Wednesday, November 30, 2016. When my good buddy Shai Waisman suggested that I keep a blog at the “commencement” of this entire experience, I was hesitant. Shai thought it would be a way to keep people posted (per the original entry that Shai drafted). He had it designed, came up with the titles (including “Sussinator,” which I think I just fully appreciated it actually says), and left the rest to me. I was in the hospital for a few weeks and thought a lot about it. And then it kind of just happened. [Thanks again Shai; I know you know how much I appreciated this.]
I wrote the first night I got home (May 13). And then almost 30 days in a row. It was a good escape, cathartic and helped fill my day when sleep (because of medication) was very hard to come by and lots of thoughts were running wild. Like many things in life it slowed down. That was a function of a lot of things. Including some tough times….some time to reflect…finally giving in to television…intermittent medication (like now)…not sure there was anything to say….not wanting to say anything. The list can and does go on. But at the beginning, when there was a strange euphoria notwithstanding being diagnosed with something associated with pain and fear, with so many people from so many different worlds coming together to show support and love (as I have been so lucky to have throughout these nearly 8 months and my entire life for that matter), there were places and things I thought about taking the time to write about because those places or things were/are so important to me. One of those places was Camp Samoset in Casco, Maine.
Today seems to be an appropriate day to make that happen and properly reflect. Unfortunately it is bitter-sweet. Earlier today, I drove to Boston with my brother to attend a memorial service for Arthur Savage, who owned and directed Camp Samoset with his wife Barbara for 21 years. Arthur passed away the night of Thanksgiving (after spending his favorite holiday with his family) following a one month battle with a very aggressive form of kidney cancer. He had just turned 80 years old.
Arthur and Barbara had lasting and indelible impacts on so many campers and counselors over their years at camp. My brother and I were fortunate recipients. Fortunate, in the first instance, to be able to spend two months each summer as kids running around playing sports and participating in activities in an environment that allowed you to be you. Without the pressures attendant to the other 10 months each year. It was never lost on me that this was a privilege. We were even more fortunate to stay on as counselors and learn things that we no doubt remember and use today. Lessons about life you just could not find at a summer job or internship. Sounds cliché. But it is true. Those were years that helped define us. [Earlier today, Drew attributed his organizational skills to being in charge of dozens of campers during day trips to water or amusement parks; to this day Drew is still amazed that Arthur and Barbara left him in charge of not only all of the cash, but making sure all the kids were accounted for on the bus both to and from the trip. So am I. He was probably no older than 17 and needed a chaperone in his own right. I had some more “meaningful” experiences in my humble opinion, but as I told Drew today, to each their own!]. All these lessons and experiences were made possible by Arthur and Barbara. They were directly responsible for the teachings or the putting in place of the right people to serve as role models and do the teaching. I can to this day recount dozens of moments and conversations, several of which I close my eyes and can be transported to the scene.
This was always the case and it was on complete display today when Barbara and Jackie read some of the email messages that were sent over the last month when Arthur became sick and was no longer able to speak on the phone. The messages were amazing and such a tribute to the way Arthur (and Barbara) conducted themselves and touched so many. I last spoke to Arthur in May (from 1-3 am, when I first got sick). We had not spoken in a while but we caught up quickly without missing a beat, as is often the case with camp relationships. I only wish I had properly thanked him for everything at that moment rather than through an email just a few weeks ago….
Arthur and Barbara are also the parents of Jackie and Rob, who I literally grew up with at Camp Samoset. We all met in 1989 (my first summer was 1988; the Savages bought Samoset in 1989). Rob and I were in the same bunk in 1989 when we were 11 years. We were not best friends at first. In fact, we weren’t friends at all. Rob switched bunks until we were 14. Bottom line: I was a jerk and gave him crap because his parents owned the camp. Things started to change as we grew up. And during the five years we were at camp as counselors together, getting opportunities from Arthur and Barbara to help run major functions of the camp as we got older, we were inseparable. This included my sole reality television experience in 2000 (the summer we graduated from college and before I went to law school) when Rob and I–because of our long time camp experience and relationship from camp with Rhett (the “original” )–were selected to be counselors not at Samoset, but at a camp in New Mexico that was featured on the television show “Bug Juice” on the Disney Channel. [Another story and unbelievable experience in and of itself. No surprise, Rob (the current actor living in LA) was selected to live in the bunk with the kids and was the focus of the show; I lived in a tent alone and served as the Director of the Boys’ camp (looking for some good cameos while I studied for the LSAT)]. A great experience, but it was not Samoset. We did, however, bring many Samoset traditions to Bug Juice and put them on full display for 14-year-old kids in certain parts of the US (who watched the show, together with our families and my new girlfriend at the time, who turned out to be my wife. And we didn’t get married because of my TV career; Jen would come over Sunday’s to see most episodes, most of which I appeared in for 30-45 seconds. No DVR in 2001 and she usually wasn’t paying close attention).
