Archive for the ‘Absent friends’ Category

R.I.P., Ken Nordine

February 23, 2019

Ken Nordine, a voice you may recall from “Word Jazz,” a staple on NPR for years, has left the studio. He was 98.

A baritone storyteller who began with voiceovers on radio and TV, Nordine would go on to collaborate with Tom Waits, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and others.

He once said that the goal of his poetry was to “make people think about their thinking and feel about their feeling, but even more important to think about their feeling and feel about their thinking.”

I think he succeeded. Whenever I’d hear that impossibly deep voice softshoe out of my radio and into my head, I’d stop whatever I was doing and pay attention. They’re nodding and yessing and popping their fingers at Next World Coffee this morning.

Happy birthday, Mr. Mayor

November 21, 2018

While the yard art spun here, I spun there, as in on the single-track, on a cyclocross bike. I did exactly 64 minutes.

While the rest of yis were prepping for medium-heavy holiday duty tomorrow, my man Chris “Da Mayor” Coursey was celebrating his 64th birthday in Santa Rosa, Calif.

He had been contemplating a 64-mile ride — jeez, who does these things? — but the weather and wildfires refused to cooperate with those best-laid plans. So when last seen he was celebrating indoors with friends, family, grub and grog.

Having an edge on him as regards the calendar, if nowhere else, I advised him thusly:

I trust that you will be slouched in an overstuffed chair with stocking feet up, snappin’ galluses and holding forth, one eyebrow raised and one index finger stabbing at the air, providing sage counsel, rendering keen judgments, ordering swift departures from lawns, and telling all those dad jokes with the obscure references that somehow elude everyone under the age of 64.

Also, all stories henceforth are to begin thusly: “You prob’ly won’t believe this, but when I was your age [insert improbable, unlikely and apocryphal tale here].”

I was going to include a picture of me in that pose for purposes of illustration, but I couldn’t find my galluses. I will forward this shot of our blue, blue skies because I am a cruel, cruel fellow.

Happy birthday, Chris. And many, many more.

R.I.P., Aretha Franklin

August 16, 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, the Queen.

I don’t remember the first time I heard Aretha Franklin’s voice, but I never forgot it. Even the tinnest of tin ears perked up when the Queen of Soul was belting one out (she had a four-octave vocal range).

Many of the reflections on Franklin’s passing note that “The Blues Brothers” helped revive her career when it was on life support (the rockin’ pneumonia and boogie-woogie flu had turned into a bad case of disco fever).

That’s one more reason to miss John Belushi, too.

 

R.I.P., Steve Ditko

July 7, 2018

Without Steve Ditko, this Marvel-origins collection would have been a good deal slimmer.

As a polyglot lot of colorfully clad heroes comes to blows in France, displaying superhuman powers acquired from Stan Lee only knows where, we bid farewell to the co-creator of many another costumed combatant, comic-book artist Steve Ditko.

With Lee and Jack Kirby Ditko had a hand in the debut of, among others, The Amazing Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. The young Ditko dug Will “The Spirit” Eisner, and you can see a bit of Eisner’s noirish style in his work; this admiration clearly filtered down to some of the undergrounds, like Rand “Harold Hedd” Holmes and Dave “Dealer McDope” Sheridan.

Doctor Strange as imagined by Steve Ditko.

Unlike Lee, who had (and maintains) a flair for showmanship, Ditko apparently was a recluse who declined interviews, snubbed comic-book conventions, and spurned invitations to movie premieres.

“We didn’t approach him,” said Scott Derrickson, director of the 2016 movie “Doctor Strange,” a yawner in which Benedict Cumberbatch played the title role. “He’s like J.D. Salinger. He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight.”

According to Lee, in “Origins of Marvel Comics,” Ditko got the job of drawing Spidey after Kirby’s take on the character proved “too good” to depict the tormented teenage geek Lee had in mind.

“All those years of drawing superheroes must have made it a little difficult to labor so mightily and come forth with a superloser, or if you will, a supershnook,” Lee wrote.

“Steve’s style … was almost diametrically different from Jack’s. Where Jack would exaggerate, Steve would strive zealously for total realism. Where Jack made his featured characters as heroically handsome as possible, Steve’s forte seemed to be depicting the average man in the street. I decided to play a hunch. I asked Steve to draw Spider-Man. And he did. And the rest is history.”

Ditko died alone in his Manhattan home, age 90.

 

When will we ever learn?

May 28, 2018

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room.

And that’s only one of our national cemeteries. Col. Harold Joseph O’Grady is buried at Fort Logan in Denver, along with three Medal of Honor recipients, seven Buffalo Soldiers, two Navajo Code Talkers from New Mexico, and Spec. Gabriel Conde of Colorado, a kindergartner on 9/11 who was the 2,264th member of the U.S. military to die in the war in Afghanistan.

I guess we finally found out where all those flowers have gone.

 

Like rain falling on the city

February 17, 2018

The sky is crying.

It was gloomy around here the past couple days, and not just for the obvious reason. The weather finally turned and we got something like a half-inch of rain; a long, steady soaking.

