R.I.P Richard Pero

Richard Pero, an eccentric genius who was once my very good friend, passed away in January of 2021.

Dick was my guide through the emerging underground subculture of the 1960s. Like most of you, I was a typical middle class suburban kid whose life was writ small within the boundaries of baseball cards, my parents' world, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and our mainstream textbooks. Richard Pero was not like me or any of the rest of us. He spent his free time in the downtown library and the Clinton Book Shop. When he wasn't poring through the chemical abstracts, he was reading the latest underground newspaper, or the works of Alain Robbe-Grillet or Lawrence Ferlinghetti or some other intellectual I had never heard of. The rest of us at Bishop Kearney lived in the sixties to the extent that the calendar demanded it, but Richard lived in the sixties of black light posters, the sixties as we now picture the era in modern culture, with hippies and drugs and angry rebellion and Grove Press - the whole vibrant anti-conformist movement as it existed before the entire youth culture got transmogrified into a Pepsi commercial. Many of us became immersed in that world when we got to college or the service, but Richard was already there in high school.

Richard also introduced me to the brilliant singing satirist, Tom Lehrer, who provided some of the greatest laughs that have ever emerged from me! To this day, I can still sing every line of "The Vatican Rag," "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park," and "Who's Next?" - all songs that Dick and I once sang together after he lent me a Lehrer album.

Richard was intellectually omnivorous, and his curiosity was boundless, so he also embraced the dark side of the underculture, which sometimes frightened my cowardly ass. He loved the fantasy stories of Robert E. Howard, the eldritch horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft, any kind of science fiction, and his beloved Marvel Comics, but you could also find him reading the complete works of the Marquis de Sade or Alistair Crowley, and if you engaged him in discussions of the comic books, you'd find that he really only loved the tortured, flamboyant villains.

I'm sad to report that Dick and I lost touch soon after high school, for reasons that were never very clear to me. Perhaps he was tired of mentoring and teaching me with nothing in return. Pity, that. Despite the fact that I never really knew him as an adult, he had a powerful impact on my life. He brought me into his world, at least as far inside it as my reluctant psyche would permit me to wander. For better or worse, he was the one single person most responsible for turning the wide-eyed adolescent me into the adult me.

Let's hope that whatever God there may be will forgive him for that.

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