Up for Poker lost a dear friend this weekend. He was 34 years old.
The last time I talked to Gulfman was Tuesday in one of the cramped edit bays here at work. He was dressed as always with khaki shorts, a clean company logo shirt and filthy leather boots, just staring at the computer screen on which he'd typed a dozen words. His perfectly round face sagged with concern. His left hand gripping his almost hairless crown.
He'd been a photographer here for 9 years this month but was trying something new. He was ready to grow. He wanted to be a writer.
I promisted to help.
I owed him that much.
Back when I came to G-Vegas, in the summer of 2000, Gulfman was the third photographer I shot with. I was nervous about my new gig and the other shooters used kid gloves but Gulfman was ballistic.
As I taped a lame standup to an equally lame report about the summer drought and golf course greens, I asked, "Do you think that's OK?"
"Yeah, I guess," he said, "if you're really that lazy."
Then it started to rain.
Six months later Gulfman and I won our first signifigant TV award for an education story that he developed and drove. I owe him a large part of my career.
One year earlier, Gulfman and Otis were nominated for an Emmy.
I sometimes think he led two lives, like some parody of yin and yang. Back then he was always unshaven and used "FUCK" like a Smurf... adverb, adjective, verb, noun, and punctuation. We called his apartment "Melrose Gulfman" for all the women, booze, and unmentionable drama it attracted, like a full issue of "US" weekly.
The last few years, however, our New York City friend became an almost stereotypical Southern Gentelman. He married a gorgrous elementary school teacher from Abbeville. He became a Baptist. He stopped drinking and smoking and cursing and talked more about his lawn and his 401k than anything else. He still cared about the work, and he still cared about us, but we didn't see him quite as much.
I loved both Gulfmans.
I wrote about him here a few months ago. I took him up to Kentucky for a story and my mother's birthday. I never looked at my world the same way, once I saw it through his eyes.
So two weeks ago, Gulfman said he wanted to be a better journalist. He said he wanted to help WRITE the stories he shot. I gave him my favorite book on the subject and offered to help when I could. That's how I left him Tuesday, with a few stupid pointers about writing in the active voice and picking EXPLOSIVE verbs. I'm still flattered that he picked me as his tutor.
He'll be buried here Tuesday evening. Otis and I are pallbearers at the funeral.
33 and killed by a brain tumor nobody knew he had.
He makes me want to write. Which is why I posted it here.