Monday, April 6, 2009

My eulogy for David ("Zook") , my brother, 9/19/65-3/27/09

We got the call from Rich at 2:49 AM that David had passed. I fell back to sleep after that and I dreamed that we had gone to Nevada for the funeral. We were looking for David’s house and I was not sure where it was until we found a big purple house: purple lawn, purple trees, purple lawn, and purple mailbox. We parked in the driveway and there was David, doing the laundry in his purple garage, with his purple washing machine and purple dryer. I walked up to David, and said, “David, I drove up here to go to your funeral. You are supposed to be dead. What is going on, you died at the hospital.” Then David, with that typical smirk on his face, turned to me, laughed and said, “Well, guess what. You heard wrong, I’m alive so, get over it!” And after that, David walked away, picked up his purple guitar, got out his purple video camera, and started recording a new song called, “My Brother Phil is an idiot. He thinks I’m dead, but I am alive.” David put out this song on You Tube, got 100,000 hits, and then made the cover of Rolling Stone. As usual David, had told me the truth, whether I wanted to hear it or not.

Randy Pausch, in his book, The Last Lecture, said, “Tell the truth all the time.” That is how David lived; he always told everyone the truth, whether they liked it or not. It started at a young age, when we were living in Bethesda, Maryland, outside Washington, DC. A diplomat, from Canada, was visiting the house, and Dad was holding David in his arms, when David was about four. The diplomat said hello to David, and David’s response was: “You have yellow teeth.” I am sure that the diplomat was overjoyed that David had given him such valuable dental feedback.

David always told the truth, whether in a face to face conversation, in a letter, in a blog, or in a song. Or, put another way, as Jimi Hendrix said in his song, “IF 6 was nine,” “I’m gonna wave my freak flag high.” That flag was always flying high, even though there were times where it would have been easier to see it at half mast, because the truths David told were not always pretty, and could be difficult to hear.

David, in his blogs, used some incredible passages to talk about his spirituality, his life, his dreams, and his regrets. His truths that were told are things that were intimate, personal, perhaps embarrassing, and often unpleasant. But telling the truth takes courage, and David always had courage to do what he thought was right. Like the 12th juror in the film, “12 Angry Men,” David would hold fast to his beliefs, no matter what anyone else thought.

He recorded many original songs and put them on You Tube. Some were pleasant, some were hilarious, some were unpleasant, and some were controversial, such as ones he did on religion, which inspired some spirited responses from my kids, who have all been to Israel and who attend an orthodox synagogue.

Even though my kids had not spoken to David since last summer, they communicated with him on a regular basis about music, politics and videos, just as they do with their own friends. In fact, my kids have told me that they intend to carry on David’s legacy by performing their music on You Tube and writing their own blogs.

David was a pioneer in many ways:

  1. He was the first person in our family to go to UCSD, a science and math-oriented school, where he ended up majoring in economics, and graduated, despite some formidable hurdles he overcame.
  2. He was the first person I knew who moved to San Diego. We visited him several times in San Diego, while we were in LA, and I was impressed with how San Diego was such a nice, small town compared to gigantic LA. The impression I got of San Diego from David was one of the reasons we ended up moving to San Diego.
  3. He somehow found out about a career in insurance claims adjusting, switched into that, went to get trained in Atlanta, and then stayed with the same company for over twenty years.
  4. While in San Diego, he got married, and had a daughter. As much as he loved raising his family in San Diego, he was offered a great opportunity in Nevada, and he had the courage to move out there, and start over once again.
  5. In Nevada, he again took on new challenges, by purchasing a single family home, and providing a middle class existence for his family.
  6. Once again, David had the courage to take on new challenges, and he moved to another company, which required that he travel all over the country. He recently was on the road over 75% of the time, and working 80 hour weeks.

Point made: David always had the courage to go into uncharted territory, and he did it again and again, with great results.

