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Chasing The American Dream

July 24, 2005


I hate that blood rush feeling you get when you read about the death of someone you related to at some point in your life. A death in the family or the loss of a close friend is almost indescribable. I’ve had my share of those, and they’re the worst. But even the celebrity-type deaths leave me feeling empty knowing that a part of what I grew up with is no longer with me.

This past week, there were four deaths that struck me and gave me that uneasy feeling. First it was James Doohan whose name may not be too familiar, but his TV character sure is. Sure, he was the well-known “Scotty” from Star Trek. I’m a big fan of the original series. Scotty wasn’t necessarily a big star, but he sure had some classic moments. The classic line, “Beam me up Scotty,” has become part of our culture.

Then there were a couple lesser-known musicians we lost. Long John Baldry probably isn’t a household name, but British blues performer was a big influence in the careers of Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, and Elton John just to name a few. In fact, did you know that Elton (real name Reginald Kenneth Dwight) took his last name ‘John’ in honor of Long John Baldry? Neat, huh?

Ever hear of Eugene Record? Didn’t think so. He was the lead singer for a 70s group from Chicago called the Chi-Lites. Chi=Chicago. Get it? Who could forget classic songs like, “Have You Seen Her” and “Oh Girl?” These were great songs I grew up with.

And then there was Andrew Desidoro. “Who,” you ask? I found out about his death yesterday when I went to my neighborhood Starbuck’s to get my Iced Venti unsweetened Iced Coffee. Andrew was the manager there. He looked like Wilfred Brimley. He was a sweet old guy who was always pleasant to me and even called me “young man” every time he saw me. This one was a real shocker; I just saw him a few days ago.

Damn, I feel empty; I miss these people. The good news is that there are plenty of memories that will remind me of the little joys they provided me. I’ll smile when I hear Elton, Rod, the Chi-Lites, or Mick and the boys, and I’ll smile even bigger when I walk into my Starbuck’s and imagine hearing the words, “Iced coffee today, young man?”


  • What a nice tribute to them all!

    I still haven't printed out your Marlboro Man post for Lenny -- who also was a Marlboro Man and works in my building.

    By Anonymous ~Kabe, at 10:05 PM, July 24, 2005  

  • Even those people who fulfill an unobtrusive function in our lives can touch us deeply. How special for them and their memory that you choose to care.

    By Blogger Elisabeth, at 11:49 PM, July 24, 2005  

  • To paraphrase Hemingway: "they died just like everyone else...and then they were dead."

    That sounds like emotionless, cold, heartless drivel, but in the end, if we think about it...it is how it is. The things we leave behind in our lives which matter the most, are our real footprints--our children, our art, our brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews.

    When I wrote for NPR, my very first job was to conjure up obituaries. It was a very, very difficult job because none of the people of which I wrote meant anything to me. But with a little digging and research, I started finding out a bit about their lives, and somewhat of a picture started to come together. Only then I'd be able to bang out that 40-word obit. Also...just the mere job of summing up one's life in 40 words is excruciating.

    Hemingway's quote has resonated for decades with me. Instead of the cold, heartless avenue which people take when hearing it for the first time, I interpret it as something natural and part of life itself. Because it it quite true.

    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 6:56 AM, July 25, 2005  

  • well LX, death is usually not so tough on the part of the one who is dying (other than the time leading up to it if its a particular long and painful death). its those that are left behind that are the ones who have a tougher time dealing with it. and considering the way hemingway died, i doubt he fully understood the pain that those left behind go through when they lose a loved one, friend, acquaintance, etc.

    but i agree that if we could, as humans, grasp that it is simply part of the cyle of life, and look at it analytically/biologically, it would make things easier. unfortunately there is usually a lot of emotion tied to death, i guess its the curse of humanity.

    i would cite someone other than hemingway as i feel his credibility (coming from someone who had a close familiar member take their own life) in speaking about death is tarnished by his own actions. when you die a natural death, sure, fine, its part of life, the last chapter if you will. when you take your own life you are its a selfish termination of a life that you might not care about, but many others left behind might.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:17 AM, July 25, 2005  

  • Anon...regarding suicide, I think you think in a very common way (not being patronizing here, I'm just saying that many people lean towards your opinion). I, too, have had a very close family member take her own life. She put a shotgun to her chest, in the bathtub, and she pulled the trigger. I chose not to go the route of the "she took the easy way out" philosophy. Instead, I processed and grieved and came to the conclusion that she was in pain much much greater than we, the ones she left behind. I do not think it was selfish...I think, instead, it was TRAGIC. And that is all. The choices we make are ours and are private and regarding an issue as important and tragic as suicide, we--unfortunately--can pass judgement all we want, but it's obvious that we will not understand the decision that was so tragically made. Perhaps we are the selfish ones; we are left behind to lament and judge and condemn the ones who take this excruciatingly difficult decision.

    Also...still on subject here regarding Hemingway. Don't forget how ill he was. He was being treated for cancer at the Mayo clinic, and he had suffered two concussions from two airplane crashes in Africa, which brought on mini-seizures and prolonged migraine headaches, and most importantly: he could not write any longer.

    I think we will never understand his dedication to writing. It meant his life. And that's it. Condemn him for that, but he was true to it. And when that ended, his life ended.

    And so it goes my friend. Suicide is tragic. But it's not selfish. Not in my opinion. We can debate this for years to come...but that's all I'll expound on it. I'm sure we can find studies on the psychology of suicide to support either side. I'm not interested in stretching it out. At least not here, in this web log format.

    By Blogger Bubbles, Ink., at 9:14 AM, July 25, 2005  

  • PLT - When my friend told me "Scotty died!"
    I was like, "Who?" I did not immediately think of Beam me up Scotty. Sorry. Never been a Trekky. However, I understand what you're writing about. When Johnny Carson died I, too, felt a loss, especially since I went to bed with him every night ;)

    By Blogger catsteevens, at 2:08 AM, July 26, 2005  

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