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A Wife's Tribute to Her Husband: Lula Tucker bids Farewell to Husband of 58 Years

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Hail and Farewell, Puzzlehead: Remembering Stephen Galaida, An Actor Prepared

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Editor's Note: I smelled Stephen Galaida before I saw him. We were in a play together at the Firehouse Theater long enough ago now it doesn't matter when. I'd been warned about Mr. Galaida. The Boss in charge of the Firehouse Theater knew the stakes were high for a fellow drunk like me but he ran a business. He also had an uncanny knack for putting combinations of people together in plays he produced and the outcomes were, often enough for the advertisers, brilliant. The reviews were always mixed. That doesn't matter. When The Firehouse Plan worked the freakiest thing happened: Community members who had little or no acting experience pulled together and put on, by turns, shows that were tender and bloody and funny and tragic and more importantly, well worth the price of admission. Sure there were stinkers. Mr. Galaida knew that well. Let's be straight about this: I'm a True-born Alcoholic but a Volitional Drunk. That means I have a choice not to drink right now, but I could. I've started a support group for people like me. It's called Alcoholics Are Ominous. I hope that gives you a sense of the lay of the land; at least you will know that I met Stephen Galaida, a man so alive who is now dead, in a theater that is also dead except in the memories of Those Who Served. Now, we bring you a personal tribute to a super talented and sweet man who was palsied by a fracture that ran from his liver to his spleen, from head to toe and right out those magnificent and frightening blue eyes of his.

The Days of Wine and Roses, They Were Not

By Franklin A. Crawford

Galaida tribute

Tiny Town, USA – Stephen Galaida died on Nov. 5, 2012. I don't know how or why.

Speculation in this case is rude. "Let No Man Write My Epitaph." Remember that one?

So. The time and place I met him as a colleague is significant: Firehouse Theater, pre-9/11. The play: Popcorn. Sorry, I can't remember the auteur's name [see foot notes]. Steve arrived a bit late ... No: Really pretty darned late for a cold reading with people you've never met before. We'd all been cast separately so I hadn't met the guy and I did not approve of the way things were "shaping up."

I can be an ass.

As I say, I smelled Stephen before I saw him. I have a chef's nose for alcohol. A drop of it in a beaker downstairs, quite a ways aways from the here and now, will get me wondering. Not slavering like long ago. Just wondering who the eff is in My House with that shit on them.

Anyway. I was cold stone sober at the time. This was my way In That Time: Long periods of no-drinking; brief, very public periods of super-intoxication, often enough followed up with a trip to detox. At the time I met Mr. Galaida, I was employing numerous resources toward the maintenance and sustainability of My Pet Project: Field Test Sobriety. So now I remember: It must've been some time between 1998 and 2000. It doesn't matter how I can zero in on that. We all have our own inner-GPS for these things. Know only I had embarked on the longest period of sobriety I consciously chose for myself: Six years, as it turned out. So I was very alert to anything resembling a threat, let's say.

Because that's what Stephen G., in my initial review of him was: A threat. He was one of those guys who can show-up for work no matter how plowed they were, are, or will soon-be-again. He knew how to make an entrance: Galaida shed his Carhartt jacket like a man headed out to a fistfight in the parking lot and thumbed clumsily through his script. I was struck by his failure to make an excuse for himself and that he seemed absolutely unabashed about his condition. He was overtly drunk. Where was the shame? "C'mon," I was thinking. "Out with the grandiose apology." There wasn't one coming.

Finding the page where the rest of the players were bookmarked – with some help from others and, a lot of patience on my part – or so I thought – he exhaled mightily and the air in the room became flammable. His entrance, denuding, and exhalation all took about a minute-and-a-half in Real Time. I saw it all in slow-mo. That's how alert my senses had to be all the time back then: My instincts slowed Time down even while my mind was racing warp speed to decipher all the incoming codes that spelled: THREAT * THREAT * THREAT * ...

I got tense. It came out in my reading. Couldn't fix it. Good that it was just a cold reading. The Players all had big roles to fill and there was roughly a month to get it together. So no one noticed how edgy Mr. Galaida made me. I put that edginess into my reading and was reminded by the Director to save my powder for the real thing.

Okay. There it is. That's how I met him and I'm not going to sugar-coat it. Everyone loses when I lie in this format. Mostly, I lose. I am sick of losing myself. In good time I would show-up drunk for a play and just about ruin it for the cast. That's how the affliction works.

