His rambling now over, Dave Watson left us laughing

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      43 Comments

      Craig Takeuchi

      May 15, 2008 at 11:36am

      When Dave's Dot Comment column vanished from the paper, the reaction was immediate. Out of all the writers who have come and gone, Dave's absence generated the largest response I had seen during the time I was manning the general e-mail inbox.

      He was one of the coolest contributors we had—really easy-going, humourous, friendly, and low-key.

      True to his techie nature, he even sent in a few columns by Blackberry, believe it or not. He was the only contributor who did that.

      Brian Lynch

      May 15, 2008 at 5:29pm

      Dave was one of those very rare people who could have you laughing within minutes of meeting him for the first time. Charming, self-deprecating, and curmudgeonly when it counted.
      I remember writing a few items for a Best of Vancouver issue a few years ago, back when I started with the Straight—Dave went out of his way to mention to me that he thought they were funny, and I was chuffed.
      I didn't share his love of gadgets and electronics, but I read his column every week, just because it was so consistently entertaining, sharply written, and filled with personality.
      We all miss him.

      jmax

      May 15, 2008 at 11:11pm

      Very well covered, Charles... I'll add a couple of details that I've always carried around with me for some reason; Dave was always coming up with things that stuck...

      His piece for Discorder, where he reviewed the reviewers, basically consisted of him asking each one, "What makes you so fucking smart?" and then seeing how they responded...

      On his "blue piece of paper" for crossing the road (he got ticketed for jaywalking), Dave noted, "Mankind has not evolved for 50,000 years to be told by a blinking light when it's safe to cross the street."

      Another favourite was when he was sent to Dave "Tiger" Williams' roller hockey camp and gamely put on the skates and pads... Dave wrote something along the lines of "I've been told I'm a wiry guy, which I've always thought meant that I'm composed of just a few wires..."

      Crap. These quotes are all we've got now. And I've probably got them wrong anyway. What a loss. You will be missed, Dave.

      Gail M. Johnson

      May 16, 2008 at 9:26am

      A lot of writers have big egos. Dave wasn't one of them. Witty, self-deprecating, and pleasant, he always made a point of asking how you were doing and taking the time to talk.
      I was so saddened to hear about his diagnosis. I was also so thankful to him for writing those five columns about it. I read them and reread them and will never forget them. He may have left us laughing, but through those articles he also made us pause and reflect. I didn't know Dave well, but I'm sure glad to have been among the countless acquaintances who always loved to see him.
      .

      charlescampbell

      May 16, 2008 at 10:55am

      Okay, there obviously wasn't enough room in the obit for all the good Dave Watson stories, most of which are stories he told himself. But this space is an infinite space. So, to begin, here's a longer excerpt from June 3, 1988's "Dave Crosses Over":

      "Jaywalking. What kind of crime is that? Not a very important one, but big enough to be ticketed $15 for. What a stupid law. Millions of years of evolution went into the development of our acute senses, clever minds and quick reflexes. Eventually we became the most powerful and dangerous species on the planet — and for what? So that a lightbulb can tell us when it's safe to cross the road? I think not...

      "Why did the critic cross the road? The answer to that would entail a metaphysical discussion, and life's just getting too short for metaphysics. The fact is I did cross the road, and now I have a blue piece of paper to prove it. The subject is closed."

      More later.

      Steve Newton

      May 16, 2008 at 11:08am

      Beautiful piece, Chuck. I remember the first time I ever talked to Dave. He interviewed me over the phone for that Discorder cover story on local rock critics, and when the story came out he lambasted me pretty good. Kinda started a trend that would carry on for the next 20 years or so. He stopped short of calling me useless, though, and did mention that I was a bit of an expert on heavy-metal. But who can hold a grudge against a guy like Dave? Before long I was hangin' out with him at Georgia Straight house parties, bumming smokes off him on the front porch. I remember he chuckled when I told him I was "tryin' to start". A shared love of awesome music fueled our friendship, as we were both huge Blue Oyster Cult fans. Way before it was common practice he was burning me bootleg copies of Jeff Beck and Allman Brothers concerts. Knowing my fondness for loud rock, he offered to print me out an FAQ on Iron Maiden. After he explained to me what an FAQ was ("frequently asked questions"), I agreed, and a couple days later a 40-page manifesto on the Brit headbangers wound up on my desk. That's the kind of guy Dave was. I'll really miss him.

