Archive for the ‘Absent friends’ Category

R.I.P., Jim Lehrer

January 23, 2020

It’s -30- for Jim Lehrer, co-founder of “The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour” on PBS.

Lehrer started out as a print guy, and maybe that’s why I liked him. He worked for papers in Dallas, where he covered the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and then shifted to TV, where he and Robert MacNeil were all over the Watergate hearings. He went on to moderate a dozen presidential debates.

MacNeil praised Lehrer for his “very direct manner of interviewing” and his “extraordinary ability to listen.”

“You know the hardest thing to do on TV is listen,” he added.

Sometimes the hardest thing is to watch, especially given the motley crew of talking heads that fills screens these days. Unlike the bulk of them, Jim Lehrer will be missed. You can read his obit in The New York Times here.

R.I.P., Terry Jones

January 22, 2020

One of our family jokes is, “’Ee’s not the Messiah, ’ee’s a very naughty boy!”

That was only one of the innumerable killer lines delivered over the years by Terry Jones, who died at home Tuesday. He was 77, and had suffered from primary progressive aphasia, a cruel disease that stripped him of his marvelous powers of communication.

As a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Jones generally wrote with Michael Palin, co-directed “Holy Grail” and “Meaning of Life” with Terry Gilliam, and flew solo as director for “Life of Brian,” which gave us that family gag we use so often.

Condolences, peace, and egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam, or Lobster Thermidor au Crevette with a Mornay sauce served in a Provençale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and with a fried egg on top, and spam, to Jones, his family, the surviving Pythons (“Two down*, four to go,” notes John Cleese), and their friends and fans.

* Cleese forgot to count the Seventh Python, Neil Innes. No spam for him.

R.I.P., Neil Innes

December 30, 2019

The Urban Spaceman has blasted off. He was 75.

Neil Innes worked with The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Rutles, a.k.a. “The Prefab Four,” and of course, Monty Python.

His abrupt departure via heart attack is both surprising and unwelcome. God keeps repo’ing the comics and leaving us with the jokes.

The NYT has an obit here. Here’s Neil performing three of his greatest hits in an NPR Tiny Desk Concert back in 2011. And here’s an extensive BBC obit that includes a few video clips.

“I’ve suffered for my music, and now it’s your turn.” How sweet, this idiot.

R.I.P., William Greider

December 29, 2019

William Greider went west on Christmas. He was 83.

His résumé was impressive, and eclectic. The Washington Post. Rolling Stone. The Nation. He found out where the bodies were buried, and he dug them up.

He worked with Hunter S. Thompson, and spoke kindly of him when the gonzo chieftain passed. And The Nation‘s John Nichols did likewise for Greider, noting:

I knew Bill as a quick-witted comrade in the press corps of too many campaigns to count, a generous mentor, an ideological compatriot, and an occasional co-conspirator. He taught me to see politics not as the game that TV pundits discuss but as a high-stakes struggle for power in which the Democrats foolishly, and then dangerously, yielded far too much ground to increasingly right-wing Republicans. … He wrote truthfully, boldly, consistently, without fear or favor, and without the empty partisanships of these awkward times. He was our North Star.

R.I.P., Larry Heinemann

December 17, 2019

My old paperback copy of “Close Quarters” has taken a beating from reading and re-reading.

Goddamn, this is turning out to be an ugly day.

Larry Heinemann, who was the surprise winner of the National Book Award for fiction in 1987, died Dec. 11 in Texas. He was 75.

Heinemann won the award for “Paco’s Story,” but I read his 1977 novel “Close Quarters” first, and it is one of the best Vietnam War stories out there. Not a pretty story, but it was not a pretty war. None of them is. It was one of the books that made me glad I missed the party.

He did his year in an infantry battalion, then came home, went to school, and started writing.

“I was not one of those guys who got home and went to their room and shut up,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1988. “I know guys who the war’s been eating up for 20 years. Anybody who asked me about it, I told them. I shot my mouth off about everything — the whorehouses, the endless hatred, the ugliness, the real work of the war. It took two to three years of talking to get the story out.”

