnect. Dammit; that’s a lesson I should have learned by now. There is never enough future to count on. You have to do it now.

Goodbye, Rich. I will always remember and cherish the stories we shared.

Rich, god of fire! (photo via Ashley Pappas).

Rich, god of fire! (photo via Ashley Pappas).