Friendships, GLAWS Literary and Mainstream Fiction Critique Group, Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS), Guyana Journal, Jonestown Massacre, Literary fiction writer, Peoples Temple, The writing life, Writer Rich Samson
Palisades Park – Santa Monica – Southern California (www.tripadvisor.in)
“Just enjoy your foot,” the uncle said with a laugh. “Enjoy your foot in life. You don’t need to ask questions. Just enjoy.” ~Excerpt from “A Little Balinese White Magic” by Rich Samson, Los Angeles, May 2009.
Sometimes, a person joins us for a short time on our journey along a footpath, giving us the confidence to keep moving forward. Rich Samson, a gentle soul, was such a person in my journey as a writer.
We met on 4 April 2009 when the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) started its Literary and Mainstream Fiction Critique Group. During introductions, I perked up when Rich mentioned the Peoples Temple. It was one of those weird coincidences. At the time, I was working on a short story, set in my native land, Guyana, about the Jonestown mass suicide-murder.
On April 16, in response to my first e-mail, Rich wrote: “I was moved by your reference to the Jonestown Massacre… Obviously, those tragedies from 30 plus years ago touched us both.” In San Francisco, where he lived at the time, he had followed media reports about Jim Jones’ rise to power in California.
Thereafter, Rich and I shared and critiqued each other’s work. After reading my five short stories published by the Guyana Journal, he wrote: “Generally speaking, I really enjoy your writing style and feel that your stories are a good influence on me and my writing aspirations.” For me, the footpath became less obscure.
On May 5, we met at Starbucks in downtown Culver City to discuss his novella, 8 Mos. in the Haight – set in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco during the period January to September 1972, when, as an aspiring young actor, he had joined the hippie community. Rich needed direction for the revision process.
On May 26, Rich e-mailed me his short story, “A Little Balinese White Magic.” He wrote that my Guyanese folkloric short stories had brought to mind “an unbelievable healing experience” he had had during a business trip to Bali, Indonesia, many years earlier. After presenting the story to our critique group in June 2009, he read the opening scene during the Open Mic session of our GLAWS Annual Summer Pot-Luck Party in August. His performance was animated. He had crossed a threshold.
Rich submitted Chapter One of his Haight novella for critique at our September group meeting. On October 5, he forwarded Chapter Two for our group meeting later that month. When he did not show up, I followed up with an e-mail on October 25. I did not receive his usual prompt reply. As his silence stretched out over the next two weeks, I knew that something was amiss.
My affliction grew. On awakening November 18 – the anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre – I turned on my desktop computer and googled his name.
RICH SAMSON: OBITUARY
SAMSON, Rich. West Hollywood resident Rich Samson died unexpectedly in his sleep at his home on October 7, 2009. He was 57. He graduated from Palm Springs High School in 1970 and attended Cal State LA and Foothill College. During the past seven years he worked in the real estate business in Los Angeles. Mr. Samson, who was married twice, is survived by three siblings and five nephews.
No photo confirmed that this was Rich, my writing friend. No contact information to share my joy and sorrow with a brother I had come to know through Rich’s writing. Through Rich’s stories, I met the people and shared the moments that had mattered to him on his journey through life.
He left unexpectedly. But during the short time we worked together, he gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with my novel. My hope is that the time he had spent writing were moments of joy and clarity towards the end of his journey.