Heinemann got more of the story out later, in a memoir, “Black Virgin Mountain: A Return to Vietnam.” His hometown paper wrote about it, and him, even including an excerpt.

Upon his return from Vietnam, he wrote:

I felt joyless and old, physically and spiritually exhausted, mean and grateful and uncommonly sad; relieved as if a stone had been lifted from my heart and radicalized beyond my own severely thinned patience: pissed off and ground down by a bottomless grief that I could not right then begin to express.

So, still sore and raw from the war I began writing.

R.I.P., Frank Berto

December 17, 2019

Frank Berto has joined Sheldon Brown in the Great Big Bike Shop in the Sky.

Bicycle Retailer has a note up, as does René Herse Cycles.

At the former, Jim Langley notes in comments:

“Gearing always has and probably always will mystify new cyclists — and Frank, as technical editor, made sense of it all for legions of readers through his columns in Bicycling magazine. It can’t be overstated, the impact Frank’s writing had on our industry and sport.”

Condolences to his family, friends and fans.

R.I.P., Gahan Wilson

November 23, 2019

My lone Gahan Wilson collection.

Gahan Wilson, whose surreal cartoons regularly appeared in National Lampoon, Playboy, and other top-shelf mags, has stepped away from the drawing board.

He died Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Complications of dementia, they say. He was 89.

This guy was funny. Bleak, weird, the owner and operator of left field, he kept you off balance like some psychotic judo master. There was nobody else like him working Back in the Day®, and if he has a successor, I’ve not seen him or her yet.

One of my faves? An overstuffed chair absorbing a reader. Eyeglasses and book lie on the floor. All you can see as the reader vanishes is a pair of hands, protruding from the seat.

Another depicts a gardener who has unearthed a skeleton. His employer, a stately, dessicated husk of a woman, says, “I think you would be advised to locate the new delphinium bed elsewhere, Hobbs.”

Yet another shows a soldier covered in gore, muck and God knows what all, knife in one hand and assault rifle in the other. He stands alone in a smoking hellscape that makes the “Terminator” future look like Disneyland. His eyes pop out of the murk like cue balls. And he smiles. “I think I won!” he says.

Dracula with a vampire hand puppet. Dracula with a salt shaker. (Dude liked Dracula, what can I tell you?) A woman who has stuffed her husband into the trash can outside her apartment door (“You don’t get rid of him that easy, Mrs. Jacowsky,” says a man who may be the building superintendent). A writer for “The National Confidential Weekly” who, stuck for a lively bit of the old Fake News®, finally leaves his typewriter for a while and returns to tap out, “It isn’t easy cutting the heart out of a woman with a dull knife. And it takes time. It takes a good fifteen minutes.”

Oh, Gahan Wilson was one of the greats. I hope he and Charles Addams are hoisting a tall cold one in the Beyond.

Veterans Day

November 11, 2019

This one goes out to every aging child who, come Veterans Day, misses the old man (or old lady, for that matter).

Or maybe you just miss Steve Goodman.

Ed Zink rides west

October 13, 2019

Ed Zink, one of the founders of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in Durango, has gone beyond.

The Durango native died Friday of complications from a heart attack, according to The Durango Herald. He was 71.

Ed was a rancher, a retailer, and a pillar of the U.S. cycling community. He ramrodded the Iron Horse through good times and bad, helped bring the first World Mountain Bike Championships to his hometown, and was a gent when dealing with irksome cycling scribes who wished to quiz him about this, that and the other.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.

Contributions in Ed’s memory can be made to Trails 2000 and the Mercy Health Foundation. My condolences to his family and friends.

R.I.P., Ginger Baker

October 6, 2019

The cantankerous carrot-top has finally drummed himself off to the Other Side.

It goes without saying that I listened to a lot of Cream as a young ne’er-do-well, and this cut was a fave. So was this one. And this one.

Baker was apparently not fond of reminiscing about those days — “Oh, God, Cream’s a bloody albatross around my neck,” he once said — but I remember them fondly.

What I remember of them, that is. At least I managed to steer clear of the smack.