Archive for the ‘Absent friends’ Category

R.I.P., Lawrence Ferlinghetti

February 23, 2021

The poet and his public. | Photo: City Lights

Ah, man, they keep shoving off. Not the first Beat, but the last bohemian, Lawrence Ferlinghetti went west on Monday. He was 101.

A World War II vet and a graduate of the Sorbonne, Ferlinghetti was a writer, the proprietor of San Francisco’s City Lights bookstore, and a First Amendment champion who got arrested for publishing Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl” … and beat the rap.

Like many a voracious reader, I made a pilgrimage to City Lights when I visited the city for the first time. Didn’t have the opportunity to meet Himself, alas. He was probably busy writing, or just “minding the store,” which is what he said he was doing rather than founding and directing an artistic subculture.

“When I arrived in San Francisco in 1951 I was wearing a beret,” he once told the Guardian. “If anything I was the last of the bohemians rather than the first of the Beats.”

• From the City Lights website: “He continued to write and publish new work up until he was 100 years old, and his work has earned him a place in the American canon. We intend to build on Ferlinghetti’s vision and honor his memory by sustaining City Lights into the future as a center for open intellectual inquiry and commitment to literary culture and progressive politics.”

• The Poetry Foundation remembers Ferlinghetti. Here’s their bio and a collection of his works, which include the poem titled (wait for it) “Dog.”

R.I.P., S. Clay Wilson

February 10, 2021

A sampling of the works of S. Clay Wilson.

S. Clay Wilson made Robert Crumb look like Charles M. Schultz.

Captain Pissgums and his Pervert Pirates. The Checkered Demon and Star-Eyed Stella. Ruby the Dyke. Dude didn’t push the envelope, he lit it up and pissed it out.

I was a fiend for underground cartoons in their heyday, and still am, now that I think of it. My personal fave is Gilbert Shelton, probably because he paid at least as much attention to being funny as to being controversial.

There was R. Crumb, of course. And Bobby London, Vaughn Bodē, Spain Rodriguez, Rand Holmes, Dan O’Neill, Dave Sheridan, Skip Williamson, Jay Lynch, Greg Irons, Robert Williams … shit, the list goes on and on and on. Many were outrageous, and quite a few were funny, too.

But Wilson was out there, all by himself.  Even Crumb knew it, and he could punch the squares’ buttons as well as anyone.

Interviewed in the early 1990s for The Comics Journal by the underground-comics aficionado Bob Levin, Mr. Wilson called comics “a great visual art form,” adding, “Primarily, I’m trying to show that you can draw anything you want.”

I took a page from Wilson’s book once, drawing a vile caricature of myself doing something unspeakable and faxing it to a publisher who had wronged me, as publishers are wont to do. I don’t recall whether the act achieved my purpose, but at that particular moment I felt that I could draw anything I wanted.

S. Clay Wilson died Sunday in San Francisco. He was 79.

Talking about ‘Mons’

January 2, 2021

Msgr. Richard “Mons” Soseman.

Diane Jenks, a.k.a. The Outspoken Cyclist, has posted her chat with Charles Pelkey and me about the late Msgr. Richard “Mons” Soseman and his generous, thoughtful contributions to our daily coverage of the grand tours over at Live Update Guy.

Our segment kicks off about 33 minutes into the show. Steve Frothingham, editor in chief of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, gets things rolling with a discussion of the year just past in the bike biz and what we might expect in 2021.

Thanks to Diane for giving the Padre, Charles, and me a little corner of her chat room. You can give us a listen by clicking here.

Goin’ down

December 31, 2020

In the loo and adieu for you.

Hoo-boy. Pee-yew. That’n looks like a double-flusher to me. Might have to break out the plunger. Or a stick of DuPont Extra.

But it’s gotta go, come hell or high water, and I won’t miss it once it’s gone.

Twenty-fuckin’-20.

We put an old woman in a home. My foot in a splint. My cat in an urn. And our lives on hold.

We’re alive to bitch about it, which has to count for something. [Insert thunderous sound of knocking on wood here.] Plenty of other people aren’t.