The plot of Popcorn is significant in retrospect: Popcorn is about a smart-ass Hollywood director of violent movies (a Quentin Tarantino knock-off) named Bruce Delamitri who sees his work as an Uber-Meta-post-modern-post-positivist-realist statement on cultural values. Others see Delamitri's work as a celebration of pure violence.  Galaida played a psychopathic criminal. He and his sidekick, superbly played by S. Easter, take Delamitri and his lover hostage at his swank Hollywood mansion: The hostage-takers want to be on TV.

Fill in the blanks. We had a helluva good time, all of us on that crew. We put on a great show and the reviews reflected it.

I recovered sufficiently from my first impressions of Stephen Galaida to step on the doorway he held open. We moved toward a more flexible relationship; friendships form fast on the friendly fields of strife. Without asking, he was curious about my so-called "discipline" around alcohol. I kept mum as well.

During breaks in rehearsal I would noodle at the piano in the lobby and Stephen and I hit it off there, too. Like me, he was a composer. Unlike me, he was damned serious and well-trained about it. After I was done – and bless the man he had marvelous old time manners – he would wait an appropriate interval, compliment my playing and music, then slide onto the piano seat and play Chopin so sweetly even the dying Spinet wept with Life again.

He played other music too. It was recognizable, but I could not place it. Knowing my classical music ABC's these sounds stuck with me until I could trace their source. Their source was Stephen Galaida. He had a beautiful mind, as they say.


There was one moment in Popcorn that both Stephen and I recognized as Actor's Heaven simultaneously without saying so; in one fleeting exchange I learned just what transcendent experiences could-be-had for an Actor performing on stage before a Live audience. The "fourth wall" fell down. The fourth wall is the invisible wall between players and audience and it is real. The seminal moment was infinitely brief: Galaida the Actor, knowing Delamitri was a wuss with a Heart and not a killer like him, shows Delamitri how to use the pistol he's holding and then turns it over to Delamitri, fully loaded. Delamitri holds the gun in his hand, sensing the good weight of it, the way it fits so perfectly in his grip. He points it at Stephen Galaida. "Galaida scared the shit nearly out of me when I really looked at him: He was a phenomenon! By nature, nurture or massive mishandling he had mastered the Thousand Yard Stare. KILL HIM! I thought." No! Don't! – "Franklin Crawford is just pointing a fake gun at a poor starving Actor in downtown Ithaca, New York." No! "Two actors stare each other down in a death match " – and sweet Jesus, as I stood there one night holding that gun at Galaida's face by God I wanted to shoot him dead. And he knew it. He pulled that genuine response right out of me and I had to fight to not pull the trigger on him (It had one real blank in it we used every night before intermission and tho this scene occurred after intermission who knew? There might have been another blank in the chamber).

Such was the beauty of working with a much more experienced actor. We knew, together, that we were locked and loaded in perfect balance and the audience held its breath for that moment: They'd heard the first gun shot and it was LOUD! The fourth wall, was gone. We were pure beings.

Sonofabitch; life does not offer such spontaneous and rich rewards but a few time in a body's life.

How did the construction boots, the rough talk, the sawdust and sweat and liquor get into a man like that? Does it matter? He was great in all things he applied his attentions to. On a parallel trajectory, I am convinced there is a Stephen Galaida, a trained and skilled classical pianist and composer, out beyond the Oort Cloud attending to his Calling with love and care. There has to be. It is too hard otherwise, to think about. He was a Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces all over again.

And goddamn: Suddenly and I mean right now I just want to thank him. I want to find him and thank him because I lived and he did not and I'll never forget him. I owe him that much. And, I want to hear what I never heard in all the time since I first met him: Stephen Galaida's music. Where is it now?




ITHACA Journal: Stephen Galaida, 58 of Ithaca, passed away Monday, November 5th 2012. He was predeceased by his Mother Mary, Step-Mother Noni, and his two sisters Dana and Emily of NJ. Steve was an intelligent man of many trades; he will be remembered as a great friend and father, a carpenter, a versatile actor and a talented pianist. He is survived by his father, Stephen Galaida and brother Michael Galaida of Allamuchy, NJ; step daughters Carol Ann Langohr (Morgan) of Highpoint, NC and Jessica Poff (Morgan) of Greensboro, NC; son-in-laws Eric Langohr and Brian Poff; two granddaughters Anna Langohr and Alexis Poff of NC; and many nieces, nephews, and friends. Steve was never married but he is survived by Ann Heartfield, his significant other of several years. On November 8th many of Steve's friends and extended family gathered for a memorial at the Ithaca Falls and some of Steve's favorite places around Ithaca to share memories and celebrate his life. A private memorial ceremony is planned for Spring 2013.

