Monday, June 16, 2014


Shawn "Doc" Shaw
November 1, 1971 --to-- June 12, 2014

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.

Oh, Discordia.

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.

you can find his obit and Guest Book HERE

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.

---Charles Bukowski

 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.


  1. I am saddened and shocked beyond knowing what to say. I am so very, deeply sorry.


  2. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul. So sorry to hear the news.

  3. I am so terribly sorry. May you be in peace, Doc.

  4. I'm so sorry to hear this. My thoughts are with you, Jenny.

  5. I'm really sorry and sad to read this. My love to his family.


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