As I sit down with a heavy heart to write this it is not the keyboard that my vision is focused on but what lies behind it. Three framed pages are placed proudly on my wall, each frame containing a page of the story Searchin’, written by Our Man. Above the second page sits a letter filled with finished printed pages from my latest installments of The Pekar Project, which I was planning on mailing to him the same day I had found out that he had passed on. It sits there at the moment as a memorial to the absolute feeling of gratitude to have known a man like Harvey Pekar.
This is being written the day after he died, and many loving and beautiful words have been said and written for a man who well deserves it, so in an attempt to show how deserving these words are I will give you an experience not too long ago in which I got to know how much Harvey really was a true human being.
My last birthday was in late October. It wasn’t necessarily a happy one. Even though I was working with Harvey and had been working with him for a little while, my mother was in the hospital after having a stroke due to her chemo treatments for treating her condition (she had lung cancer). The day after my birthday I was in the hospital with her when I received a phone call from Harvey. He had called to wish me a happy birthday and since I had talked to him earlier about my mother’s condition for advice, he asked how she was doing. I told him of what happened and after I finished my Mom asked if she could talk to him. Now, if Harvey was anything like the working stiff he was portrayed as he probably would have declined. But, since he was Harvey, he gladly talked to her. She thanked him for giving me the chance to work with him and asked how he was doing. After I got back the phone he told me how nice of a lady he thought she was. Now, technically, in a professional relationship with someone, more often than not your co-worker, who you don’t even work with face to face, probably wouldn’t do something like this. In a modern working relationship the other person probably wouldn’t care all that much. Not Harvey. With this experience along with many others in my memory bank, I know beyond doubt that the integrity of Harvey Pekar was worth every page of his work, and then some.
In closing, I’d like to point out that, for what it’s worth, Our Man left this world on a pretty high note. He had his pencil to the grind until the very end, bursting with so many ideas that the deserved fruits of his labor made it seem that there was nowhere for him to go but up. When I got the news that Harvey had passed I found out from Pekar Project editor Jeff Newelt right after I had woken up. One of the first things he said was that he felt Harv went out like Ben Kenobi, and I seem to agree with him. Although the physical body of Harvey Pekar has ceased to live, the body of his work even at the end of his life is so radiant that the rays of it’s meaning and intent will undoubtedly shine for generations to come. Goodbye, Harvey. I’ll save your number in my phone just in case you get the urge to call.