RIP Rory Root

Hi, everybody! Finals were busy as hell, internet access is spotty (at best) at home, and my Mom (Hi, Mom!) has been desperately wishing for a new post from me for two weeks so that the F-Word doesn't pop up at the top of the page every time she checks my blog.

And I just learned from Mark Evanier's site that Rory Root has died at the age of 50. Who's Rory Root? He was the owner of Comic Relief, an East Bay institution and one of the great comic book stores anywhere. I didn't actually know him, like Neil Gaiman did. I have always developed a friendly, conversational relationship with the owners and staffs of comics shops at which I was a regular customer - but I was only as regular a customer at Comic Relief as one can be when one lives a thousand miles away from it, so I can't say I even had a nodding acquaintance with Mr. Root.

Still, learning that he has died makes me sad.

The very first day I met Mle, she took me on a walking tour of Berkeley. She took me up Shattuck Avenue (this was before Comic Relief moved into their current Shattuck digs) showed me some of her old haunts on campus, and then we strolled down Telegraph, poking around in Moe's Books and Amoeba Records, laughing at all the trust-fund kids pretending to be gutter punks and asking for spare change, and then I saw a comic book store (this was, of course, the late Comics & Comix, for those familiar with the Berzerkeley), and of course I had to go in. I poked around for a while and bought a couple of things, and then we went back to Mle's apartment. Seeing me peruse my purchases, Mle's roommate asked if she had taken me to Comic Relief. "No," she said, "but next time he comes out I'll take him there."

Which she did, and it was then that I discovered what a comic book store can and should be. This was still pre-move, when they were in that tiny little shoebox of a space on University. Even so, I was astounded - it was well organized, it had an enormous, comprehensive selection not just of "floppies," but of trade collections and, ahem (if you must), "graphic novels." Staff was knowledgable and friendly, they didn't spend the whole time we were in there staring at Mle's boobs, and by god, 90-95% of the product they were selling was comics - not toys, not games, not "collectibles," but actual comics. Do I believe in love at first sight? With people, no. With comic book stores, yes.

Since then, a trip to Comic Relief has become an important part of any trip of substantial length to the Bay Area. Sometimes I don't have the dough to buy anything. Sometimes I go a little nuts and buy too much. But just going in there, browsing, discovering new titles and creators, it's worth it no matter what. It's a pilgrimage.

That's it. Never really met the guy, though I certainly saw him in the shop when I was in there. He certainly wouldn't have known me from Adam. But he created one of my favorite places in the world. So thanks for that, Rory.