[Charlie Smith]
[Charlie Smith]

Charlie's Friends:
Robin J. in Brooklyn, New York
Rachel K. in New York, New York
Joy M. in Chesapeake, Virginia
Nancy W. in Jackson, Mississippi
A Gallery of Photos

(Were you one of Charlie's friends? Please write to me)

His full name was Charles Moreton Smith. He was born on the fourth of July, 1964, in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third and last child of John Larry Smith and Linda Moreton Becker Smith.

He loved music and listening to it in the dark. Specifically, he loved Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Emmylou Harris. He loved imported beer, good seafood, golf, and traveling. He loved Starbucks coffee with real sugar and real cream. He loved candles and wood fires. He hated mushrooms, dressing up, and being cold.

He was at least as intelligent as anyone I ever knew or hope to know, and far more so than most. He was a writer and a poet. The things I saw him accomplish took my breath away.

He had so many friends it would be impossible to count them all. He made them everywhere he went, without even trying. If you are reading this page, the chances are that you are one of those friends.

He died in the fall of 2001, near Taos, New Mexico. He was alone, as he wished to be.

So he will always be 37 years old, forever young, never knowing old age or infirmity. He has been released from the pain and the sorrow of this world.

This page is dedicated to his memory, through the kindness of his friends Rachel and Robin. Those of us who loved him will want to contribute their memories. Please e-mail photos and/or memories to Rachel at rkxyz@yahoo.com. Let's make this a place where we can come to smile and to remember the good times. There were so many good times with Charlie.
— Nancy W.
Robin J. in Brooklyn, New York:

[Charlie with Snowy the dog on his cousin Caroline Peytons porch in 1996]
Charlie with Snowy the dog on his cousin Caroline Peyton's
porch in 1996
This is the way I first met Charlie:

I was living in a small town outside of Baltimore in May 1996. Charlie posted on rec.music.dylan that he had an extra ticket to two consecutive Dylan shows in Richmond, Virginia. The tickets were free, if the taker would just pay for half the cost of gas and tolls.

I was pretty broke back then, so it sounded like a great deal to me, and I responded to his post. We exchanged emails and work numbers. When he called me, I was taken aback by his voice. Charlie was from Mississippi, but it wasn't his Southern accent that surprised me, strong as it was, it was how slooooowly he spoke. I thought he might have been an older man, in his fifties or later.

Back then, he had a high pressure management job for an Information Technology company (he didn't like it, but it paid well), and I was also very busy at work, so we never seemed to be able to complete a conversation to make travel arrangements. Either he would get interrupted after a few minutes, or I would get interrupted, and this went on for days, until no time was left before the trip. It was now or never—we were leaving the next morning. (Note: He was sooooo slooooooow spoken that every conversation took forever. Disclaimer: I am from New York, so everyone outside of the Tri-State area seems to talk slow to me).

Finally, in desperation, I called him at his job and said "Charlie, I know you can't talk fast, but can you listen fast?" He assured me that he could, and I went into rapid-fire NYC mode, giving him my address, directions, home phone etc in seconds flat. He didn't lie. He could listen fast. Charlie was very smart and clever.

The next morning when he came to pick me up in his car, I was surprised to see that he was so young. And handsome, too! I told my boyfriend that this was the exact scary scenario that mothers warned their daughters about—meeting a stranger on the Internet and going off with them, sight unseen. But I wasn't worried at all. Charlie was a kind and wonderful person and I could tell this about him right away.

When we got to Richmond and the fancy (expensive—yikes!) hotel, Charlie politely asked if I wanted to share the hotel room, or would I be happier in my own room? At those prices, I definitely was going to share a room. Two beds, of course. I didn't know his last name then and, when he signed the register as "Charlie Smith", it looked so like a phony made-up motel-affair name that I was a bit embarrassed in front of the desk clerk. But I never was uncomfortable one minute with Charlie.

We had a fantastic time at the Dylan show. We enjoyed each other's company so much that we went away on four more "Dylan" weekends together. We became close friends. We had a lot in common, childhood-wise. But I will save that story for another time.

Charlie stayed in New York with my boyfriend and me for a week twice, about a year apart—he loved New York City. We spent a lot of time together, talking, always talking. We talked on the subway. We talked in taxi cabs. We talked in empty luncheonettes late at night. I didn't know then that I would never see him again. Sometimes, I see someone on the streets of New York and, just for a moment, I think it's Charlie.

He was my friend, I loved him, and I will miss him always. I wish we could have him back, just for a little while.

