Sunday, May 14, 2006

This Life Is for Squirrels

My grandfather died on Sunday, May 14. He was 92 years old. Although his advancing dementia made it impossible to have a meaningful conversation with him in his final years, "Chief" did retain two characteristic traits until the very end: his sense of humor, and his appreciation of the female form. I found it comforting to know that, despite everything else he lost to dementia, these finer things prevailed.

Chief was the biggest music lover in my family. He loved jazz, and he loved musical and literary humorists. I am grateful to him for introducing me to the music of Spike Jones, Victor Borge, Erik Satie, and PDQ Bach. I used to try to rattle my grandfather's ears by playing him things like MX-80 Sound, Captain Beefheart, Faust, and Holger Czukay, but he maintained his personal credo that if it moves you, it's good music.

Most of all, I am thankful that Chief introduced me to the comic strip Pogo. There is no cartoonist in history that I would place above Walt Kelly in terms of his artistry, his political satire, the strength of his characters, and his sense of whimsy. There's not a lot of Kelly's work still in print. Have you ever had record collector dreams, where you stumble upon a trove of rare and wonderful discs, some of which may not actually exist? I've had those dreams, as well as dreams about finding all of the many volumes of Pogo cartoons that were published over the decades (and some that never were). Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes) once wrote about having Pogo collector dreams.

A recording called Songs of the Pogo was recently restored and rereleased by Ric Menck from the band Velvet Crush. You can buy it on eMusic. Here's to Chief, or "Wild Bill" as he was known by the folks who took care of him in his last years.
So break out the cigars,
This life is for squirrels;
We're off to the drugstore
To whistle at girls.

Walt Kelly: A Song Not for Now

4 Comments:

At 5/24/2006 1:39 PM , Anonymous piehammer said...

nicely done.

 
At 5/26/2006 5:24 PM , Blogger Blank Crisis said...

sorry about your loss. sounds like he was a cool guy...

 
At 5/30/2006 2:09 PM , Anonymous Paula said...

Jon, my condolences. Chief sounds super-cool, but of course that is not surprising given the coolness of his grand-offspring.

 
At 6/06/2006 11:29 AM , Blogger jon manyjars said...

Thanks for everyone's kind comments.

 

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