mario rosa digital artist

Never Say Goodbye, Say Ciao

My other half shuffled off this mortal coil on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 6:52 p.m.

It’s so weird writing/typing that out. But writing is what I do to get things out of my head… to process.

I’m still in that surreal stage where I feel like I will wake up one morning and this will all have been some bad nightmare. It doesn’t take long for reality to sink in again.

I keep replaying the last couple months. So many “lasts”. I want to catalog and remember them forever.

We met at UCLA School of Art. The year was 1994. We hit it off right off the bat. That was 27 years ago. The majority of our lives … certainly the majority of his. We were married for the majority of that time.

He always told me that he wasn’t in a “rush to the finish line”. Yet from a very early age, he’d always proclaimed that he’d never make it to 50.

The last meal I made for him was Annie’s organic cheese and spirals with steamed broccoli on Superbowl Sunday.

He had to know he was dying. Deep down I knew it. But he wanted everything to be as normal as possible as long as possible. There is a point where the human will to live is broken and it becomes simply existing. The last couple months were like that. How many times did he lie awake at night wondering what day he would die? How I’d take it? He wouldn’t talk about any of it.

We talked about those mundane, everyday life things or sometimes we’d have deep conversations about life, the universe, or fond memories, but he did not want to talk about the end.

The last voice mail message he left on my phone was on 2/7/21 at 10:20 a.m. and it sounds like he’s in a very far off place with bad reception, yet I know he was laying on our couch in our living room calling me to pick up another item while I was out grocery shopping.

He was dying and nothing and no one could stop it and yet he faced it like it was just another day. No freak outs. No desperate measures. No emotional outbursts. That’s metal af.

It was a weekend in May in 2009 when we went out to central Oregon to go camping. We visited the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. We had a great time. We checked out this lava tube cave. There was no one but us there. No guides. We had just moved from Southern CA 2 years prior and still marveled at how “on your own” you were in much of Oregon. The entire state seemed to be a lawsuit waiting to happen. We didn’t get far until we freaked out and turned back. We joked that the rangers took bets on how long we’d last.

In the lava tube cave.

When we got back to our camp spot, I didn’t know that in just about 12 years, I’d use the picture I took of Mario, giggling with his plastic wine glass, for his obituary.

Even though we didn’t get to travel the world like we’d always wanted, we had so many small adventures over the years.

Our last camping trip was August 1–2, 2020. I distinctly remember thinking this was the last time we’d go camping, but I didn’t want to believe it. I just wanted to be “in the moment” and forget everything else.

We went to so many parties, clubs, and raves back in the day in Los Angeles. We were both DJs with a collective speciality of dark drum ’n’ bass, but Mario also spun some wild, hard techno too. I remember once I got booked to play in Detroit and had a massive panic attack about doing it and he went in my place.

I dealt with panic attacks for awhile after that. I still remember a day at my old apartment in L.A. … it was during a time when I barely left the house because when I did, I’d panic. Mario said he was coming over, so I was sitting on the concrete steps in front of the apartment waiting for him. Soon enough, he came strolling down the sidewalk. He silently sat down next to me and we just sat there in the sun for a few minutes. Then I’ll never forget what he said when he did decide to speak. “You know … there are stars going supernova out there.” That was a turning point for me and something I’ll remember forever. He always had a knack for knowing the right thing to say.

I encouraged him to create his own electronic music by helping him build a PC that was capable of running the music software. I can’t remember the exact year now but it was the late 90s. He was so talented with that and with the visual art. He was the tortured artist and I was the creative go-getter with the magic to make things happen.

The last thing he said to me was, “Okay” after I stood at the side of his hospital bed the day before he died and told him that his mom was coming to pick him up … that they were going on a trip together and I would meet up with him later … that he couldn’t stay in this place. He thought he was still laying on the couch at home. I had asked him if he knew who I was and to say my name and he did, but the very last thing that he said was that “okay”.

This is such new territory for me. I’ve never been through anything like this. So many surprises. So many feelings that seemingly happen suddenly and come from out of nowhere … neurons firing off good memories and bad … a weird, low grade headache and stabbing “ice pick” headaches that went on for the better part of 2 weeks … underlying stress bubbling up … the need to “stay busy” with non-work projects just to keep my mind from straying too far into the past or too far ahead to a future where I always saw us growing old together.

