Archive for the ‘Bad news’ Category

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., John le Carré (and George Smiley)

December 13, 2020

Two of the many John Le Carré books I’ve read over the years.

We keep losing George Smileys while the Karlas of the world dig in like ticks.

John le Carré, a.k.a. David Cornwell, wrote a couple dozen books before he finally set down his pen forever, and I read most of them. I especially loved the Smiley stories; in another life his rumpled little man with an eye for detail, plodding doggedly along in the shadows, could’ve been a newspaper copy editor, so no doubt I felt some kinship there.

And le Carré was none too keen on Adolf Twitler, who reminded him of the other fella, the original fascist gangster. Probably compromised by the Russians, too, he thought.

Speaking with Terry Gross on “Fresh Air” back in 2018 he said he thought it possible that Il Douche “was taken into what I call a honey trap — that he had ladies found for him, and he misbehaved in Russia.” But the real trap, he thought, may have been laid by the orange nitwit himself.

“I think the kompromat, if it’s taken place, has taken place very largely through Trump’s own endeavors to raise money in all sorts of dark places,” le Carré said. “And together, all those efforts amount to a self-compromising activity, which the Russians have embraced. I think they have him by the short hairs.”

Le Carré raised his money the old-fashioned way, by working for it. His final book, “Agent Running in the Field,” was published in October 2019, when he was 88.

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.

A rare prayer for a friend

December 5, 2020

“Mons” spreading the good news at WLPO FM.
Photo provided to (and liberated from) The Catholic Post.

• Editor’s note: This is a guest post from my old comrade Charles Pelkey, first published on Facebook. One of the people who helped make his Live Update Guy operation so much fun has fallen victim to The Bug® and is in a bad way. Msgr. Richard Soseman’s essays were a highlight of our coverage of the grand tours, which often leaned more toward low comedy than high art. “Mons,” as he came to be known, put a high gloss on our rattly old jalopy. I wish him a speedy return to health and his ministry, and I hope you will too.

By Charles Pelkey

My friend, Richard “Mons” Soseman, is currently under sedation and on a ventilator because of a COVID-19 infection. We first met while his ministry brought him to the Holy City in Rome.  The Monsignor (hence the moniker “Mons”) has since returned to the U.S., now serving as pastor at Saint Joseph’s in Peru, Illinois.

Mons is an avid cycling fan, which is how we got to know each other. He often wrote beautiful and detailed essays to be included in daily coverage on LiveUpdateGuy.com. He twice hosted my son at the Vatican in Rome over the course of several years.

The monsignor on the job in Rome, hosting visitor Philip Pelkey.

Mons would light candles in Saint Peter’s Basilica for me when I was taking finals in law school, during the bar exam, and when I developed breast cancer. I finally told him, “You know, Padre, I have a confession: I am not a man of faith.”

Not missing a beat, he quickly said: “Oh, Charles, I already knew that. It’s okay. I am,” and he went on lighting candles just as before.

Now it’s our turn. Please keep this sweet, sweet man in your thoughts — or prayers — as he fights the biggest challenge of his life. Pray, light candles, send good vibes, but above all, keep Mons in your thoughts.

Mons took the risks of COVID seriously and took as many precautions as possible. Nonetheless, he caught the virus and is now quite ill. Please be careful out there.

Godspeed, Padre. A lot of us out here love you.

Unplugged

November 22, 2020

Rockin’ out with the Art & Lutherie Roadhouse,
bought from Guitar Center Albuquerque.

Though guitar sales are rocking out, Guitar Center is not.

The nation’s largest retailer of musical instruments has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to The New York Times.

It’s a sad tune. Bain Capital got its Mitthooks into the company back in 2007, and surprise surprise! The company wound up larded with debt. Throw in a late entry into e-commerce, some tough online competition, and a bout of The Bug®, and what you wind up with is “The Last Waltz” scored for private equity and hedge fund.

My Seagull Entourage Mini Jumbo, bought used from Guitar Center Albuquerque.

The company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy by year’s end, according to The Times. But for anyone who has enjoyed working there, or shopping there, a press release contains a caveat:

While Guitar Center is pleased with its overall store footprint, the Company has engaged A&G Realty Partners to explore opportunities to optimize its real estate portfolio and other agreements to focus on investments that best position the Company to return to its growth trajectory prior to COVID-19.

Speaking of caveats, the lyrics to “Forward Looking Statements,” one of the press release’s greatest hits, will sound familiar to any lawyers in the audience:

This press release includes “forward looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Forward looking statements express our current expectations, opinion, belief or forecasts of future events and performance. A statement identified by the use of forward-looking words including “may,” “expects,” “projects,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimate,” “will,” “should,” and certain of the other foregoing statements may be deemed forward-looking statements. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, these statements involve risks and uncertainties that may cause actual future activities and results to be materially different from those suggested or described in this press release. By issuing forward looking statements based on current expectations, opinions, views or beliefs, the Company has no obligation and, except as required by law, is not undertaking any obligation, to update or revise these statements or provide any other information relating to such statements.

Wall Street should give that an 85. It’s got a good beat, and a Suit can dance to it.

R.I.P, Jerry Jeff Walker

October 24, 2020

Scamp Walker has left the building.

Jerry Jeff finally got off of that L.A. freeway. But he had to get killed to do ’er.

“L.A. Freeway” wasn’t one of his songs. That was a Guy Clark number, like “Desperados Waiting for a Train.” Likewise, a lot of the songs I remember him for came from other musicians. “London Homesick Blues” (Gary P. Nunn). “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” (Ray Wylie Hubbard). “Jaded Lover” (Chuck Pyle). “Night Rider’s Lament” (Michael Burton). And “Railroad Lady” (co-written with Jimmy Buffett). Etc.

