I went to a bar to write this. And I believe Rob would have approved.
I met Robert Paquette one sweltering morning in 2017 at the office, when I interviewed him for the art director position that Jorge Maturino, our first, had just vacated.
We put an ad for it in the paper, thinking then — as we do now — that we wanted someone on the job who at least looked at our work once in a while. A bar customer at NY Pizza on Tate Street had mentioned it to him, Rob told me later, which was close enough.
Rob was one of just three who applied, and the only one who showed up for the interview. This job was a stretch for his abilities at that time — Rob became a skilled artist and designer in his years at Triad City Beat, but he was less polished when he came on — and I still remember his very first issue.
I have seen many an art director melt down on the eve of their first issue. It happens when they’re just a few hours shy of deadline and starting to realize they need to step it up if they’re going to make it. That’s when they all get real quiet. Sometimes their faces get all red. Sometimes they cry.
Rob just grunted his way through it, like a wild boar caught in a tangle, until he emerged out the other side in plenty of time to make last call.
His skills became rock solid, a metronome, like I imagine his guitar riffs would be if I ever saw any of his bands, which I regretfully did not.
As with a lot of my lost friends, I always thought I had more time.
And Rob was my friend. I drove him home most days after work, we had lunch together at least once a week. I turned him on to James Booker. He, in turn, helped me maintain my connection to nightlife, the bar scene, the tribulations of working musicians who are actively playing shows.
Rob was the most metal of us all, managing… usually… to keep his angsty rage in his pocket, pulling it out only when he needed it, like a fancy Zippo with a roaring flame. He lived hard, drank like a longshoreman, smoked hot cigarettes, flatly refused to have smoothies for lunch and would sometimes score a little weed to bring to his dad in Lexington.
We lost our fathers around the same time. We were supposed to get together and talk about it. We ran out of time.
I surely will miss Rob, who died too soon, as I know will his bandmates and fans, his ex-girlfriends and former roommates, every doorman in town and all the afternoon drinkers on Tate Street. He left his mark on this paper; he left his mark on Greensboro; and he left his mark on me.
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