Note: the following is a eulogy my Dad delivered for his best friend from college, the best man from his wedding. He passed away suddenly last weekend, and these words of my dad’s capture well the spirit of this man who figured so prominently in so many of the best stories my dad tells. John Flood was a rare human being, and we will miss him.
“What do you call a guy who, while he was born in Baton Rouge, grew up all over the midwest, so that by the time he came back to the South for college he couldn’t even recognize the smell of a Magnolia even if you held it under his nose, and he thought the water was slippery? Well, I don’t know either, but I was that fellow when I got to LSU in 1973. I didn’t know anyone, and here I was on this big campus where everyone talked funny. And some of the funniest sounding (to my ears) were the three guys in my own room. After replying “What?” about four or five times in a row to Zandy, a cajun from St. James Parish, this little guy with a disarming smile said, “Whatsa matter? You don’t speak Coon-ass?” That was my introduction to John Flood.
I soon grew to like, and later love, this guy from Zachary, LA, though I soon found out he was really from Mississippi. To understand who John was, you had to know his parents. His mother—well, I fell in love with Polly almost the first time I met her. Not like we used to fall in love with Farrah Fawcett or Stevie Nicks; but here was a Southern woman, sweet and full of fire, who made me feel as if I was doing her a favor by visiting. And his Dad. I’ve never met a more even-tempered father than Junior. I’m sure he got upset from time to time, probably mostly at Johnny, but I never saw him blow his stack, and I always respected him for that. I think that as a result, John grew up with sense of spontaneity and love of life, leavened by that even-keeled Dad.
Well, I had found a compadre. One thing that impressed me from the beginning: in the Deep South, in 1973, he seemed to absolutely not care what color a person’s skin was. What mattered to him was beneath the skin. That was exactly what this transplanted Yankee kid needed in a roommate.
When you were with John, you always had this sense that some adventure might be afoot, and as often as not, you were right. We had some adventures that we got in trouble for, and many that we didn’t.
Certain things just made sense to us which may not have sense to other, more normal folks. LIke when I showed up for sophomore year with two HUGE speaker cabinets in the back seat of my car. We huffed and puffed and sweated (August in Baton Rouge) to get them up to the tenth floor of Kirby Smith, got the stereo wired up, and then he asks me where’s all my other stuff? Well, we gotta go to the bus station to get it. There wasn’t room in my car. Ok, he says, like it’s perfectly normal.
Did we study? Sometimes, but never to excess. But we did discuss a lot of things until late, late at night, and I think that provided at least half of our college education. And it forged a friendship that endured, over the years, even the times when we didn’t talk very often. We could always seem to pick it up as if we had been talking to each other every week.
John liked to argue. Anyone else ever notice this? Not because he was mad at you or anything. He just liked it. Sometimes I think he chose the side contrary to his real belief, just so the argument would be “better”. And, he had some colorful expressions that he would occasionally throw in there.
Well, the kids in our house will tell you that they grew up with plenty of Johnny Flood stories, whether they were about track, or shooting fireworks out of a dorm (did I say that?) or just about Polly’s good food, because I learned a few things from John or from watching John:
1. Rarely, you might have to go our in a field and cut donuts in the mud, forgetting that your back windows are open, so that mud gets all over your back seat. Don’t know why, but you’ll feel better after you do it.
2. Sometimes, you have to crank up the music to 10, just to make noise.
3. Listen to your parents, because odds are good that they’ve already experienced what you’re going through.
4. Don’t be shy about telling your friends that you love them. They’ll help pull you out of your lowest times.
Johnny, I love you. And I’ll see you again, soon enough.”