JK Textin’

12 Sep

I found out that Jeff had died via a text message from Andres Gonzalez-Stewart. I woke up to the text message and I was still groggy, and when I saw it, I didn’t quite understand, or maybe didn’t believe it. Andres had written, “I have some very bad news about Jeff.” I asked him to elaborate, and he told me. Later, we talked it out on the phone, many times, as we were both struggling to understand.

Needless to say, text messages play a key role, these days, in any friendship, but they were especially core to my friendship with Jeff. While we are at Middlebury, we weren’t best friends, but we were very good “going out friends,” which is to say that although we would run into each other at meals in the dining hall often, and eat together, we also would go all week without contact and then I’d hear from him on Friday night. “Are you going to ____ party?” or, “What’s your plan for tonight?”

I’m not going to go much further here in terms of analysis or memories, except to say that one compelling, if not necessarily happy, result of Jeff’s death is that his dad Rich has become a real writer. Not just a blogger, per se, but a heartfelt and prolific writer on the topic of his family and his memories. I’m in awe of him. Let me also direct you to my own post about Jeff on my personal web site, available here.

And now let me share with you a few selections from my text message chain with Jeff, which I am happy to say, to my shock, is still alive on my iPhone. I’m glad to be able to commit them to record, and I share them only because those who read this blog obviously relish any glimpse into Jeff that they can get. Here you can once again hear his voice for a little while. The chain on my phone begins after college. Wish I still had texts to share from the time we were at Middlebury.

I.

In October of 2009, the first fall after we had graduated from college, Jeff texted me on Halloween, which he was obviously spending in New York City, where I was living since August.

Jeff: drobs any firm plans for tonight? I’m probably gonna be at the parade in Greenwich village if u want to meet up at some point. what are u dressing up as?

Dan: I went out last night as Richie Tenenbaum and it was a hit but I dunno abt tonight. That parade sounds fun I admit.

Jeff: yea it shud be solid. know what i am? a blind ref aka every nba ref and every mlb umpire.

Dan: That’s clever as hell.

It really was. I didn’t end up seeing him that night but we had met up in September, when I had him and Andres over to my apartment, along with a bunch of other people. Jeff brought his friend Chang. (There’s a video from that night embedded in the blog post at my own site.) The fact that Jeff was able to write his texts in all-lowercase, by the way, suggests to me that he was pretty late to adopt a smartphone. My phone auto-caps “I” and the beginning of sentences.

II.

The next time we hung out was in mid-January 2010, when Jeff invited me to a Knicks game at MSG. Jeff was so nice that he not only invited me but told me to invite a friend of my own. I took my friend from grad school, Ryan, who was a sportswriter. He and Jeff got along well.

Jeff: hey guys, just checking in to make sure you’re still in for tomorrow night.

Dan: U know it

Jeff: hey i’ll be there between 6 and 615 tonight, so let me know when u want to meet up.

Jeff: yo guys i’m gonna head to a bar when i get out of work like a block away from the garden (it’s called harrington’s, near the corner of 31st st).

Dan: I’ll meet u at 7 outside with Ryan.

Then, in the middle of the game, Jeff and I went to get food and he returned to the seats with his snacks while I stayed out trying to hunt down chicken fingers.

Jeff: yo did u find those fingers?

III.

We next texted each other during a January 24, 2010 Jets game. We often texted during big sports games that each of us knew the other would be watching.

Dan: This game is over any minute, poor Brett Favre.

Jeff: dude, i can’t believe it. the last 3 seasons have ended brutally for him. i don’t see how he’ll ever be able to walk away from the game.

IV.

Next I texted Jeff in February 2010. I was doing a brutal reporting internship (seven-hour shift on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) at the Daily News, and I got an assignment to go out and get fan reactions on the possibility of a Super Bowl at the Meadowlands (too cold? fun? not fair to West Cost quarterbacks?). I was nervous I wouldn’t get enough quotes—of course, in the end, I got more than enough—so I texted Jeff to see if I could get his take and try to use him in the story.

Dan: hey I have to get reactions from NY sports fans about prospect of 2014 superbowl being at Meadowlands. Want to be quoted in the paper?

Jeff: yeah dude whatever u need

Dan: Sweet! So, I’m out, can’t really call. But basically what do u think of the idea? Goodell approves. Think it’d work in the snow or is superbowl a warm weather event to you?

Jeff: would it be easier if i wrote it in an email or fb message or want me to just text u a response?

Dan: Email. And remind me your current age and where in the city u work, the name of the firm.

Jeff: just sent a response to your gmail account. Dude so you are writing an article on this? so cool.

Dan: thanks for saying that. It’s nothing, I’m just reporting. Will let you know if they use your quote. Not too late for you to get into journalism yourself! Thanks for the help with this.

Jeff: no problem haha

V.

Then, on February 7, Jeff wrote me.

Jeff: hey man thanks for tryin to get me in the paper… they’re not making u work during the super bowl r they???

Dan: They did! But I just got off. Sorry they didn’t use your quote, but did you see the article?

Jeff: I didn’t, but congrats. send me the link

VI.

We didn’t talk much until May, when Jeff texted me about basketball. We texted a lot during the month of May, and then, life happened, and I didn’t reach out to him or hear from him again. I don’t know how we went from June to November without texting each other, but I suppose I dropped the ball. I regret it.

May 3, 2010:

Jeff: celtics r getting absolutely screwed with the officiating. 16-4 foul discrepancy

Dan: I know it, that’s cuz after lebron’s slaughter MVP win the refs are subconsciously so in awe of his godlike stature that they want the cavs to sweep

Jeff: yep, this league’s a joke

Jeff, later: celtics look great right now, we better hope the refs dont try to talke this into their own hands.

May 5, 2010:

Jeff: yo im confused with the new facebook layout. when i look at anyone else’s profile, it’s the new weird format. but my own profile still has the old format. does that mean that to other people my profile has the new format, just not to me?

Dan: Hmm. Yeah hard to tell, huh. I don’t like new layout either. Hate it. I will look at your profile in a bit and let u know what it looks like to me, how abt that.

Jeff: yeah that’s good.

Dan, later: You seem to have been lucky. Your profile looks same as it all used to be—the old way, where interests are not all “pages” that one has to be a “fan” of. My sister’s theory is that it was an experiment and not all people had to do it, bc hers never changed either.

Jeff: hahah, they can’t get me! that’s so weird. hopefully i’ll remain unscathed.

Jeff: but some of my friends who hate it also had it happen to theirs.

May 7, 2010:

Jeff: dont know if ur following the celts game on ur phone or whatever but ur team is getting absolutely screwed on the officiating. like i’m entirely convinced that the nba wants the cavs to win.

Dan: Sox suck tonight too. Poor Boston. This Mets game is so good though.

Jeff: nice. how r ur seats? u staying for extra innings?

Dan: no they just won!

May 13, 2010:

Jeff: this is looking real good for the celtics!!!

Dan: Yup YUUUUP!!

May 24, 2010:

Dan: Bad officiating, that was not a foul on big baby

Dan, later: Oh my godddddd

Jeff: haha. terrible decision making by both teams.

That’s all I’ve got.

Wish I could text him now, and that I had texted him more during that summer and winter before his awful November.

– Dan Roberts

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