April 24, 2018

Al Martinez on Everything Else...The Short, Bright Life of a New Friend


I really didn’t know Cary Gepner very well. He wasn’t the kind of guy who waved his hands in the air, danced on a table and shouted, “Look at me, Look at me.” I didn’t see him as a man trying desperately to be noticed.

So when it came time to actually communicate with him one on one, I had no idea how that would turn out. But by the time the evening had ended, he had become my new best friend.

Others have said of him he was a sweet man in all the goodness that the term implies, and I found that to be true. We sat for three hours sipping wine and exchanging thoughts on everything from dogs to war in the Middle East and not once did he blame, accuse or express hatred for anyone. That’s the way sweet men are. They see beyond what we see and perceive the frailties that all of us are heir to. There were supposed to have been four men at our get together at Froggys, a fish restaurant that has since gone out of business. Two didn’t show up. We were all husbands of members of the Topanga Garden Club, or the Fanatical Botanical Society, and were meeting just to get to know each other.

Though soft-spoken and never pushy, he led me to do most of the talking, shucking off the shyness I always feel when meeting someone so well liked and respected. I babbled away and he followed up with intelligent comments on his life as an architect. I stopped babbling and listened. His feeling of creation was as strong in designing a house as mine in writing a story. We were alike; men who dwelt in dreams of the possible.

Cary was diagnosed as being inflicted with terminal cancer, and I mourned along with everyone else. The disbelief that he was gone, a good man taken, prevailed through his death, then his crowded memorial at the Theatricum Botanicum.

“He was genuinely a good guy,” his wife Katy said. “He was kind, he was fair and he was generous. People loved him.”

Count me among them.