Thursday, January 02, 2014

Some Charming Bastard

[I've been sitting on this post for a few days. Need to post it, to pay some small tribute.]

My good friend Craig Nelson passed away on Saturday, December 21, 2013. He was traveling from Gainesville, Florida, to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and had stopped to visit me the Monday before he passed away (likely of a massive heart attack while traveling through Tennessee; he pulled off into a rest stop, fell asleep and never awoke). I hadn't seen him in several years, and I'm still coming to grips with the fact that it was to be the last time. Certainly the fact that I had just seen him, just broken bread with him, made it all the harder to believe the sad news. He was 46.

I must have been 18 or 19 when I first met Craig at a place called Common Grounds in Fayetteville. I was writing fiction at the time, and we hit it off as fellow writers, smokers, and skeptics. Craig was a passionate person whose mind seemed to race (more than he liked at times). I was drawn--as I think so many were--to his expansive personality. He would always say exactly what was on his mind. Brutally honest but at the same time, somehow, a gentle giant. My children were instantly drawn to him when they met him. (Carissa had "met" him before when she was an infant; he had taken pictures of our family in Fayetteville, and had been the photographer at our wedding.) I'm not sure how the moniker "Some Charming Bastard" came to be attached to Craig, but it fit.

Craig took the picture above Monday night after we had drank a couple beers and visited. He posted, along with the picture, on Facebook that it had been a good day, and we had another good one on Tuesday, too, before he headed to see a friend in Lexington and then to Asheville, NC, before turning toward Fayetteville. We had talked about the usual things. He seemed eager to return to Fayetteville; he was moving back with what he had in his car. He appeared happy with how his daughter and her family were doing, including two young (grand)children. I think he had gone back to Florida (where he was from) in part to be nearer to her, but was now ready to be back in Fayetteville, where he found a lot of artistic inspiration and had made so many friends over the years. He will be missed.

Here's a link to a series of portraits he did, and a blurb on an exhibit of a selection of them in the University of Arkansas' Mullins Library.