Om Mane Padme Hum

Domine Sanctus Requiem Aeturnum

Wikipedia | Puzzlehead is a Sci fi drama starring Stephen Galaida, Robbie Shapiro, and Mark Janis. It was written and directed by James Bai and the film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 21, 2005 before opening in limited release in New York City on March 23, 2006.

Walter, a scientist living in a dark world where technology has been outlawed, secretly works to create a self-aware android in his own likeness. This android, named Puzzlehead by Walter, acts as the scientist’s companion and his connection to the outside world; all the time developing his own personality and self-awareness in the manner of a learning child. The android and his maker turn against one another when Puzzlehead pursues Julia, a woman who does not know Walter has feelings for her.



Wikipedia: Popcorn is a 1998 play by English-Australian author Ben Elton adapted from his novel of the same title ... Note: Elton also co-wrote the very successful Black Adder series.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 12:45

Capt. Ben Siepel, US Army ROTC, gives insightul, powerful address at Vet's memorial Sunday

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Editor's Note: This is the unadorned text of the address delivered Sunday by U.S. Army Captain Ben Siepel. He spoke to an audience of perhaps 300 people gathered in Ithaca's DeWitt Park for the Ninety-third Tompkins County Veterans Day Ceremony on November 11, 2012, punctuating a delirious week of politics, cold weather and the relentless grind of modern life. Capt. Siepel has served two tours in Afghanistan as an Army Aviator. That means he flew into "hot zones" to get fellow servicemen to safety. Capt. Siepel is what is known to his fellows, casually, as "a dust-up pilot." It has nothing to do with crops. MEDEVACs evacuate the wounded from the battlefield, simply put. As their predecessors in Korea and Vietnam know, these aviators chopper into strafe and rocket attack to land, to save their fellow service-people and push-off to safety. As Capt. Siepel states: "With this mission also came the occasional task of lifting off the battlefield remains of those who would not be going home."

The following is a copy of Capt. Siepel's illuminating address. To see and hear a young man of his intelligence, bravery and heart, is a moment too rare in our lives. The captain was kind enough to provide a copy of his address by email within an hour of having delivered it to the people of Ithaca. With fair temperatures on a Sunday morning after a dramatic and cold week here, the crowd was sizable, including Veterans and other representatives of all the armed forces, their supporters, the people and, of course, the tinytowntimes.com. We are honored, truly, to present this address in writing. As it was a spoken address and not meant to be read, we only edited or noted this and that in brackets, like a script, for the reader who was not there. Brevity and comprehensibility often are at odds. Not here. We are grateful to Capt. Siepel for reaching out and providing this much needed voice. He extends his personal audience to anyone wishing to know more, to exchange words and ideas and to learn. There is so much to learn, always, and I for one am grateful when someone speaks so candidly with such clarity. Franklin Crawford, editor, tinytowntimes.com and a Sole Surviving Son.

"Dear Ladies and Gentleman:

It is a tremendous honor to speak before you this morning. My thanks to the Ithaca VFW and the community-at-large for offering this opportunity. Though, I must first apologize. With three lieutenant colonels reviewing our parade last weekend and a retired major general from the community speaking at the Cornell ceremony two days ago, I guess an Army captain is all that is left in town.

Although of significantly less rank than my predecessors, I will nonetheless make my best effort to honor this solemn occasion.

The significance of the moment that has just passed before us can hardly be understated.

Ninety-four years ago today – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day on the eleventh month – [marked] the cessation of hostilities in the most terrible conflict witnessed at that time by the modern world [World War I].

The Industrial Revolution brought volumes of machines, chemicals and firepower to bear on a battlefield populated by massive armies, comprised of an entire generation, mobilized to fight for God and country.

The results were devastating. After four years of conflict – one that stemmed only from entangled great power alliances and competition for resources – more than 9 million combatants had given their lives in some of the most horrid conditions imaginable. Many of those lucky to make it through, carried home debilitating physical and mental wounds, an immeasurable cost of war felt for decades to follow.

Despite the best hopes for “the war to end all wars,” the conditions set forth in treaties that followed merely prepared the stage for an even more destructive global conflict that would forever change the world and the lives of many of you standing among us today.

This summer, my wife and I enjoyed a short vacation together in France. We spent a day of it, walking along the shore near the sleepy town of Saint Laurent sur Mer, now infamously known as Omaha beach. With the incredible scale of that battle spread before us on that summer morning, I could not help but feel weak in the knees and at a complete loss for words. The thought of thousands of young men crawling out of the cold waves of the English Channel, facing a veritable wall of fire as they struggled ashore, put a ball in my stomach. I was also deeply moved by the thought of young conscripts on the other side, most of whom were merely boys, sitting alone and scared in the pill boxes and bunkers, facing a colossal allied force streaming toward shore.