Seriously though … how did he do it? How did he so easily just lay on the couch and accept his fate?

Going through a cache of digital photos, I come across the ones from May 3rd, 2020. The last birthday. We weren’t treating it like, “the last birthday”, but he was already quite ill. My mom made sure to have a number 4 and 7 on the cake. It should have been a bigger party, but pandemic and all.

I just want to remember everything … like the times we used to stay up all night playing Super Mario Brothers … or the time where he cried tears of joy at finally seeing Kraftwerk live … or the time my Honda hatchback broke down on the way to Vegas and we spent 4 hours in 120 degree heat waiting for AAA … or the time we braved getting Tui Na massages at a hole in the wall place in NYC … or getting stuck on the ferris wheel at the county fair while Styx was playing in the background … or how freaked out he was when I drove us out to the middle of nowhere to look for obsidian shards … or the look on his face after our cat died in his presence … or how he hugged me when I bought him tabla drums for his last birthday … or any number of other memories, good or bad, that have happened in the last 27 years.

We always kind of hated Valentines day. Occasionally we’d make each other cards or use it as an excuse to go eat somewhere nice. Our love didn’t need a trashy Hallmark holiday.

He would have found the humor in me writing his obituary on 2/14/21. I’m a firm believer that obituaries should not be boring and be worthy of going viral. A 2-page Word doc really doesn’t do him justice, but it’s what I could come up with …

Mario Machado Rosa
Born on 5/3/73
Exited on 2/10/21

Mario was a case study in free will. A Taurus born in the year of the Ox he was as stubborn as a mule and much like Frank Sinatra, did everything his way. He was a flawless tortured artist and gifted with many abilities, including the one where he predicted from an early age that he would never make it to 50.

He excelled in both the visual arts and music. He was classically trained on the piano, not because of great desire but because his mother, Joy Rosa, recognized an inborn talent and just happened to also be a classically trained pianist and taught lessons on the side. She preceded him into the great beyond in 2007, which was something he never quite recovered from but her exit hastened his move north to Oregon to “escape from California”.

From an early age, he was drawn to the visual arts. As fate would have it, he ended up at UCLA School of Art where one particular day his interest was piqued when a fellow student, Sherry Holub, stood up in a Level 2 photo class and ripped the instructor a new one for a rather poorly thought out course outline and assigning homework more suitable for grade school children before storming out and dropping the course. Later that day, the two met in the elevator and after a short getting-to-know-you period, were rather inseparable. He often used the quote by the character, Otho, from their mutually beloved film, “Beetlejuice” to describe part of their connection… “You read my mind… so few are able to read my mind… they’re just not open to the experience.” They’d spend the rest of his life together on small adventures, riffing off each other’s weirdness, enjoying a relationship few people understood and even fewer are gifted with in life, and of course, dropping obscure movie, tv, and music quotes.

His father, Tony Rosa, who loves to torture himself with manual labor and difficult jobs such as policeman in Watts California, and UN Peacekeeper in 3rd world countries, once had a boat cleaning business in which he and Mario would routinely jump into the sludge-filled Los Angeles harbor for long hours and scrape boats. This would be the only manual labor Mario would do for the rest of his life, deciding after a short while that he was just not cut out for it, and honestly, who could blame him there.

In around 1998, he also joined his other half at the company Sherry started after graduating college, JV Media Design, after a torturous stint of working long hours in crappy conditions doing the same thing over and over at 2 different video duplication houses. His specialty in those early days was Macromedia’s Flash animation. He had worked on a variety of projects including an interactive, horror-themed website for Paramount Parks for their Halloween events. When Flash fell out of fashion for the web, he focused more on illustration and 3D.

Besides all of the visual art he created in his lifetime, he also created a Tarot deck called the Mutation Tarot, which was spawned by creatures he saw in his dreams. His own words describing the deck were, “I knew I could make these creatures look like anything and still have them retain their intended meaning. This is the true magic of tarot. Even if we, as a people, mutate into something alien, we will no doubt be ruled by that which the tarot informs: love, life, loss, greed, desire, love, hate, evil, gratitude, judgment, etc. These concepts would still define us, even if we were all psychedelic colored, squid crab monsters.” The deck was produced after a successful Kickstarter campaign and will be reprinted as requests still come in for it.

