Myself, Eric Florida and Eric Smith seeing Black Sabbath after GenCon 2013.
The Godfather of Geek
Last week I found out that my friend, Eric Florida had passed away from complications related to an illness that he had been fighting for many years. He and his wife Gwen did everything in their power to find the way to make Eric well again, and I greatly admire them both for the determination and positivity they showed through that entire process.
I’ve been thinking about Eric for a week. Crying, laughing, crying some more. I realized something that brought me great comfort. He was almost always on my mind. His influence on my life was so great that I will never truly be apart from him.
I met Eric when I was probably 14 years old. Florida, as we decided to call him, was a huge geek. Comics, movies, and of course video games were in his DNA. I don’t remember all of the details of how we were introduced, but I know that his brother Scott had something to do with it. Based on some truth and some of my own imagination I like to think that Scott saw that his older brother could use a couple of friends that spoke the same confusing language: Geek.
My cousin, Eric Smith and I were driven out to his house in Montrose, Michigan and literally presented as an offering to this Lord of Geekdom. We were immediately found worthy and for the next 30 years Eric Florida, Eric Smith, and Steve Hamaker would be best of buds.
So many stories swirl through my mind when I think about Florida, but the strongest memory I have of him isn’t really a specific one. It’s his laugh, or the look he gives my cousin when he’s boiling over about getting pranked, it’s the feeling of our shoulders uncomfortably bumping into each other as we stand at a cramped Street Fighter 2 machine.
Over the years we pretty much always stayed in touch. Florida was one of those friends that I wouldn’t see for a year or two, but we could pick right back up where we left off. He only had to drop one Tombstone quote and we were kids again.
During my college years I remember thinking how impossible it was that any of us would ever get married. What woman could keep up with the comic book collections, the marathon gaming sessions, the movie quotes? When he married Gwen I knew there was hope for us all. She completed Florida in a way that no one close to him could have imagined.
When I started writing my comic, PLOX I knew that it would have tons of references to Florida. I know he got a kick out of it, but it’s more than that.The lifeblood of that story is all him! If not for him there would be no Roy, and there would be no soul to the comic either.
Eric Florida didn’t just give me the Gift of Geekdom, he showed me how to be a better person. I might miss his laugh, but everything else is safely guarded inside of me. I won’t ever forget him.