So Long, Juicy


This Monday, I attended a memorial service for a man I didn’t know very well, but well enough to know he’d be missed. Dave “Juicy” Foreman was a sound engineer I’d met through some of the many musicians with whom he worked over the years. He and I talked briefly – which I took as a sign he was busy, since Dave loved to talk – at performances where he was running the sound, and somewhat longer at one or two parties. Like I said, I didn’t know him well, but he left an impression.

Juicy was as much a contradiction as anyone else: a quiet man who talked a lot, imposingly big yet full of gentleness and urgency. Most of all, he had presence, the kind that changes a room. When he worked a concert, he really did change the entire space. He was as integral to the performance as the musicians on stage. It was a sight, watching him stand behind a huge console with his Cincinnati Reds hat, big glasses, and (if weather permitted, and sometimes when it didn’t) cargo shorts, coaxing the dials and judging the result – and when the music hit its groove, how he’d close his eyes and mouth the word “Mercy!”

When Juicy was killed in a car accident last week, messages of shock and sadness began showing up on Facebook – first from a local DJ, then from musicians and friends, filling the page. He clearly meant a lot to people who mean a lot to me. So I attended his memorial service this past Monday, held at a performing space owned by a local musician.

I got there late. The room was crowded and the seats already full, with latecomers standing in the hallway, fanning themselves furiously on a hot Midwestern afternoon. The air conditioner must have been straining, but it wasn’t enough. Despite the heat, we all had reasons to stay. There were good words, kind and true, spoken by Juicy’s friends. There were readings – from scripture and from writers Juicy often read aloud to others. And there was music, that indispensible part of life that he loved and had given so much of his energy to: songs of gratitude and heartbreaking sadness, some old, some new, shared by performers who had to sing to keep from crying. And we needed them to sing, too. We needed their music, whether we’d known him long, intimately, and well, or were grateful simply to have met him. There were many, many tears.

I didn’t stay late to speak to Juicy’s family and friends. Like I said, I didn’t know him that well, and I worry that even writing about that afternoon intrudes on their grief. But Juicy was a big man, and the ripples he made in life traveled far beyond that inner circle. What rippled my direction that day was an awareness that Juicy touched so many people by doing something he loved and they needed. Some of them were gathered in that room. There were family members in front, holding each other up through their grief. There were musicians on stage, making great sounds together. And there surely were others there like me, standing in the margins, people who knew him only well enough to be in his debt. It was good to be there, to see and hear how one life touches far more those we imagined. There are some days when it’s hard for me to believe that, and worse days when it’s too much to even hope for. But I’ll work on that. I’ve seen it. Juicy had presence, and I don’t think it’s gone.