Also, I finally made it to Social Security, so, yay for me. Plus Herself remains on the clock in a real big way, so, bonus. We want for nothing. Call it a lamp so that we need not curse the darkness from beneath our designer masks.

It feels greedy of me to miss my cat. Running. Road trips. Hot springs. Random acts of shopping. Long bicycle rides. Stand-up comedy. My favorite non-alcoholic beer. Bookstores. Mexican restaurants. Living in a country that helped defeat fascism, not resurrect it.

You know. The little things.

Still, I miss them. I do. And I don’t expect to get a lot of them back just like that, with a simple change of calendars, or administrations.

Especially my cat. Not unless Stephen King gets involved, and that’s a bridge too far for me. Turkish v1.0 could be scary enough.

We already have plenty to be scared of, thanks all the same.

Nevertheless, here we are, on the threshold of a new year. That I am not optimistic is not helpful. Time to show the affirming flame. We must love one another or die.

R.I.P., Steve Milligan

December 22, 2020

Our friend Steve went west last night.

We were on the trail past the high side of Comanche, waiting on the Great Conjunction, when I saw the owl.

It was just before sunset as he flew in from the south, spread his wings wide, and coasted to a landing atop a utility pole down the hill from our own perch.

“I bet that’s Steve come to say adios,” I thought.

We had spoken with his wife, Christina, earlier in the day. She told us Steve was near the end of his struggle against an aggressive cancer. And when I saw the owl, well. …

This morning I awakened with Tom Waits in my head, rasping, “Come On Up to the House.”

Come on up to the house

Come on up to the house

The world is not my home

I’m just a-passin’ through

You gotta come on up to the house.

And sure enough, as I creaked out of bed and began dressing to greet the day, Herself gave me the news: “Steve died.”

Steve and Christina were librarians, like Herself, who met Steve sometime in 2005 when they both worked for Pikes Peak Community College in Bibleburg. Christina did her bit at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. Funny thing was, they lived just a couple blocks around the corner from our place in the Greater Patty Jewett Yacht & Gun Club Neighborhood. So we could’ve met them pretty much any old time. Small world.

Steve and Herself at PPCC.

Herself developed this notion that we might all get along, be “couples friends,” a social wall she has been banging her head against for more than 30 years. I’m a surly old dog wary of strangers at the gate.

In this instance, however, she was correct. Steve picked right up on my suspicions about any plan I had not personally devised and his nickname for me became “Mr. Three Words.” If there was something Christina wanted to do and Steve didn’t, he’d say, “I have three words for you: Patrick O’Grady.”

These are of course two words, and constitute a koan of sorts, I suppose. And no surprise, because Steve was a Zen Buddhist, a member of the Springs Mountain Sangha. We had something in common there; some years earlier I had met Joan Sutherland Roshi, who would go on to become the founding teacher of The Open Source network that includes the SMS.

Joan had worked with John Tarrant Roshi, director of the Pacific Zen Institute and Robert Aitken Roshi’s first dharma heir. And Steve and I both appreciated Tarrant’s book, “Bring Me the Rhinoceros,” a sampler of classic Zen koans and a Western approach to them.

All this is not intended to say that Steve and I were Han Shan and Shih Te. Steve and Christina and Herself and I were not itinerant locos who did a little casual day labor to keep rice in the bowl (well, Steve, Christina and Herself weren’t, anyway). We were simply friends, people of like mind who enjoyed books and movies, food and wine, chin music and a few yuks.

One of many dinners at the Blue Star.

They would cook for us, and we would cook for them. If we weren’t cooking, we were eating, at Blue Star, Springs Orleans, Tapateria, Pizza Rustica, or Vallejos. Taking in movies at Kimball’s Peak Three. Hanging out and shooting the shit.

After we moved down here in 2014 we saw them less often, but both Steve and Christina have relatives in New Mexico, so they’d pop down from time to time and we’d catch up. And whenever we were back in Bibleburg they were at the top of our list of people to see.

Steve was a big fella, like me a bearded baldo, but while I am prone to rant and rave like some stewbum on a sidewalk he was inclined to uncork a dry wit and serve it in a confidential tone, as though the State might be listening in. Whenever he had a bon mot to deliver he would take a step closer, right into your personal space, drop his volume to a conspiratorial level, and let fly.

