Monday, December 29, 2014

RIP: Richard English - July 25, 1942 - December 23, 2014

This is a re-posting of a tribute I made to my friend; he was found dead in his Provincetown apartment on Dec. 23, 2014. I posted a version of this on Facebook in announcing his death and am stunned at the huge number of wonderful comments that have been made by those who knew him, respected him, and loved him.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy Birthday to Richard English

On a dark and snowy evening in February 1961, at an Army post in Germany, I'd gone to the Mess Hall office I worked in to use the government-issued typewriter to compose a long letter about a trip I'd just made to Zurich, Florence, and Rome, with my friend Henry Bradbury Coons III. There was a rap at the window. I looked up. It was a soldier I'd seen around; he was sort of new to the base. I unlocked a door to let him in. I'm glad I did. We became friends. I have not had, over these many years, a more loyal friend.

One time (before the 1965 picture above was taken near Saugatuck, Michigan) he told me he wanted to be a painter but he didn't think his imagination could be confined within the boundaries of frames. 

After stints as a merchant seaman on the Great Lakes, Richard would arrive at my Ann Arbor apartment with fat wads of cash; he was the first person I knew to buy an entire pound of weed at once. He dumped it on a spread-newspaper on the floor for sorting; it was an astonishing volume of contraband to one like me who was accustomed to nickel bags, dime bags. (The newspaper on the floor would have been The Ann Arbor News -- a good newspaper; it printed its last issue just the other day.)

Several of my Michigan friends migrated to Provincetown, a fishing village/artists colony at the tip of Cape Cod. Richard, hopping onto a Greyhound bus with another of those wads of cash in his pocket, was the first of us to do so. He wanted to become "a simple fisherman" as he'd heard John Lennon say he sometimes longed to be. In Provincetown, as evidenced above, Richard came to accept the boundaries of frames. He also caught a good many fish. I've had mako shark just once ... it was at Richard's table. I love fish, and I've had some amazingly good fish, but that mako shark was the best ever.

Happy Birthday my friend!

Friday, December 5, 2014

RIP: Jay Moran - Dec. 5, 1944 - Oct. 28, 1990

  • When I posted a mini-memoir about my friend Jay three years ago, his cousin came across it and wrote: "Jay was my first cousin. I think of him often and miss him so much. He was blessed with a wicked sense of humor. Years ago, I had a brick paver inscribed with his name added to a patio at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Jay received his undergraduate degree at King's."

  • I don't know when this was taken, or where,
    and I never saw a wider collar.

    This is my favorite picture of Jay, taken in my
    apartment at 801 East Huron in Ann Arbor.
    A man named Bernard wrote, "In 1984, our Union Rep with Actors Equity in San Francisco was a dear sweet generous soul named Jay Moran. He was kind, gentle, caring, generous, sincere, funny, and overworked. I thought everyone in the Union was like him, genuinely concerned, and (as corny as it sounds) willing to make the extra effort to support each of us in our pursuit of our dreams. He was a rare soul in his thoughtfulness. Than you, Jay, wherever you are in the cosmos. "

    Me & Jay on ferry in Seattle, 1976

    Seattle, 1976

    On ferry, Seattle, 1976

    Clambake in my cottage, Provincetown, 1978 ;
    my brother, Bernard, Bill Haushalter, and Jay

    Me, Bill, Jay

    I miss him every day.

    Sunday, November 30, 2014

    Lucky Guy

    I'm a lucky guy. I'd just returned from a cheeseburger and a beer at a nearby bar when my friend Jack from work came in with a turkey sandwich, a piece of pumpkin pie, two apples, a fresh tomato, a pomegranate, and a little jug of cider.  My dinner for tomorrow night is all set. Thanks Jack & Jane!

    Saturday, November 29, 2014

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    RIP: Martha Rose Fitzgerald McKinney Gorham - November 19, 1932 - June 6, 2005

    AKA "Sis" … always car-proud back in the fifties; I think this one was a lime-green 1947 Plymouth.  And she could be damn funny -- my brother Bernard and I quote her quite often. If, out on the highway, another car overtook her, she was apt to take it personally. "Where the hell does he think he's going in such a hurry?" she'd ask as she haunched herself forward, her forehead just above the steering wheel, put the petal to the metal, and overtook the offender in turn, "to show him that he ain't the only one that's got someplace to git to."  And, we thought, just because she considered a highway a speedway with -- who knew? -- some reward known-only-to-her waiting at the end of the road.

    And she was wonderful to her "three little brothers" after we'd all lost our dad.  If I needed 15-cents so I could buy a root beer float at Denton's Drug Store on Boy Scout meeting night, I knew where I could get it.  And she'd be so pleased that she could do these sweet things.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    RIP: Marcel Proust - July 10, 1871 - November 18, 1922

    "Everything great in the world comes from neurotics.
    They alone have founded our religions and composed our masterpieces."

