A good internet friend had his birthday this week. I was reminded via facebook. I sent him my birthday wishes, and asked him if he had any plans to celebrate.
I was a bit surprised when I received a message from his wife saying that he had passed away over a month ago. More than surprised. It hit me like a tonne of bricks.
I had first met Neal Puddephatt during the early days of the facebook group I started over 5 years ago, Anime Figurines Network. Back then, “the originals” included Lightningsabre, Shinohai, Coros, Valiant Ho, and a few others.
I had originally started AFN as an alternative “outlet” to the freshly started figure.fm, since figure.fm lacked a lot of functionality and features that a facebook group had. The membership grew at a slow and steady pace, which was perfect, since it was a very personal clique of people.
Then came Neal. He was an otaku, just like the rest of us, but he had experiences that none of us had. He thought outside of the box. This was even before the days of kodomut.
One of the photos that I will always remember was this one. This was the first time I had see such brilliant thought and creativity put into a photo. Nothing like this had ever been seen on AFN, or figure.fm
Neal and I eventually became friends on facebook, though we never really had a lot of opportunities to chat about our personal lives outside of our otaku circles.
But every so often, he’d post a new photo on AFN.
And every time he did, it was something different…
It was experimental, to say the least. But from each photo, powerful messages came across. I’m not certain whether or not it was what he was experiencing in his life, or if it was just a creative spark.
Nevertheless, I could tell that Neal had something going on. He had a breadth of creativity and variety, both in the types of figures he owned, and in the way he set up his photographs.
Sure, there are far more brilliant and well lit photos of anime figures out there. There will always be. But each of them are unique, like Neal’s photos.
All the photos shown in this post are his. I’ve taken them without his permission, and posted them here, as a remembrance to him.
Now that he’s gone, I wish I had spent more time with him. Earlier in the year, I had updated my website (my professional one), and announced it on my facebook. He had commented that “being a freelance artist is tough! I had freelanced for 15 years!”. I wanted to ask him about his life as a freelancer. I wanted to know more about his life then, the struggles he went through, and how he sustained it.
“I don’t really have time right now… I’ll ask him later.” that later never came, and it never will anymore.
I went through some of Neal’s photos on his facebook, and at least tried to learn more about the man who was.
I wish I could show you those photos, but I don’t think it would be good of me to do so without permission. But I can say, that this man looked like he really knew how to live life.
He seemed like a person that knew what mattered the most, and that was family, friends, and having a good time. (he liked to party, and seemed really connected to all of his family members and friends).
And then there’s his passion for anime figures. From his way of life, to this niche little interest, it seemed like polar opposites.
Breadth, I suppose. It shows in the variety of figures he owned, and the huge range of styles he attempted.
He was definitely a huge fan of Range Murata figures.
And Shunya figures.
I don’t know where he got this Range figure, but it’s very nice.
I’m sure my wife wouldn’t like me having it in the house, but the fact that he owns it shows how accepting his family is of his hobbies and interests.
That or he just tells them “this is the way I am, like it or too bad.” I can kinda see him saying that too.
DO like it.
All this makes me think about life and death as well. When I die, what will become of me? What will become of me. My possessions, my legacy, my family, everything that identifies me and makes me “me”.
Will I be remembered? Does that even matter? Does any of it matter?
Perhaps at that point, not anymore. But what does matter is what you do NOW.
If today was the last day of your life, is this how you would like to spend it? If not, then what would you do differently. Where would you want to be? What’s stopping you from getting there? How can you overcome those obstacles so that you can get there?
Ask yourself those questions. Answer them. And then go do it. NOW.
Time won’t stand still for you and wait for you. I think Neal figured that one out.
So long, space cowboy. It’s been real swell knowing you.