The (Un)Luckiest Guy on the Planet

24 Aug

I am indebted for the following to Sam Kean’s book THE VIOLINIST’S THUMB, an examination of DNA.

An August day in Japan. 1945. Mr. Yamaguchi, an engineer working for Mitsubishi, realizes he has forgotten something he needs for the office. So he heads home to retrieve it. On his way back he sees a plane high in the sky and a speck falling from it. He senses it is a bomb and drops to the ground. Seconds later the Atomic Age goes public. Amazingly Mr. Yamaguchi survives though his forearms are blistered where he has rolled up his sleeves. And he has suffered other damage, much of which has not manifested itself yet. He manages to get some minimal treatment at a clinic. But his chief concern is to leave Hiroshima and get to his home city to see if his wife is okay.

He tries to get to the train station across the river but the bridges are down. He makes his way over corpses and twisted girders and – again amazingly – finds a train which is going in the right direction. His wife, on seeing him, thinks he might be a ghost. But he convinces her it is really him. He spends the day resting up but the next day he reports to the main Mitsubishi office. He recounts to a supervisor what has happened in Hiroshima. He is scoffed at and disbelieved.

“You’re an engineer,” the supervisor says. “You know what you are describing is not physically possible.” Just at that moment the world starts to go white with a dazzling light. And Yamaguchi is first to the floor. Practise makes perfect. But he has taken even more damage. His hair falls out. He erupts in boils. We won’t catalog the rest. But think of what the unseen radiation is doing to him.

Yamaguchi is the only man officially recognized by the Japanese Government as having suffered and survived the double blast of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It takes years for him to recover properly. He and his wife take the risk of having two daughters, both of whom live fairly lengthy lives. And Yamaguchi? He dies at the age of 93 in the year 2010, surviving sixty five years of post atomic life. I wonder if Ripley ever got to hear about him.

On a different note – this blog will have to halt for the next month, it looks like. I have family affairs to attend to in the old country. And I won’t have much access to the internet. So, temporarily, things must pend (is that allowable?) until I get back and normal service renews. I hope you might care to browse amongst the archives of back posts….

Advertisements

Act Of Kindness

20 Jul

At my boarding school we had a Cadet Corps. Each Wednesday afternoon was devoted to military activities, be it firing World War I vintage Lee Enfield .303 rifles at targets or marching about on parade ground manoeuvres. There was one further obligation. At some point you had to give up a week of school vacation to go off and take part in martial exercizes staged in a larger arena than the school grounds.

In my case I was bid report during the Easter holidays to Bridge of Orchy in Scotland in order to march about the tawny hills with a 30 pound pack on my back. I was fifteen. The rail tickets were bought. I was given some money for emergencies and went off happily to spend some days at a schoolfriend’s house before the due date. We went to the movies and browsed in record shops. I recall that we saw a double bill that impressed us mightily. THE SERVANT and (even more) BILLY LIAR. Who would not run off with Julie Christie?

I spent money without calculation. Came the day when I was put on the train north and realized quicky that I had less than ten shillings to my name. By the time I reached Glasgow, the amount was nearer five shillings. It was April and there was snow in the streets. Glasgow had two main train stations in those days and I had to walk from one to the other to get a train on to Bridge of Orchy. It turned out that the last train had gone. And the next one would not leave till five thirty in the morning. I thought of the YMCA but decided to buy a cup of hot tomato soup first. That meant I had less than five shillings in my pocket. I walked to the YMCA to discover the price of shelter for a night was five shillings. If only I had foresworn that cup of soup.

I was at a loss now. I walked back to the train station. My duffle bag was starting to feel heavy. It was cold and the damp of the snow was working its way into my shoes. It was about seven o’clock. Glasgow seemed a bleak harsh place and I had to find some shelter for the next ten hours. I was feeling sorry for myself.

Back at the train station I used the latrines. In those days it was common to have a latrine keeper who had his own little snug room at the end which commanded a view of the facilities. I was merely killing time. I went out onto the platform and browsed the racks at the magazine stand. I wandered around the station, exploring. Time was hanging heavy. I went back into the latrines again.

This time the attendant, sensing something, beckoned me. In a strong Gorbals accent he said, “What’s up with ye, laddie?”

I explained shamefacedly. I wasn’t looking for anything. I was just embarrassed at how stupid I had been.

His eyes narrowed. He brought me into his snug little room with a couple of chairs, a tea kettle and a heater. He found a sheet of paper and scribbled on it. He showed it to me.