    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    The Proletariat

    I liked this bar.  Ellen and I stopped in twice for nightcaps.  They specialize in very small batches from all over, but especially from Belgium.  But if you're really a proletarian you probably can't afford $6.50 for four ounces of beer.  But it was great taste.  And the bartender … well, on the first night it was the guy in the foreground of this picture.  Then I looked at the guy to his left and I thought … no … he was the guy who told me "Pretty Girl" was a great beer.  Now I think they're brothers, maybe twins.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    RIP: John D. Fitzgerald - Aug. 30, 1934 - Nov. 14, 2000

    My brother. Gone way too soon. He and his beautiful wife, Helen, gave me a wonderful batch of four nephews and a niece and now countless great- and great-great nieces and nephews. 
    Brother, I would have given you some of my years if such a trade-off were possible.

    Monday, November 10, 2014

    The Day Before Veteran's Day, 2009

    The Day Before Veteran’s Day, 2009

    Lately, I’ve been feeling lonesome;
    I don’t quite know why.
    Maybe because it’s dark when I drive home from work,
    and there’s usually no one to greet me
    but one dog and two cats.

    For most of my life I was all
    the company I needed;
    I coveted quiet.
    I didn’t need a lover; I didn’t need a radio; no teevee.
    I kept my own counsel, I had paper to write on,
    and great books on all kinds of shelves,
    but tonight it'd be nice to sit and chat with someone.

    I drove downtown
    to return some books to the library.
    I checked out a book of Donald Hall’s poems.
    Then I drove on up Main Street and saw lights on
    in the town’s most run-down restaurant.

    I guessed I was hungry. I pulled up out front.
    They’ve made it more of a Sports Bar
    since last I was here;
    a large square of counter and stools are plonked down
    smack dab in the middle of the dining room.
    Four huge TVs are tuned to ESPN.
    I order Alfredo pasta with chicken.

    Some loud-mouthed guy on the far side of the bar
    whines for twenty minutes about the Yankees.
    Their payroll, he says, is a crying shame --
    it’s that Steinbrenner who’s to blame.
    On and on he whines. The World Series
    ended over a week ago.
    I wish he’d get over it!

    I guess he’s one of those die-hard Red Sox fans
    whose hearts have been broken again and again;
    but I don’t want to hear about it.
    I’m trying to read.

    Fat chance they’ll change channels
    for the likes of me. I'd rather watch the news.
    I lowered the flag to half-staff this morning.
    The President attended a memorial at Fort Hood today.
    I was stationed there for four months in fifty-eight.
    I saw Elvis the day after I got there;
    he was coming out of the dental clinic
    and, with a Colonel, got into a white Cadillac.
    Next day he shipped out to Germany.
    My buddies and I, bored in Fort Hood,
    killed rattlesnakes for sport
    on Sunday afternoons in the hot Texas sun.
    Life was empty. I got out of there just in time.
    Like Elvis, I shipped out to Germany.

    I'm done with the pasta.  It was barely edible. A cup’s worth
    of Alfredo sauce remains in the bowl, thin as milk.
    I pay with my credit card. As I’m heading for the door
    I hear that guy say, “A-Rod makes more in one year
    than the whole Kansas City team makes.
    Where’s the sport in that?”

    I turn toward him; it’s my turn at last,
    he’s been motor-mouthing too much
    about last week's loss.
    Why don’t you get a fuckin’ life ,” I yell,
    and shut the fuck up?”
    Well, not really. Only in my imagination.
    No way do I have the guts to say any such thing.
    I’m mild-mannered, I’m meek,
    and at my age I’m comparatively weak.
    I’d be filled with apprehension
    that he might punch me
    into the middle of next week.
    I keep my mouth shut, I hurry on out.

    Back on Route Six,
    heading for the sticks of the sticks,
    I turn onto a lonesome Gross Hill Road.
    After a mile I pull into
    the secluded Gull Haven Lane;
    even Dylan’s Desolation Row,
    where I could buy one of those
    postcards of the hanging”
    sounds like a great place to be.
    There’s certainly
    nothing for the lonely to buy
    on Gull Haven Lane.

    Jodie-Dog is thrilled to see me;
    there’s some wiggles and there’s a prance.
    I rub her haunches, I scratch her ears.
    The cats glance my way and,
    unimpressed, glance askance.
    They have their airs.

    I find my manuscript book,
    the one that Donna gave me in Keene.
    On its cover, in elaborate script, is stamped,
    Discover answers with your pen and a little quiet.”
    I’ve got the quiet down pat,
    and I own a hundred pens.

    I pull a chair up to the table and sit.
    I try to come up with a question
    to see if the book’s cover can answer it;
    I’ve got one: How can anyone give a shit
    about A-Rod and the Yankees
    and a small round white ball?

    My notebook,
    like a poem that doesn’t quite work,
    has nothing to say.
    It's just another fuckin' piece
    of another lousy day.