Something seems dreadfully wrong
with this picture.

Even the normally stoic Turk grew unsettled, first spending an unusual amount of time under the bed, and then following me around like bad news.

This morning he was finally back to his routine: yowling outside the bedroom door when he’s decided that I’ve logged enough shuteye; jumping into bed for a brief cuddle; and finally nodding off as the sun crept over the Sandias.

Herself is easing back into business as usual, hitting her workout classes and fencing with the taxman, whose clammy hand is even less welcome in our pockets than usual.

Mia performs her one-cat show “Sit Like a Cat,” based on a poem from the Ted Kooser-Jim Harrison collection “Braided Creek”:

We should
sit like a cat
and wait for the door
to open.

And the unflappable Miss Mia Sopaipilla, who came to us from the same shelter that gave us Mister Boo, continues to provide some much-needed comic relief. The other day it was zazen on my drawing stool; this morning it was mortal combat with a long-forgotten toy mouse.

Me? You’d think I should be chronicling some velo-business for fun and profit, what with CABDA just concluded and Frostbike, NAHBS and 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo ongoing.

But I’m not, so maybe I’ll go for a ride instead.

• Editor’s note: Gassho and deep bows to one and all for your condolences following the passing of Mister Boo. Sifting through the piles of photos and videos depicting the sprightly young Boo of days gone by, and seeing the pleasure his presence provided beyond our own household, helped us remember the good times, bright moments that often fade under the harsher light of day-to-day caregiving.

R.I.P., Mister Boo, 2005-2018

February 15, 2018

Mister Boo at play in the fields.

The Boo has left the building. Gone ahead he has, to join Jojo, Fuerte, Bandit, Tina and Ike.

We — OK, I — occasionally joked that Mister Boo was God’s gift to veterinary medicine, and there was always a bit of an edge to it, because medical care for anyone, man, woman or dog, dollars up on the hoof right quick.

But we dug down, and paid up, because that’s what you do for family.

One tough little dude. “Where’s my dinner, bitch?”

It helped that Mister Boo was a tough little son of a bitch. You wanted to be in his corner. Abandonment, imprisonment, eye operations, bladder surgeries, patellar issues, senility, incontinence, renal dysfunction — they all knocked him down, but nothing could keep him on the canvas.

Or so it seemed.

The bum kidneys and liver were what finally rang the bell on him. They forced him to surrender his disco kibble some time ago, and he considered the prescribed renal diet a bad joke, so I cooked for him. The food was not what the doctor ordered, but it was what he liked, and we figured the auld fella was near the end of his days and entitled to eat as he pleased.

Thus I was Mister Boo’s chef. But he was never my dog.

Oh, I spent a ton of time with him, because I can do my little bit of business from home while Herself suffers from gainful employment. It was usually me who took him to his vet appointments because see previous sentence. And come mealtime I was That Man, the anonymous dude with the food.

But Herself was That Lady Who Gives Me Things. Liberation from prison; baths and walks; toys and treats; pills and potions; hugs and kisses.

In a word, love.

It was Herself who gave Mister Boo a home in the summer of 2011, when she volunteered at the Bibleburg shelter, and it was Herself who gave him peace this bleak February morning. It’s one of those chilly winter days he enjoyed so much, and I’m sad that he couldn’t be here to savor it.

The Boo and Herself enjoying a brisk walk in April 2016.

• Click the “Read the rest” link below for a memorial gallery.

(more…)

R.I.P., Mad Dog Unleashed

December 17, 2017

Editor’s note: “Mad Dog Unleashed” went to meet St. Peter in December 2017. It was 18. Survivors include its landlord, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News; its father, Patrick O’Grady; and a small, deeply disturbed readership. Its final words are appended herein.

 

Your Humble Narrator at work (or so he says, anyway).

Plan? What plan? What we have here is dogs chasing cars

“Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it! You know, I just … do things.”The Joker, “The Dark Knight”

By Patrick O’Grady

Donald Trump finally made it to Vietnam.

True, he was a half-century late, but you’ll recall that in 1968 there was a ton of golf that needed playing back home. Waving your 1-wood around for a few decades must do wonders for bone spurs. I hear it’s the new cycling.

Speaking of which, the bike business missed a golden opportunity there. We should’ve given Gimpy a beautiful golden bike to make the trip, because he looks like he could use the exercise and I’m pretty sure he can’t swim.

He would’ve needed one hella long ramp to launch from DeeCee to Danang. But man, what an ad for travel by bike! Any old fool can get big air in a plane. C’mon, casino dude—bet the roll, jump the ocean.

However he traveled, this was a trip that bore watching for our industry as the Taiwanese hunker down and Cambodia, India and Vietnam step up.

Our erstwhile enemy has become a favored trading partner, if you believe the feds—we’re their largest export market, they’re our fastest-growing export market—and Vietnam’s annual economic-growth rate is second only to China’s.

And I’ll concede that November’s pestilential visit seems to have been a success, or at least not a disaster, which these days are the same thing.