“See,” he said. “This is to my wife. Just tell her Jock sent ye. She’ll put ye to bed and wake ye with a cooked breakfast and send ye back here in plenty of time to catch the 5.30 to Bridge of Orchy.”

I was momentarily speechless, overwhelmed. I lost my voice at his generosity but I found it again as he was starting to give me directions to his house.

“I couldn’t,” I said. “I just couldn’t put you and her to that trouble.”

We argued it. He was a determined man. But he could see I wasn’t going to accept the offer. So long as I knew the offer was absolutely genuine, he was satisfied.

“Well,  you’re welcome to a chair and a cup of tea and spend the night here,” he said. And we drank tea and talked through the night. He had been on a ship sunk in the Java Sea by the Japanese. And my grandfather had been captured on Java at around the same time. It was the easiest night’s conversation I had ever been a part of. We talked of cabbages and kings, punctuated by fresh cups of tea. “It’s nae ower sweet for ye, laddie?”, he asked me, ever solicitous. We ate biscuits.

The time came. He pointed me towards the right platform. We shook hands. I got on the train. I have never forgotten him or that night of shelter and talk. Somewhere I still have the scrap of paper he wrote out for me to show his wife. His name was Jock McGuigan.

St. Martin And Others

10 Jun

Making lists is a hazardous business. But as one bookie remarked – it’s difference of opinion that makes horses race. So a few people on reading my top ten UK living authors list have seen fit to murmur querulously “Wait just a minute. What about -?”

Three names that have been put forward are Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan – and Martin Amis. Okay, here’s my take. With the first writer I have a confession. I hear great things of her two Tudor novels. There was an impressive canonization of her skill in The New Yorker. But I have to admit that I haven’t read her. My feeble excuse, familiar to every historian is the sheepish one – “It’s not my period.” I exit the room writhing under the jeering contumely hurled at me.

Ian McEwan. I think Mac is a wonder. A writer of great gifts. His ability to put you there, “make you see” is almost unrivaled among his contemporaries. Take SATURDAY. I’m not a surgeon. But I play squash and I have been in car jams off the Tottenham Court Road. When he describes the situation and the sensation, I am totally under his spell. But I know what’s coming. It’s been there since the beginning of his published career. The first thing I ever read of his was a short story in Time Out. It was about an acting class. The exercise was miming the sex act. And what happens of course is that the main character crosses the “line” and stops acting, causing squeals of disgust as he gets “real.” That has been the template of pretty much everything of his that I have read. At the end there is always the huge melodramatic and ironic twist to the tale. Clever. Casting into doubt what you have read before. His latest SWEET TOOTH has living characters, a believable world, a gripping story. And if you have read him before, you know it’s always going to come down to that ‘something nasty in the woodshed.’  ATONEMENT or AMSTERDAM, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to have you rapt and then it’s all going to implode. He’s very very good and then he turns into a mandarin.

Martin Amis. Oh, dear – this be complicated. Because judgement spills off the page with this one. Let me tell you my first non literary impression of Martin Amis. It was a TV chat show. I think Michael Aspel was the host. His guests were David Niven who had just published either THE MOON’S A BALLOON or its sequel BRING ON THE EMPTY HORSES and Martin Amis who had published THE RACHEL PAPERS at an alarmingly young age. Aspel spoke of his enjoyment of Niven’s book and asked Amis what he thought of it. Amis said ponderously that as a work produced by someone who was not a real writer, it was quite entertaining. It was the classic case of the little boy invited to sit at the dinner table with the grownups who then made a large mess. Niven and Aspel glanced at each other and then Niven charmingly heaped coals of fire on the hapless Martin’s head. He said how grateful he was for such a positive verdict (I am paraphrasing – it was a long time ago) from a professional and he would be delighted if Martin could deign to give him any tips so he might improve. Amis, realizing how stupid and pretentious he had been, was mumbling and back tracking and squirming. A graceless child being handled with the utmost consideration by his elders. I have never forgotten it. And it has no doubt coloured my view of Amis as a writer.

To be frank, I have always been baffled by his reputation. I have not read all his books. But I think that MONEY, THE INFORMATION, THE PREGNANT WIDOW and a couple of others should provide a fair test. His characters inhabit dyspeptic worlds, depicted in wrought prose and strenuous new coinages that are not likely to become part of the common idiom. His new word for a flat was “a sock” in MONEY. People went into panegyrics, reviewing these turns of phrase. But that’s okay. I get impatient with the mandarins at times. But that just reflects on my particular tastes.

