A strange thing happened the other day. See, a little more than a year ago, a friend of mine, and a pretty popular Mac writer many of you will remember, died. His name was Rodney O. Lain, and he took his own life on June 16th. of 2002. It was a very sad day for the Mac web, and an even sadder one for those of us fortunate enough to have actually met and known Rodney on a personal level.
I wrote an article, which was posted the next day, about his death. You can read it here. I was, if you can’t tell from that article, very upset. Not just at loosing someone, but at how it happened. By his own hand. Many people that week took the time to write me, explaining about depression and how it can really affect a person, how it can change a family, and all of the other nasty stuff that happens. While I did appreciate the outpouring of email from readers, and how many other websites linked to my article, none of it really mattered to me at the time. My friend died, and I missed him. I still do.
Rodney had created a fictional character that he named “Mac Daddy.” Mac Daddy was a street-wise, tell-it-like-I-see-it Macintosh user who, like Rodney, was black. Rodney’s description of Mac Daddy read “best friend, fellow Mac polygamist, grammar agnostic and unabashed malaprop.” Wow, how can you NOT like a character like that? With an authentic dialog of a know-it-all, yet uneducated, Rodney had created a character that took on a life of its own. I told Rodney that during one of our many phone conversations. “I love this character.” I told him. He said it was fun as hell to write, and that Mac Daddy was almost like another person. I suggested that it would be fun if I conducted an interview with Mac Daddy, never once referring to Rodney himself, so as to help make the Mac Daddy character even more real. While Rodney like the idea, we never did get around to actually doing it.
The strange thing.
It was close to 11:00PM when the phone rang. Anyone who knows me understands that I don’t like getting calls that late. I have three kids, one of which is a newborn. A late night phone ringing is not what I want to hear. But I answered it, and the following is a transcript of that conversation, as best as I can remember it.
“‘sup? This Tim?”
Yeah. Who is this?
“This the Tim Mac guy?”
Yeah. Who is this?
“Yo! ‘Sup, man?”
Hey. Who are you?
Who the hell is Mac Daddy?
“I is. You don ‘member me?”
No, I don’t think so. When did we meet?
“We ain’t met. At ‘les not in person. You ‘member Rodney?”
Sure, of course.
“You ‘member all his internet writing?”
“He done wrote about me all da time!”
“He done made me famous like.”
Mac Daddy from his iBrotha columns?”
“Yeah. He wrote a buncha them. Always mis-quoting my ass and all, the bastard.”
Wait a minute. Mac Daddy was a fictional character Rodney made up. It was satire. Mac Daddy said all the things Rodney could not or would not say himself. He used the character to get points across.
“Nah, nah, nah. That was me!”
Look, whoever you are, you’re not Rodney Lain’s Mac Daddy. In fact, I find it offensive that you would even call here pretending to be Mac Daddy. Rodney was a friend of mine, and he died a little over a year ago. I think you are being rude, and have very poor taste.
“You don’ believe me?”
No, of course not.
“Rodney tol’ me ’bout you some.”
Sure he did.
“No, really. Said you was the blackest white man he done ever met.”
You are not Mac Daddy. Rodney wrote that about me at another Mac website, a few years ago, after we met in person at Macworld San Francisco 2000.
“Don’ know nothin’ ’bout dat. But he did talk about you a few times. Said you and him was gonna go and do somethin’ ’bout talkin and stuff and have it on the internet or somethin’.”
Yeah, we were gonna … Hold on. You are NOT Mac Daddy.
“I read what you wrote.”
“I read what you wrote, ’bout Rodney. How you was cussin’ and all.”
“Heda’ liked that one. He woulda. He always said he was always wantin’ to write and use bad words, but that no one would let ’em.”
Yeah, okay. Look, is there something I can do for you?
Hello? You there?
“Yup. Can I ask you a question?”
Yeah, sure. What?
“You still miss ’em?”
“Yeah, you still miss ’em at all?”
Of course. He was a renegade. He was the writer everyone loved to hate. He had a natural talent.
“Nahh, nahh. I mean do YOU miss ’em, you know, HIM.”
Yeah. I do. Look, whoever you are, it is late here. I have to go.
I have to go.
“Yeah. It just …”
“You know he done made me, like, kinda famous and all. Like I was someone. We would talk and shit ’bout computers and stuff, ya know? Then the Bastard goes and caps his own ass.”
Look, whoever you are …
Yeah, okay, Mac Daddy. Rodney was sick, he was suffering depression. Shit happens, you know?
“What’s I suppose to do now?”
What do you mean?
“What happens to me now?”
I’m not sure what you mean?
“Rodney gone. How people gonna read what I haves to say now?”
Okay, listen …
“I mean, Rodney was kinda cool. Kinda fun to talk to and all. Brotha told it like it IS, ya know?”
“So now what? Who gonna tell all them people ’bout my ideas? What I doin’? Shit, I gots me some ideas!”
I bet you do.
“Rodney knowed all bout them Mac’s, ya know? Hell, who am I gonna talk to bout Macs now? My cracker-ass landlord? Shit …”
I don’t know. Look, whoever you are …
Mac Daddy. Yeah. Look, it is late; I have to get up early tomorrow.
“Rodney woulda talked longer …”
I ain’t Rodney, and you ain’t Mac Daddy, okay?
“I ‘plied fo a job with Apple.”
“Yup, we gots us a Apple Store here in Minneapolis. Theys wanted to hire one of them Genius Mac guys. I ‘plied fo it.”
“Yup. They discriminate against me!”
“Said I hafta have a diploma and shit.”
“Yeah, from high school or somthin’. Ain’t dat discrimination?”
Well, no, it is simply a minimum skill or education level Apple feels is needed to perform that job.
“Like how is a piece of paper goin’ tell Apple if I can do a job?”
I don’t know. Look, it really is late …
“You know, I just …”
You just what?
“I miss Rodney is all.”
Yeah, me, too.
Yeah. Look …
“Hey, canya do a brotha a favor?”
Uhh, I don’t know. What kind of favor?
“Don’t let ‘um forget the iBrotha, yo?”
No, I won’t let them forget.
“And tell ’em the Mac Daddy be watchin’ they asses, makin’ sure them Apples is all in ‘da barrel, know what I sayin?”
Yeah, I think so. It is late …
“So, you gonna tell ’em ’bout my call? Lets them know ’bout me, ’bout how I am still out here?”
What? Let who know?
“You knowed who. Them. They gots to know.”
Of, yeah, sure.
“You gonna make me famous, like Rodney?”
No, sorry. Only Rodney could do that.
Because there was only one Rodney Lain, and I ain’t him.
You miss him, too, don’t you?
“Me? Nahh, that boy crazy. I don’t miss him none.”