Well, folks, it's been a year and a whole month since Doc left us. Oh, Discordia... Not terribly long after I made that valiant attempt to honour his memory and write my last post, I found myself in th' kitchen as evening fell, studying th' label on a bottle of Icehouse beer. Th' gears in my head began to turn slowly as I remembered that once upon a bye there was a review of it for this blog, a long time ago in th' wayback when blogging meant something; back before th' vast number of bloggers jumped ship for that newfangled FaceBonk and Twonker thing that got us thinking that if you can't articulate a thought in 140 characters you're a lousy storyteller. Once upon a bye, my children, I was writing or contributing to about 6 blogs. No wonder I needed a nap.
Social Zymurgy, Th' Culture of Beer started off back when I lived in Florida and had season passes to Sea World of Orlando. They were, oddly enough, owned by th' A-B Budweiser people, and one of th' hidden perks of th' park was that if you made you way allllll th' way back to th' Hospitality Building, you could get free samples of beer in 12 oz cups. You could also go next door and visit th' Budweiser Clydesdales and literally have a Bud with Bud, th' lead horse and th' biggest mammal with hooves I'd ever seen. Call me crazy, but some of my happiest memories of Florida were just milling around, drinking in Bare Knuckle Stout and th' sunshine.
I decided that th' rest of th' known world should know about these rare "craft" beers that th' A-B people were making, and I started this blog and for several months filled it with a whole lotta' nonesuch. In time, it seemed ridiculous that I had so many blogs to maintain, and it also seemed not quite right that everyone I knew was busy hammering away at their blogs, too, everyone EXCEPT Doc. Good Ol' Doc would spend several hours a week readingeveryone's stuff, but never contributed anything himself, other than comments. Eventually it occurred to me that th' natural and Right n' Proper Thing To Do was turn SZ:tCoB over to Doc and let him make it his own. Which he did.
Being a natural-born storyteller, Doc took to blogging th' way otter pups take to a wide Amazonian stream. He originally stuck with th' charter of SZ and would review various new and interesting-looking beers, and then he went off into th' territory we remember him best for: short stories, jokes (some of them just terrible), drawings, and video of him half-reading, half-performing what he'd written.
O'er th' last 13 months since his crossing, I've come to think of people's blogs a bit like houses on a street. Doc's house was suddenly empty, and all th' lights turned out; no Gregorian Chant played from th' phonograph in th' front room anymore (to make a direct reference to th' Doc of John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row", which is how OUR Doc got his moniker). I'd walk by and peek in th' windows (th' equivalent of going to th' main page), and now and then I'd open th' door and stand in th' front room (th' equivalent of logging in as a shared contributor), and I always wondered if there was something MORE I should be doing?? So, there I was, my bottle of Icehouse in hand, looking at th' wintertide scene portrayed on th' label, wondering if perhaps I shouldn't return to blogging myself...?? and as a way of doing so, of maybe going on o'er to Flannery's place and asking if I might not only have a set of keys to Doc's place, but if she would be willing to at least partially deed th' place back to me?? For, you see, I'd noticed a few things. Electronic blog houses don't decay th' way corporeal houses do; there were no fallen ceiling tiles or burst pipes or rat droppings, though there were th' blog equivalent of several dead cockroaches lying about-- random comments from people who were clearly spamming, that I, as a contributor, couldn't delete. But in addition to a kind of dusty, unlived in feel to SZ, I noticed there were unpublished drafts that Doc had left lying around, almost 40 of 'em, that I couldn't access or open up. In th' house analogy, this might be th' equivalent of finding old photo albums or trophies in locked cabinets. Suddenly, I wanted to know what was in those drafts...
