Ed and Farrah and Michael and…Jeff?

Lots of people died this week, as they do every week. But this week, the deaths were especially significant to a lot of people, occurring as they did to people fighting for their freedom, and to people an inordinate number of us are familiar with at some level.

For the Iranians, I cheer and hope and pray. I’ve never met a Persian (which they always style themselves as here in the US) who wasn’t good-looking, good-natured and quick-witted. You wonder how their country could get so far gone.

Then there was a little buzz because Ed McMahon died. I was always surprised he didn’t die before Johnny Carson. He always seemed so much older to me. I loved him as the sidekick icon but always thought the Publishers Clearing House thing was sleazy. I hope he didn’t suffer much.

Then there was Farrah. I never had the poster, never would’ve had a pinup in my bedroom. (Even now, my breasts posts here are way gaucher than I’d ever be in real life.) But my proud and enormous mind was definitely mesmerized by “Charlie’s Angels”. I thought Jaclyn Smith was the prettiest at first (and a few years later, Kate Jackson), but Farrah had the smile–and I’ve always been a sucker for a big smile.

I saw the mediocre Sunburn (with Charles Grodin) and Saturn 3 (with Kirk Douglas), and then I didn’t see her much any more. I lostr track roundabout the time of The Burning Bed–which I think pioneered the modern tradition of sex symbols frumping it up to be taken seriously as actresses–a role that she earned praised for but which didn’t seem to lead to anything else.

Then it all seemed to be about the dysfunctional private life. Not a lot to smile about there.

Shortly thereafter, of course, Michael Jackson caused entire TV schedules to be upended with his heart attack. My dad said back around ‘83, when he hit it mega-big, that he thought Jackson would be dead by 40. Only off by a decade, there, pop.

I never bought an album and had completely lost track of Jackson by the time of Thriller. (Too busy playing my own music, I guess.) Catchy stuff, for sure, but not my kind of stuff. Not exactly the Paul Simon level of poetry or the Randy Newman level of irony or the John Lennon level of imagery. But the kids seemed to like it and you could dance to it….

Then Bad seemed to be the begining of the end. (I guess, again, not following closely.) Then all the child molestation accusations.

I make no claims to knowing the truth about that; it’s very easy for me to imagine that he was both remarkably inappropriate and yet not sexual. Find someone without an ulterior motive, you know?

Lastly there was Jeff Goldblum, who didn’t die but instead had the honor of being the fake death on the day when Farrah and Michael died. (Have you ever noticed that? Celebrity deaths are often followed by a fake celebrity death. I thought that immediately when I heard the rumor.)

Weird as it might sound, I’d probably take his death the hardest. I’ve always felt a kind of kinship with Goldblum whether he was turning into a fly, running away from dinosaurs or chasing lectroids across the eighth dimension.

So, glad you’re still with us Jeff. I’m afraid Walter is probably next in the queue.

Dead Men Throw No Switches

So I started doing the nutritional program in earnest, along with The Boy, and got a bit of a scare. It’s probably nothing, and may be related to the antibiotics I’m taking (for the ear infection from hell), but I’ll be having a thorough medical examination as a result. 

It’s not really something I look forward to. 
But it got me thinking about my mortality and taking care of business. Death isn’t something I fear, generally. When younger, I had some brushes with mortality to which my reaction was “Well, I guess if it’s my time…" 
I know that we get a sense of invulnerability, immortality, that nothing bad can happen to us, but there’s also the "who cares?” aspect of it. When you’re young you consider yourself sovereign over your life, and if you’re going to do something reckless well, what’s that to anyone else? You can see young death glamorized in a way that mortality otherwise is not.
And then you have kids. 
Well, crap. Now it matters if you live or die. (And if you’re thinking, you realize it mattered before–back when you were SuperTeen–to your own parents. A feeling of embarrasment is normal at this point.) I mean, the finances are easy enough to handle. In fact, the traditional male role is easy to fill: I think a widow with children can probably much more easily plug in a new male into her life than a widower is likely to find a woman willing to take care of another woman’s home and children. And how much more traumatic is that, that the primary caretaker be replaced by a relative stranger?
Of course, it happened a lot in the Old West (for example), with mortality in child birth being so common. And certainly it’s happened that a step-father has a callous and indifferent (or worse) attitude toward another man’s children.
Anyway, having a kid changes the game, if you were indifferent to your survival before. If you’re cancerous and would rather just let it take you than endure the medieval treatments we have for handling it, you really don’t have much of a choice. You have to fight. Congratulations: You’ve become more important than yourself.
It should also mean that you’re not exposing yourself to a lot of unnecessary risk, like extreme sports, daredevil ballon rides, base jumping, etc. But that doesn’t always happen.
Given the rather severe separation of my online life versus my real one, I’ve often thought about setting up a “dead man’s switch” that would notify people should I not throw it. I figured the most likely result of that, though, would be a false “Blake’s dead!” message. Heh. That might be funny once or twice, but sort of defeats the purpose should it happen a lot.
There’s now at least one service that will do this for you, I think. It’s been in the news a lot lately. But I suspect a lot of us don’t give enough thought on how online folks would be affected by our sudden disappearance. (I’ve had it happen numerous times, and I don’t know to this day whether the person just dropped out or something had happened to them.)
So, it’s something worth thinking about.

Harder Day on the Planet

In Loudon Wainwright’s song Hard Day on the Planet, he ends his litany of planetary problems with ways in which he is well off:

I got clothes on my back
And shoes on my feet
A roof over my head
And something to eat

My kids are all healthy
And my folks are alive
You know, it’s amazing, but sometimes
I think I’ll survive

I first heard the song in early ‘90s–it seems to have been written about the time Bush threw up on the Japanese Prime Minsiter (the dollar went down/and the President’s sick), when Wainwright was about 45. Over the years, I’ve heard him play it:

My kids are all healthy
And my mom’s still alive

And the latest time I’ve heard it:

My kids are all healthy
And Bob Hope’s still alive

(Haven’t heard it recently, obviously.) I’ve been listening to LW3’s music so long that I’m finally starting to catch up with it.

Parting Ways

When I die, it’d be nice to have someone miss me in that way Pajama Momma writes about.

I come from rather mobile nuclear families for generations. People moving out west, or having small families or both. Most of the people I went to school with actually moved away, though I keep in touch with a few old friends.

A friend’s father died recently, and I was over at her place doing whatever it is you do in that situation. They were of a different culture than the one I grew up in, one that grieves openly and loudly. And it was touching, like PJM’s post, because it was heartfelt.

I’ve seen a lot of deaths where it seemed as though people had worn out their welcome. It’s an awful thing to confront that old age doesn’t bring wisdom, necessarily. I remember when I realized that what old people have in common is only one thing: that they survived.

Between the tragedy of those who die too young, and the more muted tragedy of those who die too old, is some sort of existentialist sweet spot where people miss you without mourning you too much.