It is not a coincidence that I have maintained a close relationship with Rob and other people from Samoset for nearly 30 years. I always will. It was an important and defining time in some of my most formative years (10-21), and the lessons and experiences are consciously and subconsciously with me daily. I met some of the best people I know at camp. Including the Savages. It is days like today where you really appreciate opportunities that not many people are afforded.
Thank you Arthur (and of course Barbara, who I will continue to thank as I should have been for a long time) for everything from the timeless lessons to my friendship with Rob. Thanks for always letting me be me. You guys were and always will be family. It is pretty amazing that so many other people, from so many different places and backgrounds, share the same sentiment. Too often we do not get to say thank you until the end. I realize it doesn’t have to be that way…..
Barbara, Jackie and Rob. Thinking of you and so grateful to have you guys. Thanks for everything, including sharing Arthur with all of us. Rob said it well today. We are all better off for knowing Arthur, who was truly one of a kind.
I was truly honored when Jackie read part of the note I sent to Arthur (through Rob) on November 17th. It was obviously personal and something meant for the family. But as Jackie read various messages from so many people who had reached out, I was so comfortable and proud that people could hear out loud how important this family had been to me. I don’t need an email reminder of that. But for those that knew Arthur and the Savage family, I am thrilled to share because I know you might be thinking and feeling the same.
Rob. Please get this to your Dad.
Arthur — I heard the awful news from Rob today. And I understand that email is the best way to get in touch. Too bad as I would have really enjoyed another two-hour conversation in the middle of the night; it was great to catch up with you live over the summer. We cut through the bull sh*t in about five minutes and got to the important stuff; how big of a di*k I was as a 10-year-old kid; the many times you should have fired me; and the unbelievable friendship that I have with your son (this is soon to be 30 years old).
You and your family have had a massive and incredibly positive impact on my life and the person I am today. I am sure it sounds corny and comes at a time when emotions are running 100 miles per hour in thousands of directions, but I wanted to say thank you. Not sure I ever really thanked you properly or on an unqualified basis . . . Truth be told, a proper thank you is impossible to put in words when you think about what camp means to me…
I know lots of people who were privileged to have a great experience. And as a kid, I had a great experience. But it was really the 5 years as a counselor where I learned the most — about myself and life more generally — and developed a special relationship with Rob and the entire Savage family. Thanks for making that possible. You and Barb gave us responsibility and I learned so many things that were on “time release” (i.e., I didn’t even realize how certain experiences and moments at camp would come in handy years down the road and help shape the person I ultimately would become). Those 8 weeks were my favorites 8 weeks of the year. That was a function of the atmosphere you guys created and your willingness to let us succeed and fail. And I say “us” because I felt like part of your family and rarely did anything without Rob. (I still remember when you called me and said you were flying me in for Rob’s 20th surprise birthday party [not 21 by the way because Arthur was truly one of a kind]. Not that I would have missed it, but that phone call and invite meant the world to me. And I am sure I was “too cool” to say thank you on a truly unqualified basis at the time….).
I don’t use an electric razor often, but I was forced to use one over the last 8 months to avoid infections. For better or worse, I think of you every time it turns on. You are walking into the dining hall — a few minutes late for breakfast — with the electric razor fully engaged on your chin. Then, fast forward, and I immediately think about you catching me in the fridge eating macaroni salad at 1 am.
Thinking of you. And thanking you for everything.
Poetic that Arthur’s electric razor sat outside the memorial service on a table with pictures of his family, grandchildren and camp.