Flannery handed e'erything o'er to me with her blessing, and for th' last several weeks I've been wondering what I should do with "my" new digs. What would Doc himself do? What would he want me, as caretaker of SZ:tCoB, to do? I'm loathe to change anything, th' colour, th' layout, th' sidebar, and feel that perhaps this should be preserved more like a kind of museum: we'll keep it th' way it was when Doc was here and this was his space, and we'll come in now and then and keep it tidy and swap stories with visitors who stop by, and maybe open up some of those cabinets and take out those unfinished drafts, open a beer, and read through 'em to see whats to be done. maybe they could be published as stand-alone pieces, or perhaps they might be co-authored, finished in Doc's style by those who knew and love him. Maybe we'll just sit back and review this beer we just opened, too... Maybe...
He woke the next morning and it was still the same universe. It had not been a nightmare, and time had not gone backwards. It had all still happened. ---Ian Banks The Player of Games It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things. ---Lemony Snicket Horseradish These twenty-nine tales…stepped from the wings and began to act out something I must not interrupt or interfere with, but only be a witness to: a life, written in sand with a pointed stick and erased by the next high tide. ---William Maxwell The Old Man at the Railroad Crossing and Other Tales
‘pon this day in history, 1 year ago, sometime in th’ mid-afternoon of
June 12, 2014, Doc Shaw crossed o’er from this life and into the Great
Beyond. Sometimes, when I think about
it, I feel like we’ve all been struggling on for a hundred years, though th’
pain is often as sharp as if I just now found out that he’s gone.
Almost a year ago, I had said “there
was a time when I thought I had it more-or-less altogether, and thought I knew
what to say in moments like these.” More than 300 days later, while I still feel
moved to again stand up and raise a glass to his memory, no words seem to be
quite right, like struggling to put together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces won’t
fit, that you study and pour over, turning them this way and that, attempting
to mash them down into place because, by golly, they LOOK like they should fit,
only to find that when you look at th’ box lid, what you’re holding is part of
some OTHER puzzle that got mysteriously mixed in. Doc, were he here, would be able to make
those pieces fit, I’m sure.
And, of course, he IS here; as Dickens said in his Ghostly Little Book,
“I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.”
I close my eyes and I can see him, those blue-grey eyes of his carefully
studying me, that oh-so slight grin on his face as he sizes me up in these
passing seconds, taking in this moment of silence, th’ gears in th’ well-oiled
machinery of his mind contemplating what to say. In a moment, he’ll speak something short and
pithy in that soft, mid-Ohio accent of his, and like dropping pebbles into
still water, my own laughter will be the ripples that slowly fan out and off to
th’ shores, th’ stillness of sadness broken.
…except, of course, I won’t be able to hear him.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who
live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to
decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
The Fellowship of the Ring
Time has always been an elastic, slippery thing for me, stretching out
well beyond th’ horizon and off past th’ orbits of Jupiter when I look to th’
future, and being as short as my own attention span when looking back, and yet
somehow THIS last year, from June 12th roundabout to June 12th
again, seems to have gone unusually evenly, one day rolling into th’ next, week
into next, month into month. I think in
part because it’s been a year of firsts.
I think perhaps T-H-E saddest word in English is th’ word “last.” One of th’ most crushing things I can read or
think is that word in a sentence, like “this is th’ last time I’ll do this,” or
“that was th’ last time she ever spoke to them.” There’s a horrible finality to those 4
letters, like a heavy wooden door shutting somewhere inside your soul, and you
know no matter how you hammerpound upon its surface, or plead or cry or scream
or dig your heels in and push with your back against it, it’s not opening
again. Whatever it closed upon was the
LAST of that thing, that event, that person, and all you’ve got left is memory.
However, I’ve also come to realize that th’ word “first” can be deeply
laden with sorrows, too. While “baby’s
first Christmas!” can bring a smile to most faces, it also can indicate th’
fingerposts along th’ Road of Life as you crawl away, exhausted, from that
bolted door labeled “last.” For example,
my first trip to Newark, Ohio, was to
meet with Doc’s family and friends for his wake. Then came th’ first summertide gathering ‘round th’ fire without Doc
present. Then came th’ first summer
solstice (also with a fire-cookout sans th’
Good Doc(tor). Then th’ first Fourth of July, then th’ first Halloween (with my first All Soul’s Day mass for the dead,
in which I processed with a votive candle in Doc’s memory to th’ altar rail of
St. Joan of Arc’s).