But let us take another book, a collection of Amis’s essays. THE WAR ON CLICHE (a cliched phrase in itself). Amis leading the Crusade, setting the world to rights. Let us browse.

A review of Thomas Harris’s HANNIBAL, the follow up to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Amis takes Harris apart, sneers loftily at his grammatical solecisms. In the self same piece he misuses “swoon” as a transitive verb. Muttering some cliche like “glass houses” we move on.

A piece on Lowry in which Amis, that modern master of English prose comes up with the following phrases that genuinely cause me to shudder. “Liquescent shards.” Ugh. When was the last time you encountered a pottery shard that was dissolving in your hand? And then he talks of Lowry’s prose as having a “tremulous crystalline beauty”.  I shiver like a dog.

Like the proverbial Hun, in these essays, Amis is either at  your throat or at your feet. By that I mean that, depending on the subject at  hand, he deploys one of two approaches. If he is knowledgeable on the matter, he writes from a lofty patronizing point of view. If he is clearly outgunned by the author’s expertise and qualifications, Amis takes the low approach. The cap tipping, mock forelock tugging of his “common man” pose. “Cor, blimey, guv’nor, give us a chance to catch our breath. The air’s a bit rarefied up here.” And he slides away with a wisecrack or two.

Let me close with a review of a study of Nabokov, one of Amis’s idols. Amis parades his own insight into Vlad the butterfly impaler and then finishes off his review of a book that he grudgingly can find little fault in with the completely gratuitous dismissal  (I paraphrase again) – “Despite the author’s best efforts, the book is surprisingly seldom very boring.”

That’s the Martin Amis I saw all those years ago and recognize still.

Dilemma

29 May

This subject has been on my mind for a considerable amount of time since I have a friend who has published a novel on the whole business of pedophilia and cover up in the Roman Catholic Church. Over the last decade, I have been a receptive witness to his struggles with the book, publishers et al.

I come from a certain point of view on the subject. I went to an Irish Catholic prep school (a boarding school for boys aged between 8 and 13) and took my turn as an altar boy at Mass and Benediction. I knew my catechism and Latin responses by heart. It was a sheltered and innocent place. I at the age of 10 was unaware of any sexual currents stirring. If any of us dared to use a forbidden word like “fuck’, the others would glance up at the sky, expecting instant retribution in the form of a lightning bolt.

One day we were milling about on the playing field about to start a game of rugby. The P.E. teacher in charge of sports had a volunteer referee to help him as there were to be two games going on at the same time. The volunteer was an alumnus of the school and familiar to us all. His name was Andrew. A group of us were standing in a huddle by the goalposts, trying to warm up. Andrew was standing on his own, hands on hips, some yards off. One of the boys giggled and nudged me. I turned to look as did the others. The snickering spread amongst us as we could see that Andrew was in an awkward situation. His rugby shorts did nothing to conceal the fact that he was sporting a large erection as blatant as the bowsprit of a sailing ship.

Andrew’s face was red and sweaty with embarrassment. He turned his face to us and gave us a sickly grin. The giggles spread. There was nothing he could do. If he crouched down to conceal it, the laughter would have been immense. Here is the thing. I do not believe it occurred to even one of us that we might have been the cause of his unfortunate display. We were at an age where we did not understand our own erections. They came from some unfocussed stirrings. A trigger for me was thinking of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle in some lurid comic book. But we were still some way from puberty.

So, as I said, we might have laughed about the incident after in the changing room. But we never made the connection. Andrew continued to show up at weekends and help out with the games. One half holiday, he asked me if I would care for a ride on the back of his motorbike. We took a spin up to Powerscourt, an estate that was not far off. Nothing happened. We looked at the view. He told me some of the history of the building. He finished his cigarette and we rode back to the school. And that was that.

Obviously, in retrospeect, my understanding of things changed. But it was not something I thought of much until my friend’s novel IN GOD’S HOUSE came out last year and brought such matters to the forefront of my mind again. But the last beat in the tale happened a little while back, just reached out of the past.

I got emailed by an alumnus of my prep school who had taken on the task of correcting the records of the alumni directory. He asked his correspondents to go through the attached files and correct or supplement the information. I did what I could. And then I hunted for Andrew, wanting to know what had happened to him. I found him. He was now Brother Ambrose teaching and living in a Catholic boarding school.