Rachel K. in New York, New York:

[Charlie loved coffee. Here he is in his townhouse
drinking his favorite Starbucks coffee from his
Starbucks mug]
Charlie loved coffee. Here he is in his townhouse
drinking his favorite Starbucks coffee from his
Starbucks mug
I met Charlie through Robin, and we went to a few Dylan concerts together: at William Patterson College in New Jersey, the Trocadero Theatere in Philadelphia, and the Theatre at Madison Square Garden. It's terribly sad for me to write that the last one we saw together was the Trocadero, for I assumed there would be many more. I remember how thrilled he was when the band struck up "Roving Gambler" at the Troc. He must have screamed himself hoarse that night. But he always had a good time at Dylan shows. Charlie was one of the friendliest persons I've ever met. He talked to everyone, and treated everyone with the perfect equality; a homeless man in Philadelphia or a VIP in the roped-off section were equal in his eyes. He was the sort of person who would make sure to find you a Dylan ticket, even if you'd just met. Charlie's friendly and generous nature is what I remember best of all.

Charlie stayed with me a few times while visiting New York City. I was living on Waverly Place the first time he arrived for a visit. Waverly Place is adjacent to Washington Square Park; it's right in the heart of Dylan's old stomping grounds in the West Village. It was early winter and quite cold and windy; Charlie was wearing just a flimsy nylon jacket. Our first stop was to one of the many leather stores in the West Village; Charlie had wanted to buy a leather coat anyway, and the wind whipping down Sixth Avenue was an extra motivation. Charlie found a black leather jacket to his liking, and he kept asking me how he looked in it, and whether I liked it. It looked great on him, and I told him so, but I couldn't think of any way to tell him that he would have looked great in any coat in the whole store—Charlie was handsome!

Once Charlie was zipped into his new coat, he wanted to check out Bleecker Street. Ho-hum Bleecker, I thought. Don't get me wrong, I love Bleecker Street; sometimes I walk down it just for the hell of it. But it's a street I've walked down thousands of times before, and I didn't expect to find anything new and exciting. But I was wrong.

We had only walked a few feet before Charlie stopped. "Look at that!" he said, in total surprise and amazement. We were stopped in front of one of the many gift shops on Bleecker. They aren't really souvenir shops, although they do sell postcards and so forth, but most of them sell things like silver cigarette cases, imported clothing from Tibet and Nepal, framed prints, and leather; I guess you'd call them high-end gift shops. Charlie was really taken with this red sort of Art-Deco clock in the shape of a guitar. I'm sure I had walked past it before, but I had walked past it without seeing it. Charlie immediately started talking with the shop owner about the possibility of having it shipped back to Jackson—he didn't want to take in on the plane. He ended up taking the shop's business card to call from Jackson about having it shipped. I don't think he ever bought it, but he sure loved it!

Charlie spent a long time looking at silver lighters decorated with '50s style art: cheesecake pinup girls, aviator art, and so forth. He wanted to bring back some small presents for friends back home, and he was excited about all the different possibilities on Bleecker Street. It was so much fun to be part of his enthusiasm. I had expected to do a lot of standing around waiting, but instead found myself looking at all the items with the same kind of excitement. At every shop, he talked to the shop owners about the merchandise, and they were quite surprised—New Yorkers don't linger in shops, nor talk to shop owners unless we absolutely have to. But at each shop we entered, the first words out of Charlie's mouth were "Hi, how're you?" and it was this, more than his Mississippi accent, that set him apart from the natives. I love accents, maybe because I don't have one, and Charlie had one of the slowest Southern drawls I've ever heard. I'll always remember his voice; I can still hear it now.

Charlie found a few postcards for his friends at home, but I don't think he bought anything else on Bleecker Street that day. We went to the Waverly Diner for lunch; they know me so well there that they immediately seated us at my favorite table in the back. Charlie asked the waiter for recommendations—he did this everywhere we dined—and the waiter recommended the catch of the day. If you ever dined with Charlie, you probably know he ordered seafood whenever possible, and he wasn't dissappointed with the lemon sole at the unassuming diner on Sixth Avenue. I was concerned because New York is not quite the seafood town it was in the 19th century. Despite the world-famous Fulton Fish Market, seafood served in restaurants is often frozen. But the sole was fresh and Charlie thought it was delicious. He went back to the Waverly Diner many times during his solo excursions around New York City.

After lunch, we walked on MacDougal Street, and Charlie stopped to look in the window of a chess shop. When it told him it was also a club where you could play by the hour, he insisted on treating us to a game. I tried to back out of it, because I'm not a very accomplished chess player—actually, the best you could say about my skill at chess is that I know how to play the game—and I knew Charlie was a rated player. But I didn't want to deprive him of this opportunity, so in we went. Much to my surprise, I managed to put him in check. He seemed a bit flustered and actually swore when he looked down at my move; I almost fell out of my chair with surprise myself. I've often wondered if he was acting a bit, giving me a momentary advantage because I was so hesistant to play with him because of my lack of skill, but I guess I'll never know. Of course he quickly manuevered out of check and had me mated in just a few more moves. The guys in the shop (I was the only woman in the place) told him about the chess club in the East 80s where the serious players hang out, and Charlie went there on another day and was beaten by a high-school kid. Chess is taught in many New York City high schools, and I guess the teachers are doing a pretty good job. We also played pool on a few nights of his stay, at a pub called The Reservoir where many NYU students hang out. Fortunately, I am an accomplished pool player, and Charlie is also an excellent shot. No-one beat us that night; we played for hours and defeated all challengers, finally relinquishing the table just to be good sports and give some other people a chance to play.

