I had a brief and strange encounter with River Phoenix a few months before he died, in 1993. It was outside Jannus Landing, a fantastic open-air theater in downtown St. Pete (FL), during a George Clinton/P-Funk concert. I left the concert during an intermission and took a walk around the block by myself. As I was nearing Jannus Landing again someone rounded the corner, headed in my direction. We were the only two people on the block (both heavily intoxicated) and we stood there for a few awkward seconds staring at each other. His girlfriend (a model my friend J. had dated a few months earlier) came up shouting "There you are!" and they both walked off, while I continued after them back to the concert.
Other than the fact that he could barely stand up, much less walk straight, I thought nothing of the encounter, since Phoenix's band used to play all the time in St. Pete and Tampa, and I knew many people who used to attend his parties at his family's ranch in Gainseville. This must have been early summer of 1993, before I went out to Colorado to take classes at Naropa. He died in October. When I heard about his death on TV, I recalled how wasted he had been outside Jannus Landing. He's one of two or three actors my age whose work I admire and his death was such a tragedy, even if it was due to stereotypical Hollywood reasons. His roles in The Mosquito Coast, Dogfight, My Own Private Idaho and several other films left an indelible impression on me. I'm not sure why I write this down.