I spent a long time trying to secure a full time academic position. During this Gethsemane period, I worked nights as a security guard. This freed me up during the day to take whatever teaching gigs I could find and it gave me and my family health insurance. I would have gone insane at this time if not for the friendship I struck up with Larry DeCamp, a parking lot attendant. Larry went to SUNY Cortland as an undergraduate, did a spell in the army, and then found his way to the city. Larry was a year younger than me, but he possessed what the old-time philosophers called "wisdom." He knew his place in the world, did not suffer fools gladly, displayed fierce independence, and could tell hilarious stories. Larry died of a heart attack this past weekend. He was working, as usual, in the parking lot booth. Business was booming because of a Grateful Dead concert (I thought they had disbanded after Jerry Garcia died). Larry felt sick, then went into convulsions. He was gone before the ambulance arrived. From all accounts, he went quickly and did not suffer.

Why am I talking about Larry DeCamp in this blog devoted to Ludwig Wittgenstein? Because Larry was a modern Socrates; he lived the philosopher's life. He smoked and drank too much, to be sure, but he valued freedom more than anything, and lived a life emancipated from material desires. In the parking lot booth he could read whatever he wanted. The job was not physically or intellectually taxing. He had close friends and he took care of his nephews, but he had no other family obligations. (A mutual friend once said ungenerously, "When Larry sits down to eat a sandwich, he's feeding his entire family.") He went to sleep when he wanted; he awoke when he felt like it. Larry was happiest when he was hot on the trail of a new idea. Larry did not merely read authors, he discovered truth in them. He was a scholar of Orwell and Robert Graves. He loved Paul Fussell and Christopher Hitchens. And we shared a childhood idol in Mohammed Ali. What he knew of Wittgenstein, he admired.

Larry would appreciate being remembered here, I know.


At May 17, 2011 at 3:12 PM, Blogger JPwatcher said...

Just randomly searching a name that popped into my head--Larry DeCamp. At SUNY Cortland we were housemates--and I soon as I read the posting I knew it was him.

We used to watch "I Claudius" together. He was a philosopher and an independent thinker...and an inventor of unlikely things.

Famously he proposed the "DeCampobox" furniture. Beds and furniture made of empty waxed boxes left over from big restaurant/diner milk dispensers.

He put them together and built couches and chairs.

Lived in the basement for 25 bucks less than the rest of us paid (100) per month.

Smart, intense, hilarious.

Sad he went that way, but given the intensity of his convictions, he was not probably long for this earth.

To you, Larry!

Andy Pond


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