My long-time friend, Harold Stein (hms42
), has finally left us--for nothing, for the great filksing in the sky, for dreams beyond our knowing...but...he's dead.
Harold...is difficult to describe. He was pleasant and friendly without ever really being charismatic, eminently competent without ever being comfortable, and a tireless filk saint who was never honored for his service (in his life) except via a listener guest slot at OVFF -- which he had to miss due to his illness, listening to recordings of same less than a day before he died.
I first met Harold, that I remember, in the halls of Lunacon, as he waxed eloquent about how much he liked filk--having first becoming fascinated with it at I-Con, the Long Island con that has had great filkers, but has never been great for filk (except for introducing new people to the community, where it served an important role despite the diffulty of filk at a con where the evening programming a car ride away from the daytime programming). At this point, I think Harold had attended just two cons with filk -- Lunacon and I-Con. There were many more, afterwards.
I think (this was after I'd stopped attending I-Con) that I-Con was also where he first took a service role, thanklessly running filk at I-Con for many years before he decided to move on. That wasn't the end of his service, either -- he got digital mini-recorders when the latest generations of them became easily available, and would spend countless hours on a routine of changing out the recorders and backing up the night's haul, almost always closing out the night at NEFilk, OVFF, FKO,local cons, tirelessly worked at the sound boards, produced numerous CDs, (particularly the one-off Interfilk CDs, where after working the boards all convention, he'd package a concert or three to CD and sell them for our perennial fan fund), and took on numerous odd jobs as needed, driving my big harp to several cons and Spencer's gear to many others; and editing the Pegasus Award pages, and helping out the Filk Hall of Fame administrator, and spending his time and money on collecting hard to find filk collections, and helping administer the UK Filk Archive.
His exhaustive and extensive collection of archives were an amazing resource he spent countless hours on, exclaiming how the work of people writing down what got sung in a room, in a concert, or on a convention album would allow him to identify and index his archives, and then, opening them up to others. He also created -- and in most senses, was -- the tradition of an NEfilk CD, making a CD for each convention to be given out free to members and with remainders auctioned off at other cons for Interfilk, with songs from the guests, from the NEfilk guest for next year, and when he could, from or honoring filkers who had died within the last year.
And, of course, he also continued to run filk at local cons, particularly Philcon.
He didn't sing, that I knew, except, rarely, in groups when his voice could hide among others. Or write music, or play an instrument. He just listened, requested, recorded, edited, shared, and collected. It was enough.
Over the last...I'm not even sure how many years, we (drcpunk
and I) fell into the habit of rooming with him at filk conventions. It was comfortable. We'd keep often only partially overlapping hours, and while we were all in the room, he'd talk about his various projects, job things, or ideas for other projects (he had so many ideas. Not all of them were good ideas, but even when you express a bad idea it often sparks a good idea from someone else). Sometimes we had to tell him we needed him to stop talking (so we could sleep, or read, or work), but once we realized he would if we asked, this was fine too. When he got his last car, he drove it over to our place to verify that he could fit my harp into it. (This wasn't because he drove my harp a lot; he drove it a few times, but he figured if the harp fit, a lot of other things would fit too; it's a big harp). We were friends.
But especially with guy friends, I don't always know what that means. If he had hobbies outside of filk (and Ingress, the ARG I introduced him to, which he continued playing well after I'd mostly made it a sometimes treat and moved on to other electronic geocaching friends (hi, Pokemon Go)) and building computers for people, I didn't know about them (I'm not convinced they exist). I didn't know much about his inner life, other than that he wanted to help people, do things that mattered, and that he ernestly wanted to apologize when he thought he'd wronged someone, wanted to make sure that he got permission before releasing work and didn't record those who didn't want to be recorded.
I do know that he was endlessly open to new experiences, even when they didn't work out. He would ask us to invite him to gaming nights even though board games weren't a passion of his the way they are mine (and did like them, even though he wouldn't take time out of a con to play them the way I will), would try out any restaurant we would take him to even though when he ordered for himself he tended to go for standard American fare, and would even try everything we ordered when going to more adventurous Asian restaurants, not complaining about the food that didn't work for him, but occasionally remarking that this dish or another one was "too spicy" for him.
I also knew his health was worse than he pretended. We knew when he got a cancerous melanoma around 10 years ago, though he claimed it was less scary than any cancer is. We knew when the cancer came back a year or three ago, and that he was going through a course of treatment that they hoped would beat the cancer back once again--and when he got the diagnosis that it hadn't worked, wasn't going to work. It was just a month between when he got the report that he had, at most, a couple of years to live, and when the diagnosis went down from months to days or hours.
I don't think he gave up hope until those last few, horrible days. And even then, when I saw him the day before he died, he couldn't talk, not intelligbly, not anymore, but there was light in his eyes, enthusiasm, love. Hope, I think, of a sort. He wasn't obviously sad; he was frustrated, and happy that friends had come to visit him and sing to him.
Nothing will change now that he's gone, and everything. Harold wasn't out creating great works, and many of his projects came to nothing or came out only half-right. He wasn't one of my closest friends, although it's possible that I was one of his (one of the world's greatest injustices is that it contains this kind of asymmetry, but there is nothing we can do about it other than be kind).
But he brought a light--hope, kindness, and an endless heart that would fill up the cracks in the world around him -- with him wherever he went, and without him, that light is gone. Snuffed out from our world. What he did best was to help, and now in place of that help, we have to help one another.
I will miss him.
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