That rugby game was over half a century ago. There is nothing to be done. But I can’t help but wonder what may have happened over these last 50 years.

In The Middle Of A Rhapsody

3 Apr

It must be spring being sprung and the grass being riz. But I am reliving a moment of being immersed in the beating heart of Nature made palpable. So be warned, the prose might get purple and alliteration run riot.

When? The tail of a green winter in Los Angeles as March was about to fall back before April.

Where? A magic oasis known to few. A hilly deserted 9 hole par 3 golf course buried at the end of a track in the grounds of the VA. For golfers it was the best kept secret in town. An open green sanctuary. For 8 bucks you could play all day as much as you wanted. You could skip holes, play three balls, do whatever. And as often as not you would be the only person on the course. When you crossed with another golfer, you shared a conspiratorial smile that said basically “Isn’t this absolutely unreal? Don’t tell a fucking soul.”

What? The migration of the Monarch butterflies heading up the West Coast from Mexico on their way to roost in the trees of Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula. And I had walked into the thick of it.

Fritillary flights, airy armies, battalions of butterflies storming from the south and driving north in a mad ecstasy of living. I played to have an excuse for being part of it. Standing and gawking was not enough. They came in flotillas and squadrons, in wavering horizontal columns fluttering over the course. Little black and orange scraps tacking against the light breeze. In the distance they seemed like pointillist gold dots out of a painting that Seurat never got around to.  The front was maybe a hundred yards wide. In height, the wave came from knee high above the grass to a couple yards above my upstretched hand, holding a seven iron.

From being invisible among the trees of the Japanese Gardens bordering the course, they appeared like a host. They were checked momentarily by the tall wire fence. Some chose to squeeze directly through the wire netting. Others simply flew up and over and settled dropping  back down to their preferred or assigned cruising height. It appeared in the watching of them that they were flying in pairs, seemingly yoked to each other by an elastic thread.

They were so many, so thick in the air that they confused your depth perception. And they settled on your hands as you reached to pick the ball up out of the cup. An occasional dragon fly held station above the aerial river. One got drunk on it. The hell with Wordsworth. He can keep his daffodils.

I came back the following day. But the army had passed on. I never saw them in such force again. And I tried. I suppose I wouldn’t have felt the same if it had been a storm of locusts. But it was magic time.

The Modern Cowboy

9 Mar

Riding the range isn’t what it used to be. Fixing the barbed wire fencing, herding the cattle on horseback to fresh pastures and all those lariat moves. None of it, apparently, is of much use any more. Some time back I was reading a book about a rough country area in New Mexico where the largest landowner is Ted Turner. It was something of an eye opener.

They don’t need to keep repairing those miles of ‘bobwire’. They don’t need those fences at all now. The cattle have computer chips planted under the skin. Not only can the computer cowboy sitting in his office keep track of each individual beast. He can also set the electronic perimeter for the herd. He can move the goal posts when he wants to and make all the cattle move in any direction he desires. If on the ground inspection is required, the ability to fly a helicopter is more valuable than knowing how to fork a horse.

Where they run both cattle and sheep on the same grazing land, the technology now is so sophisticated, they can make the cattle surround the flock of sheep to protect them from coyotes and other predators. Such a combined group of animals is called – wait for it – a ‘flerd’.

Ted Turner owns more land than the state of Delaware and is, I believe, the largest landowner in the country. Much of this land is devoted to raising the American bison as a commercial alternative to normal cattle. In grazing terms, they are better for the environment and their meat is leaner. They have even crossed the two species to come up with the ‘beefalo’. But there is apparently a deeper dream behind the building of Turner’s Western empire. His ambition, fanciful as it may be, is to ride from Mexico to Canada entirely on his own land. I doubt that he is likely to succeed. But if he does, don’t you think that it will be a lonely journey? Probably not another horseman in sight along the trail. Maybe a drone or two.

When Memories Sting

20 Feb

It’s usually about something you forgot. Often, it’s trivial in the big scheme of things. But recall makes you writhe with mortification and self dislike even decades later. Let me tell you one of mine.

When one was short of cash for the pub in my university days, there was always the fallback position of drinking in the Buttery, the college’s own bar, where the prices were cheaper and, best of all, you could sign the tab and leave your long suffering parents with the bill.

