I can’t write a regular obituary in this case, because I was just too close to Geoff Douville, 48-year-old guitarist for Egg Yolk Jubilee, who died last Saturday. An irreplaceable friend, Geoff represented most everything I love about New Orleans.
Early last Wednesday, I’d texted his bandmates, asking the status on Geoff’s battle with a rare form of cancer. He’d fought for his life for over a year, and seemed to be winning for a while, but after the cancer got the upper hand, he took a road trip to a special hospital in Houston, Texas. “I bet that was the worst part, being in Houston,” I didn’t get the chance to joke to him, because this week Geoff returned home to New Orleans, to pass away in his sweet little house in Gentilly.
I was surprised to receive texts back from Egg Yolk, inviting me to come with them to visit Geoff Wednesday night. Geoff and I were as close as busy adults could be, but in my previous experience with friends dying of cancer, at a certain point the ranks are closed, and visitation limited to only relatives. And bandmates. I was honored to be included, but still spent the whole day steeped in dread; I didn’t want to see Geoff that way. The terrible image of a gaunt and suffering friend can become the primary one you remember when they are gone. Geoff was so bright and alive, I did not want him eclipsed, in my mind, by his suffering.
I first met Geoff when I lived across the street from CC’s coffee shop on Esplanade in 2001. We just sort of gravitated to each other, both of us artists, both guitarists, both of us cynical but with a great love of people and life. Back before we really knew each other, I remember telling Geoff—an accomplished videographer—about a music video I’d filmed but couldn’t finish. Everyone talks shit about New Orleans transplants nowadays (as if that’s not what the city’s always partially been made of) but Geoff, who was born here and graduated from Archbishop Rummel High School, immediately invited me to his house, and for some reason spent over six hours editing my whole video project, without asking for anything in return. I think I bought him some beer.
As I got to know Geoff, I found out that he almost never let any friend want for anything if he could help it: When a mutual buddy lost his front teeth in an accident, Geoff immediately offered a benefit concert. When another friend’s band lost their guitarist, Geoff immediately stepped in, despite there being no money in the gig. His example taught me that I needed to be that way too, if I was to ever call myself a New Orleanian.
I went on to write a lot about New Orleans, often in a very opinionated manner that earned me a lot of shut-up-you’re-not-from-here type criticism, but what the haters didn’t know was that I ran almost everything by Geoff. He was whip smart, facts-based, and “from here” like a motherfucker, and so I’d offer to buy him drinks in exchange for advice (silly, since we’d meet at Lost Love Lounge, which he owned from 2009 to 2016). Geoff would gladly suggest how I should think about the important local issues that I wanted to write about–whether that was post-Katrina gentrification, or racist radio duo Walton and Johnson–and tell me who I needed to interview. And if my finished product passed Douville’s smell test, then no one else could shake my confidence. CLICK HERE to read the rest of this obituary at OFFBEAT MAGAZINE…