Christina? More of a Buddha, less entranced by her own sermons, occasionally raising a flower. She speaks in measured tones with quiet amusement and nothing I do or say surprises her because she spent decades with her own bull-goose loony and knew all that honking and flapping was strictly ornamental.

There was less of that sort of thing as Steve’s disease progressed, Christina told me today as we three, once four, shared a long-distance cry. But at least Steve was in the nest, at home, in the care of his wife and son. And that was where he left them, and us, at age 73. Gasshō, bodhisattva.

We can’t say that human lives have a purpose, since a purpose would be smaller than we are. It’s true, though, that the impulse to give freely to the world seems to be at the bottom of the well of human intentions where the purest and cleanest water arises. To be able to offer back what the world has given you, but shaped a little by your touch — that makes a true life. Eventually we find our song and remember it and sing it. And we can never know who else will sing the song, or how the story will turn out in the end; its ripples widen beyond us and there is no end in sight. — John Tarrant, “Bring me the Rhinoceros”

R.I.P., Msgr. Richard ‘Mons’ Soseman

December 9, 2020

Msgr. Richard “Mons” Soseman.

Msgr. Richard Soseman, better known to the Live Update Guy crowd as “Mons,” has been taken from us by the pandemic. He was 57.

LUG’s Charles Pelkey gave me the word just now. The Catholic Post has more.

A Mass at the tomb of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on the 41st anniversary of his death on Dec. 9 also was a first opportunity for the Diocese of Peoria to mourn the death from COVID-19 two hours earlier of the vice postulator of the famed media pioneer and author’s cause for canonization.

“We gather with sad news for our diocese as Msgr. Richard Soseman has gone home to God this morning,” said Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka of Peoria at the start of the 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.

Msgr. Soseman, 57, had been the episcopal delegate assigned by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, to assemble Archbishop Sheen’s sainthood cause and later became vice postulator. Acknowledging “our hearts are heavy” with the news of his death, Bishop Tylka said “in some ways it is providential and fitting that on the same day that Sheen went home to God, so does Msgr. Soseman.”

We knew Mons as a cycling fan, a witty, energetic correspondent, and a generous spirit who gave far more to our silly little sideshow than it deserved. Neither Charles nor I ever met the padre face to face, but we both miss him as though we had spent years in his presence. Which, in a small and remote way, we did, a blessing for which I am grateful.

The Catholic Post will publish a full obituary at some point. I expect Charles will have more to say as well. In the meantime, those of you on Facebook might visit the monsignor’s Facebook page.

Be well, take care, and give a thought to absent friends.

R.I.P., Carl Reiner

June 30, 2020

Two of the funniest people ever. Now there’s one less.

God damn it. Who is Mel gonna watch movies with now?

I first stumbled across Carl Reiner via “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Then it was “The 2000 Year Old Man,” Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” and all the rest of it.

He never retired. And he never will. God is laughing His ass off right now.

• Late update: Rudolfo Anaya, author of the groundbreaking Chicano novel “Bless Me, Última,” has likewise shoved off. ¡Chale! Que triste es la vida!

‘I Remember Everything’

June 12, 2020

Said to be the last song John Prine recorded. He wrote it with longtime collaborator Pat McLaughlin.

Me, I don’t remember much. And a lot of what I do remember I’d like to forget.

But I don’t ever want to forget John Prine.

Th-th-that’s not ALL, folks!

June 1, 2020

I heard Looney Tunes was coming back with all-new episodes.

There’s probably no truth to the rumor that in the reboot, Tweety Bird is a chickenshit.

 

R.I.P., Little Richard

May 9, 2020

“A wop bop alu bop, a wop bam boom!”

Rolling Stone called it “what has to be considered the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded.” Some may disagree; it is a high bar to hop. But Little Richard was most definitely inspired, and one of a kind, a true trailblazer.

As Jim Dodge noted in “Not Fade Away”:

“Little Richard had returned to the Church, but because he was wearing lipstick and eye shadow the Church wasn’t sure what to do with him.”

Now he’s gone on ahead. That Big Band Beyond best have its game on. Wooooooo!