The great thing about Charlie was that he needed only the slightest introduction to New York City to be entirely self-sufficient. I think he would have made an excellent explorer or navigator; he only needed quick verbal directions to find his way around, and the New York City subway system can be daunting. We didn't spend every day together during his visits; I am a late sleeper and Charlie liked to venture out at about eleven to explore the city on his own. He was the best sort of house-guest; utterly self-reliant, and I believe he preferred to find his own way around at least part of the time; so I gave him plenty of space and we'd reconvene at night for dinner or to go to a local bar. We went back to The Reservoir a few times; he also liked a bar that no longer exists called The St. Mark's Bar; it was on the corner of St. Mark's Place and Second Avenue in the East Village. I knew he'd love the place because they had live music and it was usually swing or jazz, the kind of music that is actually more typical of Charlie's hometown than mine. And the band that night covered Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat in a fine swing style, and it couldn't have been more perfect place for a Dylan fan from Mississippi to have a few beers.

Charlie's gone, but most of the New York spots he liked the best are still here. I feel a terrible sadness whenever I walk by the Brooklyn diner where he tasted his first egg cream. He loved that place; he and Robin had many late-night meals there and she told me he always ordered a vanilla egg cream. He was such an adventurous soul; he loved to try new things. But there are many places I walk past and remember the good times I had with Charlie, the places where we ate and drank, played pool and chess, or just looked in shop windows at all the wonderful things. He said that he'd like to live here one day, and I'm sorry that he never gotten the chance. But I'm even more sorry that he's gone—I miss him terribly, but he lives on in my heart, where all good friends reside.

Joy M. in Chesapeake, Virginia:

[Charlie working on the METSS project. The candy-cane is
from his friend Nancy Wright.]
Charlie working on the METSS project. The candy-cane is
from his friend Nancy Wright.
I still have a Dylan postcard that Charlie gave me in 1997. He stayed at my house one night after a Dylan concert, and when he gave me that postcard, I immediately put it on my refrigerator. To this day, it hasn't been moved. It's still there, and it will probably always stay there. So, Charlie is in my thoughts quite a bit.

I can't say that I knew Charlie all that well, but I'd see him at Dylan concerts that I attended, and he was always having a good time. He traveled quite a bit. We emailed from time to time and traded Dylan bootleg tapes.

I'll never forget the time when Charlie stayed at my house. He arrived at 2 am, and when I got up, I had to go and get some other folks at the train station who were in town for the concert. I left Charlie alone, thinking he would still be sleeping when I returned since he had driven non-stop from Mississippi to Virginia!!

Of course, when I returned, he was up and showered and complaining how he couldn't get out of the house!!!! I have double locks on my doors that require a key to open. Charlie was locked in!

There were other great stories too....like him getting lost in the venue parking lot...of course, it wasn't funny at the time! We finally found Charlie after 9/10ths of the cars had left and Charlie was roaming around no where near the place where we had parked!

The past is history, but it's nice to see that in the present, Charlie is being remembered.

Nancy W. in Jackson, Mississippi:

[Charlie and Pichenotte boards]
Charlie and Pichenotte boards
I introduced Charlie to Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris, and I did my best to introduce him to Richard Thompson. In February of 1999 my sister was involved in a freak automobile accident which left her in a coma. She was hospitalized for six weeks, during which I did not work and I stayed with her as much as I could. Charlie's house was not far from the hospital, and I would often go by at night when I left there. Needless to say, it was a horrific experience. While she was in the hospital, Richard Thompson came to our town for a performance at the stage theater located very near Charlie's home. Of course we planned to go. While we were speculating about what he might play, Charlie asked me which song I would choose to hear if I could. My answer was the one about the motorcycle, Vincent Black Lightning 1952. Paul Thorn opened the show, and we were blown away by his performance. Then we sat mesmerized through a fantastic performance by Richard Thompson. After several songs, he introduced the next one by saying, "This is for Nancy...you know who you are." I believe my heart literally stopped, and then I recognized Vincent Black Lightning 1952. Charlie bounced in his seat with glee, elbowing me and saying, "That's you!" He had written a letter, explaining what was going on with me and where I would be in the audience, and how I would love to hear that song. He walked to the theater that afternoon and left it with a technician who promised to show it to Richard. He didn't know if it would be played, and there remains a serious question as to which of us was more thrilled. Later he gave me a copy of the letter.

Oh, Charlie, I know that I will never see your like again in this world. I'm so glad that our paths crossed, and for such a long time. I have to believe that they will cross again. Until then, I will miss you all the days of my life.