Paul Alan Ruben

Paul Alan Ruben

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bob and Debra

I am thinking about Bob and Debra Deyan. Bob lost his struggle with ALS yesterday. I wish for Debra, and for their families and friends, as much peace and comfort as is possible while they mourn Bob's passing.

I am also thinking now of my time with these wonderful friends and colleagues, and how I've felt being among them over the years, especially when we met in New York or LA.

There are people in my life—particular people—I feel as if I’ve known forever, kind of like a forever presence by my side. Bob and Debra fit that forever-presence bill. Since I met them twenty years ago, or maybe a zillion—can’t recall now—I have always regarded the Deyans as a kind of forever presence in my life. That forever presence is enriching, and rewarding; it’s a comforting feeling born of a shared connection and shared empathy for each other’s experience as producers trying to navigate the vicissitudes endemic to our tiny audiobook universe.

This forever presence that simmers beneath my skin now is similar to how I’d imagine perpetually sitting in front of an ingratiating fire on a winter night, in the midst of a howling blizzard, the flames’ palliating heat binding, and bonding, a salve for what ails you. Hmmm, what a glorious feeling!

Where I think I am going with this is an effort to express not only the meaning of this forever presence, not only how it feels, but from where it emanates.

In the past, I mostly saw Bob and Debra in New York, when they were attending an audiobook related function, and hunting up work (like me). Often, we’d get together at the cavernous Westway Diner on 44th and Ninth Avenue, near JMM Studios, where I worked. Three themes repeated themselves almost each time we met. Them complimenting me: Oh, Paul, one or both said, with the identical avuncular intonation, which made sense to me, as I regarded them as a kind of collective spirit, you know the narrators all like you, all speak highly of you; me complimenting them: I want to be as successful as you both when I grow up; and then industry chat focused on our common experience as audiobook producers, including requisite gossip about what publisher is hiring what producer, what narrators we liked, which ones drove us nuts (don’t worry, it was mostly celebrities). And all this palaver as congenial competitors.

Routinely, I’d walk from these informal confabs and always, always feel, well, really good. The Deyans accepted and valued me, and respected me, as I did them. Just how specifically good did that make me feel? Special-good, and happy-good; proud-of-myself-good; welcomed-good, and included-good. Sharing the gossip, the ups and downs we encountered as producers, with them, was, in a sense, a kind of breaking bread, though at Westway, the bread was occasionally unbreakable.

I remember now those silent, recognition-moments after one of us said something about something or someone that equally disgruntled us: usually a comment that hit some gnarly or vexing nail on the head. And we’d gaze at one another quite wordlessly and nod in a way that said,Yeah, tell me about it, or, I know, I know; or, me, too.

I found those silences connecting and bonding and warmly transcending. As professionals engaged in the same enterprise, we were, as Kipling’s Mowgli said, “of one blood.” Acquaintances, yes. Friends, yes. And also empathetic compatriots—respectful of one another—who traversed the same rutted path.

More than anything, right now, if you asked me, how long have I known the Deyans, still I’d have to say, “You kidding? I’ve known them forever.”

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