Then, of course—Oh, Discordia!—th’ first Thanksgiving, th’ first
Christmas, th’ first New Years, th’ first Twelfth Night and th’ first Groundhog’s
Day, all, all, ALL without him. How were
we to go on? How, when many times, to
quote Dumbledore, “you feel as you will bleed to death with the pain of it”??
I’m not sure how we did it (and sometimes for a little while we simply didn’t), but th’ seasons have cycled ‘round
and back on themselves and, like Ouroboros, th’ ancient snake that devours its
own tail, we find ourselves back where we were, facing that great oaken door
with th’ word LAST carved in deep, scarlet letters upon it. Our wounds, so fresh this day a year ago,
have healed, though we can clearly see th’ scars, and we can see that where th’
ground had been raw from th’ slamming of this door, the wind and rain have
smoothed th’ earth over and flowers and green things have taken root. We cannot help ourselves, and of course we
reach out to give th’ knob a turn to see if it may open back up for us, though
of course it won’t; it’s a unbudging as if it were carved from stone. Still, we’d be mad not to at least try,
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but
shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone
to rouse us in a deaf world.
The Problem of Pain
So, Doc, here I am, here we all are.
A year older, hopefully a lil’ bit wiser, and further down our
paths. We probably don’t have any more firsts to endure, though just because
something is th’ second doesn’t mean
it’s going to be at all EASY. I’m not
sure how to end this, as there really IS no end—I think of you almost every day
and feel you gather ‘round my chair and look o’er my shoulder often, so I don’t
think of you as gone so much as just not here. I want you to know how much I miss you, and
how much I value your friendship, and I hope my words have done you
justice. Thank you for being my friend.
::raises beer mug:: to you, Doc!
*I’ll spare you th’ videos and references to Broadway actors portraying
deeply damaged people singing about five
hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes (oh, dear…)
Well, folks, here we are, Feb 2, 2015, and our first Groundhog Day without Doc. As you probably know, G.D. was one of his favourite days, one in which he routinely took off of work to celebrate, and for which there have been more than one gala party and grand event to honour.
May I suggest then, that we raise a glass and we re-read his previous thoughts on th' subject?? Of those posts I found where Doc specifically spoke about this holiday, I find these two that I feel are worthy of reposting:
Doc is the owner and operator of the Western Biological Laboratory. Doc is rather small, deceptively small, for he is wiry and very strong and when passionate anger comes on him he can be very fierce. He wears a beard and his face is half Christ and half satyr and his face tells the truth. It is said that he has helped many a girl out of one trouble and into another. Doc has the hands of a brain surgeon, and a cool warm mind. Doc tips his hat to dogs as he drives by and the dogs look up and smile at him. He can kill anything for need but he could not even hurt a feeling for pleasure. He has one great fear—that of getting his head wet, so that summer or winter he ordinarily wears a rain hat. He will wade in a tide pool up to the chest without feeling damp, but a drop of rain water on his head makes him panicky. Over a period of years Doc dug himself into Cannery Row to an extent not even he suspected. He became the fountain of philosophy and science and art. In the laboratory the girls from Dora’s heard the Plain Songs and Gregorian music for the first time. Lee Chong listened while Li Po was read to him in English. Henri the painter heard for the first time the Book of the Dead and was so moved that he changed his medium. Henri had been painting with glue, iron rust, and colored chicken feathers but he changed and his next four paintings were done entirely with different kinds of nutshells. Doc would listen to any kind of nonsense and change it for you to a kind of wisdom. His mind had no horizon—and his sympathy had no warp. He could talk to children, telling them very profound things so that they understood. He lived in a world of wonders, of excitement. He was concupiscent as a rabbit and gentle as hell. Everyone who knew him was indebted to him. And everyone who thought of him thought next, “I really must do something nice for Doc.”
---John Steinbeck Cannery Row
Friends, th' man is gone. Sometime in th' afternoon of Thursday, 6/12, Doc Shaw took his own life and left us to carry on, somehow.
