Remembering Earl


There are nights when only the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

George Carlin

My friend Earl died last night.  I feel the loss as the cold and darkness which comes when a bright light is extinguished.

I met Earl  in 1980.  Some of those who influenced him also became part of my life, others remained unknown.  In the main, the forces which shaped his life and made him the uncommon man he was would never be part of my life.

 He smoldered with a kind of rage he commanded to compel justice for  the underdog.  Appearing humorless to the passerby,Earl had a boundless sense of fun. Capable of enormous personal austerity, Earl was tremendously generous  to those in need, to those with want, in his family, to his friends, to those in his community, to those in his charge, to strangers, even at times, towards his adversaries.  His was not merely a generosity of dollars,but of spirit and heart, of time and thought, of physical labor and anonymous offering.

Through the years, I came to understand that Earl was not an acquired taste. He could be polarizing.  He was one of those rare individuals who remained fully and visibly himself.  One did not need to venture a guess as to Earl’s opinion,he would state his beliefs honestly and openly.  He despised hypocrisy. As such,he had his detractors; there were many who expected a more “diplomatic” man. But,  Earl was a flagrant progressive democrat in those long gone days when it was fashionable until the last moments of his consciousness, and proudly so.He simply could not be anything else.  Earl was authentic.  He lived in accord with his principles while living well.

In my life, Earl was like an older brother or watchful cousin, certainly more than a friend.  When we met, his life was settled and established, he with a daughter not much younger than myself.  Where his domain was neat, organized, structured, well regulated, predictable, mine must have appeared the opposite.  Yet, he took a chance  and  engaged me professionally, and then, more valuable, allowed me entry to his life.  Tonight, my heart is full of memories of dinners, and picnics,of Christmas celebrations.  I see Earl holding my babies with especial tenderness. I recall beaches, boats, fishing tackle and lengthy talks over cool drinks on hot summer nights.I remember weddings and parties and Earl cracking jokes on the dance floor, “Arthur Murray” he would tell me as he seemed to float past me on a cloud of air. I see his confused  concern that my “vegetarian ” dinner is tasty enough as everyone else dives into their prime rib.  I hear him telling me, “Good job Ma-tricia.” I miss him again and already and always.

Earl stands apart in my life with those few, exceptional and principled men  who distinguished themselves in all they did not least because they assiduously dedicated themselves to the welfare of their families: the love of wife and children was the polestar for every act.

I feel tremendously sad that Earl is lost to me. I sorrow for my remaining friends, his wife and children to whom his life was well and truly devoted.

It is not consolation for the loss but it is celebration of the life to observe that Earl’s great gift was living well. His was a life well lived in service to others,stranger and beloved, with humor, intelligence, emotion and grace through each phase of life.

Honoring his gift, Earl has left us a blueprint for living to which I hope we return.


The disembodied voice proclaims the virtue of another star who discarded life like one more piece of outdated bling, not sparkling with sufficient dazzle when moonlight reached the designated spot at the appointed time in the summer sky.  

The car chugs through that part of town still smelling of the bacon fried on the greasy grill this morning, holding tight to the beer and vomit chucked upon the stairs last night or was it possibly the night before?

Its crowded corridors echo the voice of that man who professed cleansing light into these streets .

(did he promise? or did we  believe? did he assure?  or did we just imagine?)

From his unholy pulpit, without audacity, he blesses now –

not the life of the teen shot down by the law-man with a gun,

but the  suicide ringed with riches but living with despair.

And in these sweltering houses, in the thermal shops, on these misty corners, the grocer and the barman and the mother and the unemployed:

they all listen, and they are puzzled – as though he now speaks a foreign tongue.

The unarmed teen disobeyed police orders.  Ten bullets showered round him as he died on the street in mid america in light of day!

The suicide broke the same laws for which the grocer’s son and the barman’s brothers and many  husbands endured dark prisons and forfeited paths to riches the star has thrown away.

To live with darkness, to live with sorrow, to live with challenge.  Life exacts authenticity, endurance.

That we can embrace each light, remaining buoyant until each evening is mere fiction dressed up,  displayed  and peddled  as  precious precept: a dream, a mantra, a sharpster’s slogan until it collapses – sodden, sad, shaming, like the suicide or  broken promise of champions bygone.

Missing You

Sometimes, when deer and rabbit, raccoon and woodchuck recede within the generous mantilla of summer, and warbler and cicada celebrate the close of another day, the light that falls from that searing scarlet scalds my heart with the sadness of missing you, who first presented this array.

Scorch of fire as puckered lips graze the coffin; seething tears trickling onto steel; staggering, as strains of “Danny Boy” levitate above you (a tune you did not call an Irish air).

In the end, too true:  arid canon of cult, not creed, coheres the torpid keeners corroding your wonder.

Eyes reach no focus, colors run together; the  stranger  with fraternal blood, too cold, or suffocated in the sun,  speaks. That Holy Man,  the turnkey, postures with your offspring jailers; swelter, perspire, steadfast mien of heartbreak, every one.

The burned flesh on my heart, throbs and blisters. Pain pulsates with each steady beat. We love, we learn, we are often less than worthy.  The arabesque we make, so rarely fine.

In the sun soaked stillness of a summer evening, so many poses, so many words remain to speak.     2013-10-05 07.19.58