My name is Russ Starke. Todd and I went to college together but only loosely knew of each other; we connected a handful of years later coincidentally when we lived in the same place, striking up a friendship at the local gym that started with conversations about geeky and obscure pop culture that we were equally unashamed about loving. That friendship spilled over into the obvious: concerts, house parties, movies and just hanging out…and then into the less obvious of having been in two bands together, me providing the music with other close friends while Todd supplied the visuals, and a podcast that lasted 100 episodes over 8 years. Todd was and is a constant fixture in my life. Our wives are close. Our kids play together.
No doubt like almost everyone else he came in contact with, Todd gave way more to me than I ever gave back to him. Part of that is that I just didn’t have as much to offer (especially in the tangible sense), and part is just that it was so central to his nature that it was impossible to catch up. So after a while I stopped trying to repay him for custom album artwork, the mural he painted on my baby daughter’s nursery wall, and everything else—and just kinda basked in the privilege of being in his inner circle, and having a ringside seat as he blew so very many minds.
If I gave him anything of value, it was probably in providing him with a “straight man” foil to his “dreamer”—someone who was a kindred spirit in many ways but who worked in the business world and could provide some different insight and thought to his constant stream of input. But we also had an ongoing dialogue about “the meaning of it all”, which ranged from systemic issues in society to the supernatural and beyond.
Todd was a skeptic, but not a cynic, and that’s an important distinction. He loved to stir the pot, but in private moments he would admit that’s what he was doing—and reveal deep respect for different beliefs, ways of life, what have you, as long as you could show you had done your research and been thoughtful about the choices you had made. One of the things he was chiefly interested in was challenging limits. Limits placed upon us by ourselves, by others, and by outdated and possibly misguided tradition. He was very much like a little kid, asking you WHY? WHY? WHY? until you either broke down and had to admit you needed to dig up more information to be ready for the next skirmish, or you convinced him the path you were on was well chosen, and needed no tweaking. But convincing him was hard.
I don’t know if Todd would want me to be sentimental or emotional right now…but you don’t get the last word this time, Marrone—I do. And so I’m telling you that I am going to hold on to the belief and faith that I will see you again. And when I do, my first order of business will be to kick your ass for leaving us far too soon. After that, we can move on to gorge ourselves for eternity with music, movies, comic books and video games. And I’m also telling you that in the meantime, I will continue to think of you, remember you, and love you like a brother. And I will continue to miss you, as I already do. Terribly.