In the middle of the Super Bowl on Sunday, a story from old friends from my home town hit Facebook: Robert Wood has died.
I grew up in Kent, Ohio. For those of a certain age Kent is famous, the place of Kent State University and the place where state troopers killed protesting students during the Vietnam War. That year was 1970. I was born in 1973 and the town was still mourning that moment when I moved away in 1988.
Because of its history, Kent attracted a very eclectic group of people. And one of those people was Bob Wood.
Bob Wood, known as FU Bob because he would stand on street corners in downtown Kent and flick off passing cars, was a local artist who was considered brilliant and crazy all at the same time.
Of course we were just kids. Bob’s middle finger and fowl mouth (he was also known for dropping the f-bomb without warning) were much more interesting than his art. The fact that he would stand on a street corner and step off the curb, on the curb, off the curb, on the curb, over and over again was the stuff of ridicule.
But I had a personal connection, of sorts, with Bob, too. My stepdad, the good Catholic soul that he was, would buy Bob a beer at a local bar or have him come to the house to take a shower. His mother used to call the house looking for him. I don’t really remember talking to him, though. I was scared to death of the man with the scraggly beard and odd personality.
It is funny how hearing of his death takes me back to a different time and place. He was not a central feature of my life but for whatever reason Bob was part of the fabric of that time.