Doc was a grand raconteur, historian, outdoorsman, storyteller and bullshitter. Just like Steinbeck's real-life good friend, Ed Ricketts, Shawn could take any sort of nonsense you could toss into his lap, roll it 'round in his hands a lil' bit, and change it for you into a kind of wisdom, and I have seen him wave to little children and tip one of his many hats to passing dogs (who, in turn, would give him an energetic wag, big grins on their face). I will miss him terribly.
there was a time when I thought I had it more-or-less altogether, and thought I knew what to say in moments like these. Thought that I could stand up, hold high a glass and spin out gossamer threads of wisdom, words woven together in such a way so as to wrap us all up in a collective blanket of warmth and comfort against th' chill caused by th' sudden exit of a great person. But I suppose I've grown wiser in those intervening years, and have learned that I don't always know what to say, and what's more important, sometimes true wisdom lies in not saying much of anything, but instead sitting back and listening to everyone else. I've tried to think of something brilliant, poetic and witty to say as a final tribute to my friend, something HE might have said, and I'm not sure that I can; I'm feeling rather raw, as if all my nerves have been sandpapered with 220 grit.
Doc has left us a great deal of writing here in Social Zymurgy-- a blog that I am happy to say that I originally created and then turned over to him when I found myself writing 5 blogs and spending more time scribbling nonesuch than in doing real-world work, and took that proverbial literary ball from me and ran straight into th' endzone o'er and o'er again-- and quite a lot of it is genuinely funny. For a spell, he took to making video recordings which are well worth watching, but I don't think I'm tellin' secrets when I say that he was a man who was also full of pain. Pain that, I think, he eventually couldn't stand anymore and took th' only, final cure he could think of. I remember one time, several years ago, he and I got to talking on th' topic of life, death and suicide, and he said that he frequently would wake up in th' AM and ask himself,"is today The Day?", and contemplate his end. June 12th, was his day, then.
We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our
lives so well that death will tremble to take us.
Did Death indeed tremble? It pleases me to think so, to think of that hooded spectre momentarily rubbing his chin with a bony hand, perhaps thinking I'm not so sure 'bout this one, before doing th' job he has been appointed, and releasing Doc's soul up and into the Light, but who are we to know? There are some 7.2 billion folken on earth as I write this, and he's no doubt a busy, busy man, but I'd like to think that there was at least a moment when Death paused and thought, I hate to do this, there's so much more you can do, but I suppose in th' end this wasn't his decision. ...And perhaps that's where th' real trouble lies, but maybe that's a story for another hour...
In the end, there is a great hole in th' world, a giant void that will not soon be filled in, and we shall feel many things about this place where Doc used to be, and some of us shall feel this new vacuum more than others, and that is as it shall be. I feel it most when I think to th' future, and realize that there shall be no more: no more stories told 'round th' fire, no more new flax-golden tales to be spun, no more bursts of laughter, no more comfortable silences to be still in while we sit and think of what was just said. I am glad that he's recorded many of his (and other's) tales for us here and on YouTube. I'm glad he's left us some touchstones of who he was in this life so that we may look back in fondness, and he may live on into th' future.
I grieve for th' holes he's left for his friends and his children, and I wish there was something more I could've done, some little thing that might have turned him away from this decision. But at th' same time, I know he himself wouldn't want us to be sad for long. I think he would want us to know that he is free from pain and likely feels better than he has in a long time, and that, in time, we'll all get th' chance to see him again.
Goodbye, my friend. I love you like my brother. Rest well.
"A man with forty acres plowed and planted Can't send no fourteen year-old boy to no school. The only thing I learned in the years I worked on my daddy's farm Was, "Son, you better get them crops in when it turns cool."
In the magazines, I saw the naked women. I heard about the drinkin' and the bars. If my daddy could've caught me, he'd a-killed me. He said, "You might run, boy, but you ain't gonna get far."
I hit town or you might say that it hit me. Next mornin' there were things I knew more about.