      IanHanington

      May 16, 2008 at 11:53am

      Thanks, Charles, for this great tribute and reminder of what a wonderful person Dave was, and thanks for introducing us. Beyond being a great - and sadly underrated - writer, Dave was a person who went out of his way to help. Being a bit of a Luddite myself, I often called on him for advice on computers and software, and to ask him tech questions, and he was always quick to respond, no matter how inane my questions. It's hard to believe he's gone. I'll miss him a lot. The Straight - and this city - will never be the same.

      chris dafoe

      May 16, 2008 at 12:34pm

      I think I may have been Dave's first editor, if "editor" is not too grand a word for someone who was only beginning to learn the basics of design, layout and copyediting and who spent most of his time trying to persuade drug-addled college radio DJs to write something -- anything -- for a fledgling program guide called Discorder.
      I don't know how Dave found us, but when he did, he made Discorder instantly better. He was smart and funny and he wrote like a dream (and, if I recall correctly, submitted very clean copy, a real boon in an operation where blue pencils were at a premium) And, bless him, he was willing to work for what we paid -- i.e. nothing.
      Of course, it was only matter of time before someone with an actual editorial budget (however stingy) recognized Dave's obvious talent and lured him away from us with offers of paying work (damn you, Bob Mercer!). But I was tickled to see that people still remember Dave's story on Vancouver rock critics. And I take some comfort in the knowledge that, while I may have been the first editor that Dave made look smarter than he actually was, I was most certainly not the last.
      I also took some comfort in Dave's final five stories, which I re-read last week after hearing of his death. If, as Charles notes, Dave felt that he had lost his voice as a writer, the Rambling into Eternity series was irrefutable proof that he had found it again, in the most trying of circumstances. The gentle wit, the deft turn of phrase, the generosity of spirit - all those things that made Dave a pleasure to read and a pleasure to know -- shone out in those stories, along with a quiet courage and wisdom.
      Dave left us far too soon, but those stories are a remarkable parting gift.
      Chris Dafoe

      corridor

      May 16, 2008 at 12:37pm

      What can be added to Charles Campbell's masterful encomium of our dear Dave Watson? Well, the sound of Dave's voice. He had one of the coolest voices ever, which undoubtedly helped him a lot during his adventures as a standup comedian. In many of the places where Dave and I met, the music was too loud to allow standard conversation. But, I'd get a tap on the shoulder and I would turn and see that great chiseled jawline, that low never-to-recede hairline and Superman forelock. "Hey, what are you doing here," he'd say and proffer a drink or a sip of his. And his low jittery voice would utter a few amazing, self-deprecating tales of his life and we would laugh --his cheeks pulling into cowboy dimples. And often, we would just stand there watching the band, nudging each other when a musician got off a good one. Just standing with Dave was more fun than talking with most and we were always comfortable, secure in a deep and long-lasting friendship and spiritual kinship.
      I hadn't seen much of Dave for the last decade, but a couple of years ago we met at Greg Potter's book launch. I thrilled when that long unheard voice barked beside me, "Hey, what are you doing here?" We caught up, told some war stories and then went off to a bar for a legendary one, during which I met his lady love. That was the last time I saw him, last time I heard that cool voice looked at that great face crinkled with dimples. It was a good and fitting farewell. But that occasion will haunt me forever, because I always thought that there would be another time I would hear that voice and now there won't be. But, whenever I'm standing in front of a band, some part of me will always be waiting for the tap on the shoulder and that odd low quaver, "Hey what are you doing here?"
      Then again, maybe I will hear it again sometime, wherever it is that old rock critics go, at some other gig.

      Until then, Dave,

      Les Wiseman

      sfgray

      May 16, 2008 at 4:58pm

      As production and IS manager at the Straight a decade or so ago, I got to work with Dave in a few of his many incarnations (writer, critic, technological gadfly, and all-around enfant terrible among them). However, it was about five years previous to my time at the Straight that i actually met Dave for the first time, when he was working at a Burger King in Surrey with a friend of mine from high school. My first exposure to Dave Watson was thus the BK softball team, which would play against other restaurants in the chain and was supposed to have a cool sports-franchise name thought up by the staff.

      Dave's entry — "Fred: The Team".

      I know there are already better anecdotes about Dave's life and work on this page, but here's why that one is important to me.

      Dave Watson was not only a writer of supreme creativity and imagination, qualities rare enough in and of themselves. He was the even more rare individual who seemed to find it impossible to ever turn off that imagination and creativity. Every conversation you ever had with Dave, no matter how fleeting the time, no matter how mundane the topic, was an exercise in undermining one's ability to accept the world for what it was. Sometime back in the mid-80s, in a couple of fleeting conversations about things mundane, Dave Watson showed me that you could find a kind of beautiful absurdity in just about anything if you were willing to look for it.

      I'd only talked to Dave a couple of times since fleeing the Straight in '96 (and Vancouver a short while thereafter), but I took every opportunity to continue to read his work. Now, I will hate myself indefinitely for every missed opportunity i had to drop him a line to thank him for what he did.

      Thanks, Dave.

      (A postscript: As i set up an account just now on straight.com so i can post this, one of the words that pops up in the captcha is "groin". Dave would have had something to say about that sort of thing.)