The barman was a great guy, John. Always welcoming. Somewhere in my second term, I developed a temporary fixation on bourbon as my idea of a cool drink. And the coolest bourbon, presumably, was Jack Daniels. I badgered John to stock some. He shook his head and told me that this happened often. Some undergraduate would conceive a passion for some exotic liquor and persuade John to buy a crate. And then nobody would drink the stuff after the first celebratory try. He had been stung too many times, John said. And he did not have the recourse of returning the crate to the vendor.

But I wasn’t like that, I insisted. John would smile and shake his head as he listened. It became a ritual game. I did not crack his resolve that term nor in the third term. During the summer vacation I decided for various reasons that I did not want to spend a further two years at university. I wrote the Warden of my college a letter to inform him that I was quitting university. By the next mail I had a summons to an interview. I took the train, entered the chambers of majesty and was admitted to the presence. The Warden was highly indignant with me. He thought me somewhat presumptuous in declaring my dismissal of the university. If there was any dismissal going on, it would be of me by the university and not the other way around. He categorically refused to accept my resignation but considered that I was overwrought and in a state of temporary malaise. Therefore, he announced, I was to consider myself on an indefinite sabbatical. When I felt ready to resume my studies, all I had to do was inform him. I don’t know what the statute of limitations would be now re his decree. But there are the odd moments when the thought of becoming once again an undergraduate seems quite attractive. Anyway, it was decent of him and we parted on cordial terms. I had my freedom and a safety net.

The college was deserted but I thought I would grab a quick and much needed drink before taking the train back to London. I went down to see if by any chance the Buttery was open. John was there doing paper work on the bar. He raised his head and beamed on seeing me.

“I’ve got a surprise for you, mate.”

In an instant my heart sank. Somehow I knew. I pinned an enquiring smile on my face as he turned and reached behind him for that bottle of Jack Daniels. He opened it and poured two generous shots.

“You wore me down. I got in a crate.” He pushed one glass over to me and raised his own in a toast. “This one’s on the house.”

I picked up my glass with what must have been a sickly grin and drank it down. I didn’t have the guts or the decency to confess that I would not be back in September or, indeed, any time. We chatted and laughed as I cringed inside. I still cringe all these years later when I think of it. And I can’t stand the taste of bourbon now.

Tough Dentistry

6 Feb

Up the Owens valley in California there is a small town called Independence. The U.S. Cavalry had a fort there. One of the few encounters where the Indian tribes came off best – for a time. A fair amount of activity has happened in this valley lying between the Eastern Sierra range and the smaller Inyo range to the east. Most of the historical evidence of ranchers, miners, Indians, the Japanese internment camp of Manzanar and so on is collected in a two room museum in Independence. Within a circle of a hundred miles are to be found the oldest living things on the planet (bristle cone pines), the largest living things (giant redwoods), the lowest point in the continental United States (Badwater in Death Valley) and the highest (Mount Whitney).

There was a time I regularly drove that route on 395 both for work reasons and pleasure. And I would make a point of stopping at the Museum and reacquainting myself with the memorabilia. There was (and is) one case I would always make a point of viewing. A pair of dentures.

They were not ordinary dentures. They were remarkable. There is an explanatory placard that tells their story. There was some gold to be found in the Inyo range. Nothing as rich as the deposits in the Western foothills of the Sierras – but enough for a handful of prospectors to scratch out a living. The weather can be harsh in winter. And upon occasion a prospector, faced with a snow blocked trail would have to tough it out till spring up there in the hills.

One such prospector, having lost nearly all his teeth, was in desperate straits. He could trap rabbits for food but he could not break down the meat with his gums.

What he did was this- he killed a coyote and hacked out the teeth. He made a rough mould and melted old tooth brush handles. And he rammed the hot mould on to his gums, both upper and lower. With these home made dentures he survived until the snows melted and he could get down to Independence. On hearing the story the town dentist offered to make him a proper pair in return for the coyote teeth. And they sit there in the Museum to this day. What is more and more remarkable to me every time I view them is how astonishingly professional they look. And they provide a reality check to those fantasies of going back in time to those days before anaesthetics and antibiotics. If you’re ever driving on 395, take half an hour to visit. Turn on the street that leads west from the County Courthouse. It’s just 3 blocks.

A Tornado of Birds

7 Jan

When visitors come to Portland, the sights they want to see are the Rose Gardens, Voodoo Doughnuts and on a clear day Mount Hood. It’s a much lesser known spectacle that captivates me. During the month of September, the city is visited by an armada of Vaux swifts that use Portland as a way station on their long migration south to Venezuela. By day they range freely abroad eating bugs on the wing, fattening themselves with fuel.