For starters, I don’t hear the B-52s cranking up, which is always good news. And Gimpy didn’t get captured, which, well. …

We all know how he feels about guys who get captured.

“I was never a fan of the Vietnam War.” I didn’t want to go to Vietnam either, being otherwise occupied. Not with golf, but with various brain fertilizers that I hoped would grow my hair down to the ground so I wouldn’t have to wear clothes.

I didn’t need a doctor’s note or college deferments, either. I was registered for the lottery, but the Army had all the fresh meat it required in March 1973 when it was my turn in the barrel. The last draft call was in December ’72, and the authority to induct expired six months later.

What I had instead of Vietnam was the newspaper business. My war stories are about reporters, editors, rim rats, slot men, shooters, printers and publishers.

That tour of duty lasted 15 years, and in all that time it never occurred to me to try something else because I loved the work. Also, I wasn’t qualified to do anything useful.

Manufacturing? I can make trouble on the cheap, but the market is unpredictable.

Service? I’m worse with my hands than Roy Moore. I did fix the wife’s beeping sports watch once, with a hammer. You can fix anything real fast with a hammer.

Retail? I couldn’t sell Bibles in Missouri. And I tried. Didn’t help a bit that I looked more like Jesus than Jesus did, either. I had to hitchhike home, a drummer who couldn’t even earn the price of a bus ticket.

Buy the ticket, take the ride. So, yeah, newspapers. I flagged down that old Greydog in 1977 and it dropped me off here at the bike shop before trundling off and over a cliff.

Now and then I pedal up to the edge, peek over and down, and mutter, “That was quite a ride. Maybe I should buy another ticket for old times’ sake.”

Nope. My freelancer’s kit—shorts, sandals, a T-shirt that a cat uses for a climbing gym—wouldn’t pass muster in the modern newsroom. Nor would the two-hour lunch ride, followed by the two-hour lunch.

And in the newspaper game some Assistant Managing Editor for Wasting Your Time is always tugging on your leash. Nope again. “You see a collar on this SOPWAMTOS shirt, Pinstripes? Up to date on your rabies shots?”

’Sides, who goes backward? Not King Donald the Short-fingered, that’s for sure. Nobody knows exactly where he’s going or what he’s doing, especially him, but one thing’s certain: He has his beady eyes affixed firmly on the front of his face, staring straight ahead, at his phone. “Mirror, mirror, in my hand, who’s the greatest in the land?”

Back of the bus, buddy. Anyway, I enjoy this work, if you can call it that. I’m not sure the other fella likes his. With a little luck, he won’t have the job much longer, and we can move on to making other, subtler mistakes. Time passes, and things change.

Even here. Come January 2018 something else will occupy this space we’ve shared for the past couple of decades, and I’ll return to my roots as a cartoonist.

That’s how I snuck into cycling rumormongery 28 years ago, when VeloNews declined to offer me full-time employment but asked that I contribute cartoons. BRAIN’s Marc Sani liked what he saw—an appraisal he and others have had occasion to regret—and the rest, as they say, is history.

And with this column, so is “Mad Dog Unleashed.”

In the new year, look for me and the Mud Stud in the back of the mag’, and I’ll look for you up front as the bike industry continues its full-throated pursuit of The Next Big Thing®, like a dog chasing a car.

That dog likes his work, too. We just … do things. And what the hell, we’re not squished yet.

• Editor’s note v2.0: Thus endeth the final “Mad Dog Unleashed” column in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. I’ll continue to draw the “Shop Talk” strip for that publication and review touring bicycles for Adventure Cyclist. And of course, the daily (sometimes) chin-music concert will continue here in Lesser Blogsylvania.

Bummernacht

December 4, 2017

Now, more than ever.

R.I.P., Dick Gregory

August 20, 2017

Dick Gregory, activist and comedian.

Back in 1978, as a young reporter at what then was called the Gazette Telegraph in Bibleburg, I spoke with two people who could not have been more different — David Duke and Dick Gregory.

Duke was all PR and puffery, arguing that integration wasn’t “bringing peace and harmony to America, it’s accomplishing the complete opposite.” He described his button-down version of the Ku Klux Klan as “a white counterpart of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,” and crowed about “a surge of interest and membership in the organization.”

Gregory, as you might expect, approached civil rights from an entirely different angle, knowing a line of horseshit when he smelled it. It was a product he did not carry and would not distribute.

“As long as we have racism and sexism, we are a nation divided,” he said during a speech at the Fort Carson Field House, where he received a standing ovation before heading downtown for another talk at The Colorado College.

“If I walk about for a week with a pile of horse manure in my pocket, ready to throw on you, then whose pocket stinks for a week?” he asked. “And if I walk around with hate in my brain, what is that going to do with my brain?”

Pockets full of horseshit and brains full of hate. Nearly four decades down the road we’re still covering the same old ground. Sisyphus is all like, “Damn, y’all really like rolling that rock, huh?”

• Update: Rolling Stone‘s obit is a good bit more, uh, colorful, than the one in The New York Times.

• Update the Second: Holy shit, now Jerry Lewis has left the building.