The Boy with the Prettiest Eyes and the Biggest Heart

me and bob levine

I was supposed to see my friend Bob that weekend. He didn’t know it though. He would never know it because, as it turns out, the plane he was on flying from Los Angeles to San Diego, crashed. It was September 25, 1978 and Pacific Southwest Airlines first accident involving fatalities. Bob Levine would never know how deep the connection was that I felt with him. We were only casual friends.

I was in my twenties and had been visiting my mother at her house in Palm Springs. Anything for a quick weekend trip, I was always up for a vacation.   I was with my lifelong friend, Diane. My mother nurtured us in the form of guacamole. No one made it better. Then we lay around in the sun, catching rays and vitamin D, even if I didn’t know it then.   After our quick two-day getaway, we headed home. On the way back from the desert, I noticed something on the freeway I never had before, and that was a connecting freeway and a sign that read South to San Diego. I asked my know-everything-about driving-and-freeways friend Diane about it. I wondered if it might be a great, spontaneous idea if we switched our route and headed south to visit our old pals, Matt Browar and Bob Levine. They had moved to San Diego, a place that was chill, where they could find good waves.

Bob Levine was SO cute!  He and Wendie Miller won best looking at B.V.

Bob Levine was SO cute! He and Wendie Miller won best looking at B.V.

“Good waves” was my connection to both Matt and Bob. Well, that and the fact that I liked cute, nice boys. In high school, on some weekend mornings, I would invite myself along for a day of surfing with Bob Levine and his best buddy, Matt. I would have to wake up at 5:00 a.m., an absurd hour for anyone who knows me, and walk in the dark over to Matt’s house, somewhere behind Roxbury Park, near Pico. Not sure what I was getting out of this – I never rode a wave — but to just be one of the boys was exhilarating. I loved the curly, almost-a-fro atop Matt’s head. I loved the warmth of Bob’s magical-long-lashed-eyes and heart that contained zero malice.

Diana and I pulled over, because in those days you needed to use a pay phone. I called Matt’s number. There was no answer, or that would have been the karmic meant-to-be moment deciding our direction and the freeway to be taken. There were no answering machines, and therefore no record that I was “thinking” of coming down.

I was back home in L.A. I would just put that little trip on hold and visit them in the future. We were young — there was always a big, huge future of waves waiting for us.   Only there wasn’t. When I heard about the crash on the news, a red flag went up in my head. Matt or Bob could be on that plane, I thought. No, couldn’t be. I felt certain. Until a day or so later when my phone rang and it was someone in Matt and Bob’s group of guy friends that I was never close with. “Fredde?” he asked. “This is Danny.” That red flag was now waving more insistently, but I chose to ignore it. I gave Danny, someone I never even knew that well, a big, friendly hello. And then he dropped the news that I had most feared. Bob was on the PSA flight that went down, and he was calling to tell me about the funeral.

I was stunned. I thought maybe if I had reached them on the payphone that day, things would be different. Bob never knew I wanted to switch freeways and spontaneously head down to see him. Bob would never know how close I felt to him as a friend. A ton of us who adored Bob Levine came together for a few straight weeks to prop his mother up, and to feel close to each other, in order to feel close to him.

Roxbury Park

Roxbury Park

My boyfriend and I stood together at a memorial for Bob in Roxbury Park — the place where Bob and I grew up.   And after everyone had left and the sun was going down, we had very public sex right there on a picnic bench, just because we could.   To remind each other we were alive. We were survivors. I swore that I would stay close to his mother Mary forever, a promise I only kept for a year or so. Everyone’s lives went on.   I haven’t seen Matt in years and he rarely shows up for school reunions. It could be that we are reminders to each other of our shared loss. Matt and Bob were as close as brothers.   I miss seeing the handsome face of Bob Levine. I miss the intensity of a hug from him. I sure wish he were around and that I could still entertain fantasies of visiting him. I’d love to watch him catch a few more waves.

surfing

 

Food:  In a fantasy world where I meet up with Bob and Matt down in San Diego to go surfing today — 2014, after,  we would  have a bite at Pacific Beach Fish Shop.   It made a top 10 list of places to eat for surfers.  PB has a market and grill.  You pick your fish and your marinade and style of cooking.  I want mine grilled!

 

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9 Responses to “The Boy with the Prettiest Eyes and the Biggest Heart”

  1. Pauli says:

    So evocative of that time and place. Never knew Bob, but kinda wish I had.
    I would also have liked to try that famous guacomole. Keep on writing, it is so addictive!

  2. Linda says:

    I agree with Pauli’s comments … always love being reminded of Roxbury Park.

  3. Valentina says:

    Fredde, I never knew Bob Levine… like I never knew a lot of people who went to BHHS. But I did know Matt from ER.

    Your story makes me wonder if you ever read my blog post “My own private CRASH” about the Mann family & Susie Mann in particular. Isn’t it odd how certain people can have a big impact on you… even if you don’t know them well, or at all (in my case)! I still think of her often. A few years ago I heard from Fred Mann, in response to a condolence letter I sent him when his dad died. We said we’d stay in touch, but haven’t.

  4. Valentina says:

    Please excuse my seemingly random last comment. Not trying to make it about me!

    My excuse… your lovely story of loss & missed chances tapped into my emotions regarding long ago events.

  5. Augie Duke says:

    This is so beautiful and so sad .. I am so sorry you had a loss like this one.. It must of been really hard for you at the time. Still looking back as well. I adore and encourage your writing . You are a true talent.

  6. susie shapiro says:

    thanks for your beautiful memories and recollections of a beautiful young man tragically taken from us way too early. I remember Bob vividly cuz I had a MAD, but quiet, elementary school crush on him for several years. doubt if I ever spoke much to him…only a very occasional hello. I was so painfully shy back then…thankfully, not quite as shy these days.

    and because of this, I appreciate your memories even more. now, so many years later and with adult eyes, I’m finally able to get to know him. thank you, dear Fredde!

  7. Diana says:

    This made me cry. I remember this weekend like it was yesterday. I see you a standing there making that call, and remembering how excited we were at the prospect of seeing them…especially Bob. I, like almost every other girl in school had a massive crush on him! I remember how devastated we were at the news, and the phone call from you delivering that tragic blow. What a great guy he was. Great tribute to him Fred!

  8. Fredde,
    Chills.
    Thanks as usual.
    L

  9. Matt Browar says:

    Freddie,
    If I ever received an invitation to a school reunion I would have gone.
    I tearfully enjoyed your article about Bob, he is so very missed.
    Best,
    Matt

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