But an hour before sunset something curious starts to happen. The city is divided into quadrants by a main east west thoroughfare, Burnside – and the north south flowing Willamette river. In the North West quadrant there is an elementary school Chapman which has a vast lawn attached. And during this month and at this time of day, the place is covered with picnic blankets and fold up lawn chairs. Masses of people seated on the grass and looking up into the sky. The central focus of attention is the great chimney that rears up from the school building. In a kind of aerial ballet the birds wing back from all across the city and start to circle the chimney. They seem to flock and separate according to an invisible current, wavering in and out of definition, hardening into the shape of a dark twister and then dissolving again.

Gradually more and more birds arrive from every point of the compass. And then some dip and dart into the chimney and fly out again. As the mass thickens, their purpose becomes firmer and they pour down into the chimney like water down a plughole. On and on in numbers that defy belief. It is reckoned that up to forty thousand swifts can roost in the chimney. The performance builds to a careful climax with the birds diving down in a solid wave. Until there are only a handful left in the evening sky. These stragglers plunge into the chimney but, seemingly unable to find space, dart out again. Until finally they too find their perch. A last solitary swift does a quick victory lap as a sign off flourish and disappears to the clapping applause of hundreds of spectators. It is an entrancing hour that seems like a symphony of nature – music made visual.

Some years back, the swifts lingered until well into October. The school did not wish to turn on the heating for fear of roasting the birds. All the children were asked to come to school in their warmest clothes and they willingly toughed it out for the sake of the swifts. A collection was taken up to install a gas heating system. And the chimney now belongs solely to the birds. It’s that kind of city.

Last Supper

20 Dec

(NOTE – I wrote the following piece the morning after the event. That was a couple of months ago. I shared it by email with a few friends. It struck me that it belonged here.)

I had a strange experience this week. On Wednesday night I had dinner seated next to a man who of his own choice planned not to be alive twenty four hours later. It was in the full sense of the phrase – a last supper.
Let me back up a little. In our neighbourhood here in Portland there is an Italian restaurant where it is customary for various regulars to dine together at the big table by the front window. The cast comes from a revolving pool of local characters. There is no booking. It’s first come, first to get a seat. A few come every week. Some like us turn up every couple of weeks. Others drop in every month or so. The table holds ten. But we are flexible and the owner easy going. So we jam in together as necessary. I believe the record seating is seventeen.
A couple of months ago one of our number (I’ll call him Tim since I don’t know that I have the right to name him) learned from his doctors that he had esophagal cancer which had reached his liver. Under the most intense program of treatment, a total battery of radio and chemo, they told him he might last a year.
Tim went home to think about it. He let it be known what had happened. He turned up as usual for dinner on Wednesdays. And he made his decision. Oregon has a euthanasia/right to die law on its books. If you are terminally ill, you can request what is termed ‘death with dignity’. Two separate doctors have to be consulted. And you have to ask for this exit card from life two times – a week apart.
Tim had no real family that he cared about. He settled his affairs. He left his property to a neighbouring woman who had always been close to him. She took his cat as well. Word was passed around that Wednesday would be Tim’s last night. I did not know until we got to the restaurant. This could easily have been a week we skipped. As it happened, when Tim came in, there was an empty chair next to me and he took it. Nothing was off limits. He answered every question put to him. He laughed, he responded to jokes. He did not posture. He was looking at it straight on. He behaved with serious class. He talked the details of the procedure for those that wanted to know. He hugged everybody as they left. We were among the early departures, we did not wish to linger.
Now it is an interesting fact that while a considerable number of people have applied for and been granted permission for the procedure, most people want to know they have the out in hand but do not play the card. Since I have not heard otherwise, I assume he slipped away about 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon on his living room couch as he told me he planned to do.
I held my father’s hand as he died. That was an intense and complicated scene. But it seemed of a different order of things than what passed with Tim. I think it must be the fact of the arbitrary time limit. You have ten hours. Now you have three. And now only minutes. The decision when – in your hands.

Postscript: A mutual friend was with Tim when he died. A couple of details that she described stay with me. One – in the morning Tim had walked to the pharmacy himself and got his lethal prescription filled.Two – Tim was an out there flamer. And when the undertakers came, they asked if they should remove Tim’s gold earring studs. Then they came on a further issue. Tim’s nipple rings. Here they were unsuccessful. So rather than mutilate the flesh, they let them remain to be cremated.