If Mario knew you, he had a nickname for you, which often stemmed from some pop culture reference the recipient of said nickname didn’t get, but that didn’t stop him. He was a great listener who always had time, even with minor acquaintances, to let them unload their problems onto him. Many would cite that he, “always knew the right thing to say”. In his later years, he talked about anything and everything, often drifting from one topic to the next like a drunken partygoer. Speaking of parties, he attended many. His DJ and electronic music name was, Dr. Mario, because he never could get away from the Nintendo reference and he was what we all called back in the day, a “beat scientist”. In the later 1990s at the height of the website mp3.com’s popularity, he had the #1 song on the platform, “Beg 4 Life” with millions of views and downloads. To this day people all over the world still talk about that song and love all of his wacky musical creations. He also loved many other genres of music and leaves behind a pretty epic collection. He especially loved Prince and was pretty busted up when that guy checked off this rock.

He hated Christmas until experiencing the low-key, no-family drama version Sherry and his in-laws provided. He also enjoyed buying wacky ornaments for the tree, including a glass cobra which he always wanted displayed prominently and made sure, off-hand, to mention to his one grandmother while she was still alive just so he could hear her say in a rather mortified tone, “Oh honey, snakes don’t belong on a Christmas tree!” His other grandmother probably would have gotten the joke of it all.

He also loved Legos and Star Wars and spent a fair chunk of change buying the biggest sets the company put out from that franchise. He also built a decent amount of anime-inspired robots, all of which are on display throughout his home. If it were time-consuming, tedious, or difficult, such as complicated math, putting together Legos, designing 3D models, or fighting the final boss on some of his favorite video games, Mario loved it… unless he was being paid for it.

He had a shoe collection that we all joked would make Imelda Marcos proud, loved sashimi, raw oysters, spicy food, watching tv, blowing deadlines, cooking, science fiction, avoiding yard work, walking outside in the middle of the night listening to music, his mother-in-law’s Pizzelles, lamenting the troubles of the world, cult movies, and too damn many other things to write out.

A self-described wino, he appreciated reds from the Bordeaux region but usually settled for something along the lines of 2 buck Chuck as he was always mindful to not go into debt to suit his tastes. His mother-in-law, Shirley Holub, a force of nature and a fellow bull on the Zodiac, had a hell of a time not clobbering him over the head when he was sassy but appreciated his intelligence, artistic abilities, and the fact he loved her only kid very much. When he would show up already sauced to a weekly card game, she would exclaim, “Mario’s been eating feathers again”, to which he would deny. His father-in-law, John Holub, much like just about everyone who knew him, loved talking to him. Mario could chatter on for hours once he got going. He talked so much that he ran out of things to say at the end.

He quit drinking on September 15, 2020 and remained sober with the hope his health could turn around. After a couple good months, the reality was, it was not turning around, yet he remained sober anyway. Wanting no invasive treatments, his approach to death was to simply ignore it, carry on and put on a face that everything was normal when even the casual observer could see that it was not. He said he was “fine” up until he could no longer carry on a conversation. He did this as much for everyone else as himself. In his final months he also commented that others who are traveling down the path with alcohol should be wary or they’d end up like him. In his final days, he got one of the most expensive transports and room and board there is and coasted out on “the good drugs” while his other half held his hand and blasted their favorite music. He was a one-of-a-kind who was loved and will be missed.

He is survived by his other half, their two cats (Hathor and Juno), his father, his mother-in-law, his father-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, and too many friends to create a proper list, all of whom are grieving this loss of a life that was way too short for our collective liking. A two-page obituary really doesn’t do him justice.

“There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” -Raoul Duke, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

In lieu of flowers the family asks that you make a donation to Saving Grace Pet Adoption Center in Roseburg, OR (https://www.savinggracepetadoptioncenter.org/new-donation-page) because Mario loved animals and rescued their two cats from there in 2017.

The memories I’ll always have. I’ll never forget.

I’ll close this out with a song from the appropriately named This Mortal Coil album, “It’ll End in Tears” that neither myself, or Mario could ever make it through without crying our eyes out.

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Creative Director and founder of JV Media Design (JVM). Helps small businesses look great. All opinions are my own.

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Sherry Holub

Sherry Holub

Creative Director and founder of JV Media Design (JVM). Helps small businesses look great. All opinions are my own.

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