Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rocque Sean Payne: 1957 - 2010

On October 7, 2000, the funk band Little Feat was slated to play at the Red River Revel.  It was raining; not hard, but a cool mist drizzled all evening and threatened to keep a lot of people at home.  I really wanted to see Little Feat.

I'd listened to them throughout the eighties and their album "Waiting For Columbus" was one of my favorites.  It had "Willin'," "Dixie Chicken," "Don't Bogart That Joint," and "Oh Atlanta."  Pretty much all the Little Feat classics.  I wore the grooves out of that album.

I couldn't find anyone to go with me to the Revel.  Nobody, none of my friends, wanted to brave the weather.  I put on my off-white lamb-skin car coat and I went by myself.  I drove downtown in the dark, found a place to park, and went to the Revel by myself.  I made my way through the crowds, past the funnel cakes and stained glass artists to the Riverfront stage where Little Feat was to play.

I bought a big beer in a Revel souvenir cup and wandered around.  You always see someone you know at the Revel.  I hadn't wandered too long through the small crowd when I heard, "Pat!  Hey, girl!" and when I turned around there was Rocque. 

Rocque and I had the knack for showing up at the same musical events.  It was no surprise that he was there, although we had not talked about it.  I threw my head back, laughed and gave him a hug.  "I just KNEW you'd be here somewhere!"  which is what I always said when I saw him places like that.  We found a seat on the sodden terraced lawn close to the front and stayed in the drizzle for all of Little Feat, singing along and yelling with the crowd.  They played everything we wanted to hear and of course, the encore was "Willin," "Don't Bogart That Joint," and "Let it Roll."

In mid-November 2008, I ran into Rocque again.  I'd seen him since the Little Feat performance of course, but the next time we randomly ran into each other outside of a club or restaurant, was at the 2008 Highland Jazz and Blues Fest.  It was a clear fall day, a perfect 60 degrees with a light breeze.  He was having lots of trouble walking then because of his injury and disability, but he had brought his boys out to hear the music.  I think Rocque really came to see Buddy Flett who was performing for one of the first times in public since his recovery from a disastrous illness.  It was tough for Rocque to mange those slopes and hills in Columbia Park with his cane but he did it.  He'd have done anything for those boys and Rocque loved good music.

Again, when I ran into him at the Highland Jazz and Blues Fest, I laughed and said, "I knew I'd find you here!"  I threw an LSU blanket down on the ground beside his chair and we listened to Jerry Beach, Bruce Flett and Miki Honeycutt.  I don't know if Rocque stayed for Buddy Flett or not; we split up after a bit and he went to find his kids who were busy in the playground.  I looked for him there last year but he wasn't there.

I first met Rocque Payne in 1991 through my husband at the time, Jim.  Rocque was working for Snyder Floor Covering as a salesman.  He was married to Sandy and we all hung out together for years.  Rocque, Sandy, and Jim all played foosball and that's what we did a lot at first.  I watched.  Rocque was the only person I ever knew who loved Eric Clapton as much as I do.  Rocque loved music and musicians and had a fabulous scrapbook of ticket stubs, pictures, and programs from concerts he'd been to.  In that book was everyone you'd possibly want to see, and many of them more than once.

Through the years we all drifted apart, went different ways, but still ran into each other as you do in a town this size.  I ran into Rocque at music events, restaurants and the occasional club.  We talked from time to time about other things, too.  He came by the house one afternoon to talk about Bossier Schools.  He was home-schooling his two boys, Dylan and Derek (loved those names!) and since I'm a teacher, we talked about school related things.  He wanted to do a good job for those kids.  He wanted to do it right.

In later years I would run into Rocque a lot at Nicky's Mexican Restaurant.  He took the boys there to eat fairly often, and in fact, that's where he was the last time I saw him a few months ago, during the summer.  Leaning on his cane, he made sure to stop by our table and say hello.

Through all the pain of his last years, I never knew Rocque to lose his good temper or his smile.  He never, ever failed to greet me with that big smile that stretched across his tanned, angular, face, light freckles sprinkled across his nose.  He always had a lean, thin frame and his brown eyes sparkled with laughter and mischief when he'd lean over for a hug.

I recently marked my calendar for this year's Highland Jazz and Blues Fest which is coming up in about three weeks.  I wondered if Rocque would be there.

He won't.

Rocque died Sunday, October 25.  There are a lot of people hurting right now because he's gone, but I know, as much of a cliche as it is, I know he's not suffering or in pain anymore.  His funeral is tomorrow (Thursday), but I can't go.  I have to work.  I'd cry and make a fool of myself anyway.  Instead, I'll sit quietly on my deck where we spent so many hours, have a beer, and say goodbye.

He was my good friend and I will never listen to Eric Clapton, Little Feat, The Black Crowes, The Rolling Stones...without thinking about Rocque.  I'll go to the Highland Fest this year, and I'll probably still look for him; he'll be there.  Most people won't see him, but he'll be there and he'll be having a blast.  He was my friend; I loved him like a friend, and I'll never forget him.

Godspeed, my friend, and rest in peace.

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