Notes On Passings

There were two sad obituaries in the Times this week, one foretelling the death of Patelson the other marking the stunning death of The Bird. Ah yes, I remember them well . . .

The last time I shopped at Patelson was last summer. Even then I noticed that the shelves seemed slightly bare, and the staff was surlier than usual. But they indicated they were temporarily out of stock, so I didn’t suspect a thing. The article has some interesting brushes-with-fame, mine was bumping into Irene Aebi the night after seeing the Steve Lacy Sextet at the old Sweet Basil, and complimenting her on the great evening I had. She was buying a set of Hugo Wolf songs. (I remember now that at another time I also showed her how to get backstage at the original Knitting Factory . . . ).

As for Fidrych, well, I was a fledgling baseball fan when I saw him on TV, gawky, talking to the baseball unselfconsciously, dominating other teams. It was exciting! The obit details his salary his rookie year, which is a sad indication of how he would not belong in today’s game – he has actual personality. It’s odd considering how in sports broadcasting and journalism, personality is everything: “what were you thinking when you hit that pitch? How does it feel . . . ?” But the sports media is a lot like the political media, they complain about the blandness of marketing but, as they actually promote, are discomfited by anything that escapes the cliche. Even the nick-name doesn’t fit. Today’s game features lazy contractions that are some kind of brand: A-Rod, Dice-K. “The Bird” was for Big Bird, who a manager thought Fidrych, with his afro and gawky, bouncy step, resembled. It has to do with his aspect, his personality. There has to be one to produce a nick-name. And, at the moment, I honestly can’t think of a single one in the game right now. I miss The Bird.

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