The woman who had taken me in said, "Country boy, you're all right." The same way I turned her on, she turned me out. The first law I broke, right away they got me. I helped them build the country roads for awhile. They fed me two times a day and knocked me down about four. For thirty days I didn't even crack a smile.
I met a nice girl and she said I was her baby. She let me go and would never tell me why. I learned what it means to be somebody's baby. They let you lie in your bed by yourself and cry.
The miles were good but the mileage is turnin' my hair gray. I've met some people that knew me and call me friend. Ain't no sense in wantin' my life to live over. I'd find different ways to make those mistakes again.
So let me say this, I never tried to hurt anybody. Though I guess there's a few that I still couldn't look in the eye. If I've got one wish, I hope it rains at my funeral. For once, I'd like to be the only one dry." Tom T. Hall
I, Shawn Homer Shaw, being of unsound mind and of weak body, do decree and declare this to be my final will and testament. Riley gets the Jeep. Lucy gets my swords and the two acres in the country. Eion gets all of my camping gear and canoe, as well as all my firearms. Elizabeth gets my bowler hat and Scotland gets first pick of my books. Everything else goes to Jenny.
Best of luck to you all, and my Providence protect and keep you all.
The other night Lucy and I are snuggled in bed on the porch. We talk in hushed tones as we listen to the night noises. Riley has already toddled of to bed, as well as the rest of the house, except the cats who keep strange hours.
The crickets sang and I told her how much I had missed being out in the country. "I could never get used to town," I explained, "All the people and the traffic." I told her how uncomfortable it always made me feel living in a land of blacktop and concrete, where you couldn't see the stars. I told her about the birds I watched catching their breakfast of worms from the yard.
They would glide down from the powerlines and look around, peck at the ground once or twice, then look around again, always on the watch for predators. Then, low and behold, in a single peck, they would produce an earthworm of prodigious size that hung from their beak like an enormous walrus mustache. Then the bird would drop the worm as if it didn't really want it.
It would look around a bit more, then return to it's pecking. After repeating this over and over, it would clasp half of the worm in it's beak as if it had it's mustache shorn for church on Sunday, then fly off to enjoy it's meal. A little later, it would return for the other half.
I told her about the wind off the lake that smelled like morning dew and wet leaves. I told her about the biggest, fattest groundhog I have ever seen that the cat had followed through the yard. The cat had no idea what to make of it and the groundhog ignored his sniffing at his tail as if he were no more than a passing bug. I swore to her how the 'hog had been as big as a collie dog and must have been three feet tall as he stood on his haunches to smell the air.
"I've lived in Columbus, Cleveland, and Canton and I never felt at home in any of those places. The people live on top of each other and the only tree you ever see is some decorative bush that looked like it didn't belong. The only bird you ever saw was a pigeon, and even the sparrows looked sad to be there." I sighed.
Lucy snuggled a little closer and adjusted her night-blanky, then we talked about the seasons and what we liked best about them. "I like Spring," she said matter-of-factly, "because I like to hear the rain at night when I fall asleep. I like Fall because of all the golden colors, and Winter because the snow makes everything beautiful."
Neither one of us was crazy about Summer, as it was too hot and the bugs bit, but it was good for camping and swimming.
I pulled her a little closer and said how glad I was to see her. She laid her head on my chest and we breathed in the night air.
Then she sat up and looked at me, "Do you feel that this has brought out your Inner-Hillbilly?"
Yesterday, I ran out of beer and smokes. I have been staying with my buddy Eion while the divorce goes through and Buckeye Lake is a summer bedroom community with lots of bars and not much else. There is however a local shop called The Village Pantry. They have snacks, bread, milk, and canned goods, and an extensive selection of beer.
Perfect for my shopping needs.
I had just gotten out of the shower and dressed in my most casual of clothing when I realized the shortage in the house. The word "Poop" crossed my my mind as I surveyed my stock. I was forced to leave the house for some of the essentials.
So off I went.