Music: another key part of David’s life. He mastered the guitar, played many original songs, and used music as an important creative outlet, in addition to his writing. He saw the Grateful Dead a gazillion times, around the country, and seemed to love every minute. In many ways, he was a 60’s child, always willing to hang out with people, and explore the mysteries of life. He recently passed onto to my kids an old Doors chord book, which my kids are enjoying. In fact, just as David enjoyed the Doors and Hendrix, my kids still listen to that type of music all the time.

David sent me countless cassettes when he was in San Diego of music ranging from the Dead and the Doors to Jaco Pastorious jazz music and other esoteric types of music. I played these cassettes over and over until they quit working.

Sports: David was a true sports fan, starting, at a young age, when I took him to many UCLA football games, as my sport buddy, just as my father had taken me to college football games, years before that. In San Diego, courtesy of the San Diego legal profession, he went to many Padre games, including the year they went to the World Series, 1998.

David turned that background in football into a love of San Diego Chargers football, and he started going to the Charger games in the 90’s. He had some great seats close to the field. In fact, his daughter was born on the day of a Charger game in December 1998 during the Ryan Leaf era when they were destroyed by Seattle. David by then had stopped going to the games because, as he correctly pointed out, “the Chargers really sucked.”

David stories: Where do I start? I remember so many of them, which still make me laugh:

  1. Once David’s car had been wrecked, while he was going to UCSD, my car was getting old, and I had gotten one of Dad’s cars that was off lease. After getting our car, David called up and said: The car is OK, but I love what is in that envelope. It turns out that a big reefer had been left in an envelope (I have no idea by whom), and David gave it some very positive reviews.
  2. One day, when I was visiting from college, we got an envelope sent to the house. It was for a Terry Bradshaw $1 rebate, and I had filled it out very quickly in my crummy handwriting. It came to the house addressed to, not 2129 Via Estudillo, but “2129 Via Futville.” David laughed and laughed about that. He was right, my handwriting sucks.
  3. My son Josh still remembers how David and a friend visited us in Torrance, after seeing the movie, “Interview with a Vampire,” apparently in an altered state. David and his friend had said they were both so unimpressed with the movie that they ended up vomiting in their hats.

Dylan Thomas said:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


David was always tough, up to the end. He even sent out a blog on the way to the hospital, where he said he had refused an ambulance, and instead was driving to the hospital…with an oxygen tank attached to him. David never gave up, and he never gave in, no matter what. David always did what he thought was right, and that is what we all can learn from his life.

Thank you.


  1. Phil,

    I'm glad I was able to make it to David's memorial service. I hadn't seen Victoria and Sara since Sara was about 2 years old. I know I met you and Dan while I was living with David during our last year at UCSD. I hadn't seen Youndy since UCSD as well. It was comforting to be able to talk with so many people who were a part of David's life. He really was one of my closest friends and I miss him dearly.

    I always enjoyed his music from the mellow intstumentals tunes to the loud and offensive ones. He made me a tape once; one side was called Zook Snooze and one side was Zook Ha Ha. I used to play the snooze side when I would take naps in our apartment. I would laugh loudly at the other side and to all of his funny songs over the years. He, like Frank Zappa, was an equal opportunity offender. I think no race, religion, or sex was left unscathed by his songs.

    When we lived together, I remember David was always up very early and playing music. I can remember waking up from my dreams hearing this beautiful music. It would usually be part of my dream, and as I slowly woke up I realized that the music was coming from Zook playing his guitar.

    As I've been going through all the various recordings from him, it has been bringing back many memories. I'm grateful that I had him as a friend for so many years and only wish that it could have been for so many more years.


  2. John,

    Thanks for your comment. It was great seeing you and Youndy. David has written about his fantastic friends from college in many of his blogs. I would love to hear any stories you have about your college years with David.

    I may have been the one that got Zook started with Frank Zappa, because I had the record, We're Only in It for the Money, from 1967, which was a real Mothers of Invention classic. It was a satire of the Beatles record, Sergeant Pepper, with cutout pictures, a picture of celebrities on the cover, etc, and lots of amazing songs.

    Take care, and let's keep in touch.