I’d known he was sick. There was the operation no one expected him to survive; he survived it. Came home and went biking. Typical. When you met him you didn’t get the picture of a Type A, one of those relentless restless types striding from meeting to meeting barking commands. About as far from Don Draper as an ad man gets, on the surface. And by “ad man” I mean he founded an agency that’s one of the region’s best and most successful.

I’d get a text from a mutual friend: he’s playing a concert tonight. You stare at that and think, well, it’s got to be going okay, right? I had hopes it work work, he’d last, the kids would get a few more years. But the phone buzzed Friday morning with the news he was at home in hospice care. I put on the shirt we all got after his album release party and was prepared to go up to the water tower to take a picture and send it to him. He loved the water tower. Grew up around it. Even though he moved to the western lakes he was always that Minneapolis kid who snuck off to the hill with friends - before he ran away to New Orleans at 14 to become a jazz musician, but that’s another story.

But there was no point to sending the picture because he was out. Not gone. Out.

Wore the shirt all day. When my daughter changed to her nightshirt at day’s end she chose her version of the shirt from the drawer. I hadn’t told her. She remembered him from the trip to the house where he gave the kids innertube rides behind his powerboat in the waning hours of the last week of summer. He'd gun it and turn and they'd hit the wake and fly in the air, screaming with delight, slapping back on the water. Hold on. Hold on, it gets better.

One of those guys who trots down the steps to the garage with the powerboat, yes. One of those guys whose love for music coincides with the ability to afford really nice instruments and great studio producers. One of those guys with a wonderful house. All the trappings of well-earned success. I don’t think it changed who he was in the slightest degree. Same guy with the wide, slightly-startled eyes and half-smile of perpetual amazement at life, joy and gratitude at the big wild ride, what he’d learned and done and seen and the family who filled his home and heart.

I didn’t know him long enough. Feel like I lost a brother I never knew who popped up after thirty years riding the rails.



And so.

I'll post an interview I did with him a while ago at the Work Blog today.



Enough with the crime, the noir, the venetian blinds, the barking roscoes, and the rest of the stuff I usually watch on a Friday night while laying everything out. Let us have some fun.

I tweeted out “watching the movie where the Birdman of Alcatraz busts Santa Claus for counterfeiting,” and within a few minutes got a message from Terry Teachout asking if I’d read the original New Yorker story on which it was based.

That’s a man who knows his movies. I clicked on the link, bought the Kindle edition, and had it pop up on all my devices in a minute. What a world. Anyway:



No idea what it is, but it sets a time, an era, doesn’t it? Surrealism is a sign you are interested in serious new trends in art, and it also gives the regular joe who’s standing there rocking back and forth on his heels something to look at with amusement. That’s art, you say. Huh.

Inadvertent documentary:



No idea where it is. It’s a set with rear-projection, I think, but they match the angles nicely. Again, something we’ve lost: a store set down below grade. I kept looking at the names on the buildings across the street, thinking that each has a hundred stories lost for good - and never mind the people who moved in and out of the offices, or had a small business upstairs; even the big proud names on the front of the buildings are probably unrecorded, except for a line in a tax book in a basement somewhere. Just seeing a few seconds of the ordinary world almost overwhelms you with the amount of data implied.

Story: Burt is trying to find a counterfeiter who only does one dollar bills. Amateurish work, but he’s been at it for years. His partner: Millard Mitchell, the guy who was in a B&W world a few weeks ago, the fellow I always remember as the studio boss in “Singin’ in the Rain,” and can’t help but imagine as Art Carney’s uncle. I love that guy.




They stake out an Automat. Why? Because the counterfeiter always hits a particular neighborhood, and probably changes his dollars for coins.



A job that no longer exists. The woman who sits at the counter exchanging bills for coins so people can get a piece of pie or a sandwich out of the slot. Never thought about that as a job, did you? She's not a cashier, but a human change machine.



Jean Bane, by the way. She had three roles. Uncredited in each. Floated out of the records and left no other trace.

A bygone entertainment park:



Steeplechase Park, where Burt and his best girl and her dear old sweet neighbor go for a day. Of course, he’s Edmund Gwenn, and hence loveable and harmless, so you’re rooting for him to come out okay. Alas:



THE LAW comes down, and the court scenes are filmed with this cool, distant reserve that make feel the weight of the government come down on the old man. (The judge was played by an actor with the marvelous name of Minor Watson.)

Except when the sentences and the obligatory happy ending unfurl, the camera is straight-on. It’s little things like that you don’t notice.




Matchbooks today; Work blog around 12:30 and Tumblr as well. See you around.





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