The store is two streets over but I chose to drive as I didn't want to spoil the hot shower I just emerged from. I went in and selected my beer of choice and ambled to the counter. The gentleman behind the counter was gray-haired, fiftyish, and wore a black Trilby hat and a loud Hawaiian shirt with pineapples.
"Will that be all?" he asked.
"A pack of lights please," I responded
He rang it up and it was more than I had in my pocket. My wallet was at home in the pants I took off for the shower.
"I need the smokes more than the beer," I said, "just let me have those."
I had six bucks. Four in bills and two in quarters.
"Forget it," he said and shoved the till shut, and handed me my smokes.
I drove home under a black cloud. Here was an honest merchant that I had short-changed. I felt like even more of an Asshole than I already did.
I went home and had a cigarette, and turned around and went back after counting out thirty-eight cents out of my change.
He was surprised to see me again.
"I know they count the drawer at night and I would hate for you to come up short. Here," I said.
I didn't know he was the owner.
He and I stood and talked for a half an hour. He told me how he lived next door and bought the place from an old man twenty years ago.
"I don't mind if you are a little short," he swore,"but please don't steal! I had one of my regulars in the other day and he shoved a ham sandwich down his two-year old's diaper because he didn't have the money to feed the kids."
"I gave him the sandwich," he concluded.
"I'll take that beer now," and whipped out my card, "and I won't shop anywhere else!"
I know that you and Mom are enjoying the great beyond and having lemonade under a shade tree, but I felt obliged to tell you some news.
The child of mine that I named after you has discovered the khaki shirts you left behind that I have saved for 17 years. She swears she will wear nothing else. She loves the color and the tailored fit. She tried on your boots but she hasn't quite grown in to them yet.
You and Mom would be proud, as she has become quite the young lady. Say Hello to George Washington for me.
I am by nature a catalog reader. I can spend endless hours perusing things I will never purchase just for the sake of "looking things over" for when I do decide to buy something. Be it a new pair of shoes, a sweater, or reproduction of a Vietnamese tomahawk, I have a fair idea of my options and prices. One of the catalogs I get comes from an outfit called the Sportsman's Guide and it is chock full of stuff you wouldn't find most anywhere else.
For example, in my most recent edition of the military surplus catalog, I find on page eleven a gently used German military police riot set, complete with jacket, pants, and flak vest, all with polmer shields that slid neatly into shin, elbow, shoulder, neck and groin pockets. Everything is rubberized and the gauntlets have metal reinforcements. As far as this sort of thing goes, it's a nice set if you are looking for that sort of thing.
Then I got to wondering, who would need this sort of thing? I had a cup of coffee and a smoke and I thought it over. In my mind, there was only one sort of person who would want such a thing. An entrepenuer. Someone who courted danger in the vain hopes of making a buck. In short, a rotten fruit saleman.
A guy who would travel to any large gathering of people and set up a small stand at the fringes of the crowd. He would be clad in riot gear and have bushel baskets of rotten fruit, scythes, pitchforks, and torches. He would be the one guy who would be prepared in case a mob broke out. Political rallies of any kind would be his bread and butter.
Of course everything he sold would come with a signed disclaimer absolving him of any blame so that no lawyer had to have his ass, so to speak.
Today I rediscovered a few things. Nothing too breath taking so there is no need of copying and pasteing any of the following. For an extend amount of time in my life I considered the most powerful word in the English language to be YES. Mind you, English is a second language for me as I was raised in a household that only spoke Appalachian and I've found that leaves me at some disadvantage with those who have had a lifelong exposure to it. Nonetheless, I've noticed that the most pointed of questions are YES or NO ones but no one ever answers YES or NO, not unless there is a box to check mark next to them. The answer is always Yeah or Naw, or occasionally Nope.
I rediscovered Yeah when I sat down to watch a Eurymics concert that I recorded off of VH1 about ten years ago. It turns out that Annie Lennox can make Yeah into a whole new word, replete with all the gusto of a punch in the face. I'm sure there are those who would disagree but their opinions will not be presented here.
It turns out that Yeah is the ideal word for me right now.