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.


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.