“Mr. Bojangles” was the first actual Jerry Jeff tune I heard, by far his most famous, and I heard it from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

I got to say howdy to Jerry Jeff, briefly, at the Dirt Band’s 20th anniversary bash at Denver’s McNichols Arena, the same show where I met John Prine. Jerry Jeff was off the sauce then, or so we heard, and not at all the same fella who was so hammered he nearly fell off the stage during a concert years earlier in Greeley, when I was still pretending to go to college.

For my money, Roy Blount Jr. wrote the definitive Jerry Jeff story (The Early Years Edition).  Here’s a sample:

Not long ago Jerry Jeff telephoned my home in Massachusetts to report that he would be appearing in nearby Hartford the next weekend. My wife and I were out; our friend Rose took the message. “Where exactly in Hartford are you going to be?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” said Jerry Jeff. “Where exactly am I now?”

You get the picture. Religions have been founded on less. And Jerry Jeff was certainly one of our “high” priests Back in the Day®, with the live album “¡Viva Terlingua!” (recorded with The Lost Gonzo Band) containing most of the hymns. “Ridin’ High” was a close second.

Throat cancer nearly did for him a couple years ago. He managed to churn out another album (“It’s About Time”), but recently his voice went, and soon Jerry Jeff followed it, wherever it went. Peace to him, his family and friends, and his fans. Let’s sing him out with “Mr. Bojangles,” from the Dirt Band’s 50th anniversary show.

R.I.P., Garrett Lai

October 2, 2020

Sad news: Garrett Lai, one of the cycling journos, has gone west.

Garrett was running Bicycle Guide back when I was a minor cog in the VeloMachine, and from time to time we’d bump into each other, exchange compliments, usually at Interbike.

I can’t claim to have known him well, but I knew for sure that he was a top-shelf scribe with a finely honed personal style. And his curiosity, enthusiasm, and expertise were not limited to the bike world.

Once or twice we talked about doing some work together, but this never came to pass, more’s the pity.

Patrick Brady, who did know Garrett well, has a remembrance at his new operation, The Cycling Independent.

Peace to Garrett, and to those who knew and loved him. He left us far too soon.

R.I.P., Ruth Bader Ginsburg

September 18, 2020

This is a real blow, perhaps worse than Election Night 2016.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg did her best. Beat cancer twice, a blocked artery once.

Amy Howe at Scotusblog looks back at the career of “a reserved and relatively unknown court of appeals judge [who] became an improbable pop-culture icon, inspiring everything from an Oscar-nominated documentary film to her own action figure.”

She hung on as long as she could. It wasn’t long enough, but that’s not her fault. Peace to her, and to those who knew and loved her.

Sick and tired

July 2, 2020

The governor is not amused.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham didn’t bring the BFH* yesterday. But she pointed to the drawer where she keeps it and said, “A lot of y’all lookin’ like nails to me.”

No real surprises there. New Mexicans are acting like The Bug® has had its ass kicked. Nope. The caseload is rising, the numbers are even worse in a couple of neighboring states, and any further tiptoeing toward what passes for normalcy around here has been put on hold.

This is bad news for Herself the Elder, who would like to see some relaxation of restrictions on assisted-living centers. She’d enjoy an in-house sitdown with Herself, or maybe a short outing for some shrimp fried rice, that sort of thing.

Nope again. Not this week. Not as long as New Mexicans insist on wandering around in clusters with their faces hanging out, acting like preschoolers who won’t eat their vegetables.

The gov’ is sympathetic, to a degree. She sez to us she sez: “We do have isolation and COVID-19 fatigue. Everybody wants this to just go away.”

And despite all evidence to the contrary, she said she remains “cautiously optimistic … assuming people wear their masks and limit their traveling around in their communities. Let’s do this together.”

But she kept glancing at that drawer.

* That would be the Bravo Foxtrot Hotel, a.k.a. the Big Fucking Hammer.

Assault by battery

May 19, 2020

Guess which one starts?

Today was grocery day. I was armed with a rather extensive shopping list, my last trip having been a short one to the Wholeazon Amafoods to collect a few delicacies for our 30th anniversary dinner.

That list got edited more than somewhat when I slid behind the wheel of the Fearsome Furster, turned the key, and … bupkis.

Not a slow crank. Nary a whir, click, or grind. Fuck-all, is what. Dead silence.

The trusty Wald basket shifts easily from bike to scooter. I use toe straps to cinch it down.

Like the rest of us, ol’ Sue Baroo has been enjoying some extended downtime in the Year of the Plague. She gets out about every two weeks for a grocery run.

But our last voyage was just a week ago, so I can only assume I managed to trigger some pain-in-the-ass interior light that failed to catch my eye. The battery is fairly new. Newer than the car, anyway.

But plenty of things are. This beast dates back to the last dipshit fool we had in the White House.

“Well, hell,” sez I. “What else we got in this garage here?”

Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s Bike Month. I should’ve manned up and turned one of the touring bikes into a grocery cart. It’s not as though we lack for racks and sacks around here.

But I took the easy way out. Pulled the Wald basket off the Soma Double Cross, strapped it to the rear rack on the Vespa, and putt-putted over to the Sprouts with a messenger bag slung over one shoulder.

The lack of cargo capacity means no buttermilk biscuits for breakfast. But we all have our crosses to bear, amirite?