I have always had tremendous respect and admiration for the Sailors, Airmen, Soldiers, and Marines, who endured hardships that the rest of us can only imagine. [Directly to the WWII Veterans in the audience] You answered the call, a call that for most of you wasn't a request, but an order from Uncle Sam. As dutiful citizen soldiers, you said goodbye to your families and departed for a conflict of uncertain length and outcome. Your generation suffered more casualties than those of all other foreign conflicts combined. Only during The American Civil War did our nation make a greater sacrifice of its most precious resources.

The battle for a small beachhead along the northern coast of France, although extremely costly in terms of lives, proved the beginning of the end of the most destructive conflict the world has witnessed. The Second World War put an end to the tragic horrors of the Holocaust and also set the stage for binding institutions that ushered in an era of peace across Western Europe. However, it also ushered in the conditions for numerous regional conflicts as our nation struggled to define national interests and determine its role as a leader in an uncertain world.

[Again to Veterans in the audience] The generations of veterans that followed, many of whom also [ital ours] stand among us, did not have the luxury of a clearly defined objective or, often times, even the support and acknowledgement of sacrifice from their fellow citizens back home. Despite this, you selflessly answered the call and were prepared to give everything; if the cause seemed unclear, you chose to fight for those alongside you. Although we can never undo the circumstances you faced both overseas and upon returning home, as a community we wholeheartedly thank you for your service.

I now stand before you as a veteran of the latest series of conflicts in which our country is engaged. My experiences during two tours in Afghanistan undoubtedly pale in comparison to many of yours [in other conflicts]. For one, as an Army Aviator I was no stranger to creature comforts such as hot food, warm beds, and lukewarm showers.

Although I never held a piece of ground or fired an angry shot, my duties flying MEDEVAC missions made first-hand the consequences of armed conflict. Evacuating the wounded from the battlefield was a rewarding mission, but one that seared into my memory the heavy toll being paid every single day that we [exact from] young men and women in harm’s way. With this mission also came the occasional task of lifting off the battlefield remains of those who would not be going home. I could not help but think about the chain-of-events set in motion when a life was lost; resulting in the lives of countless loved ones being forever upended and filled with grief.

I strongly doubt that there is a veteran among us who would wish his experiences on anyone else. Perhaps this is why it is so seldom that conflicts are initiated by those who have served in them. It is just as much on our shoulders as veterans than anyone else to participate in the conversation and make sure our leaders use force only when absolutely necessary. We and the families of our lost friends know too dearly the cost.

Perhaps Congress had this in mind when in 1938 it approved a resolution declaring the 11th of November as "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."

Let each of us spend this 11th Day of November, 2012, thanking the numerous members of our proud community who answered the call to service, honor the memory of those from our community who made the ultimate sacrifice, and also renew our dedication to "the cause of world peace."

Thank you."

All photos credit Frankie14850, 11/11/12

Last Updated on Monday, 12 November 2012 10:33

Tiny Town: Say Hello To Some You Have Missed

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Tiny Town, USA – My fellow Ithacan-Americans, meet Deniz, grad student far from home, a gypsy whose Caravan has been impounded until he secures his Ph.D at EduCorpse, and one among a lively crew of folks who meet openly in secret almost every morning at the Green Street Pharmacy.

For Deniz, who comes from Turkey (look at that great Persian face!) this was his first time to the soda fountain at Green Pharma. He ordered a cream cheese bagel and coffee. I am shy with on-premise image-taking and very shy about asking any stranger to allow me to capture their image. I offer them a copy of the image after I show it to them on the LCD screen of my Nikon.

Some say please delete it.

These images have been to Deniz.

Thankfully Deniz, and a few others, were all to happy to pose for a portrait. I am getting to be known as a trustworthy street-paparazzi – after three or four years of just wandering around in all weathers, sans credentials and apparently not a NARC.

Deniz is exuberant and open and friendly and sick of the daily grind: catching buses to work under lousy conditions in a lab rented out to some pharmaceutical company with Educorpse getting first dibs on any patent rights.

As a research university, EduCorpse is literally one big Industrial complex that serves many masters like the FDA, Big Pharma, Factory Farmas and high tech service to military-industrial branches that need to run their R&D on the qt.

These massive corporations underwrite the high costs of maintaining EduCorpse's investments with fat contracts doubled down on the SUNY side by YOUR TAX dollars without investing much into the grad school hoppers that feed drones who serve as a kind of White Labor Force, cheaply had, and shackled to loans that look like the largesse of Big Government but are in fact, share cropper outlays that cost little. The City of Ithaca pays out the Wazoo for municipal services that, were EduCorpse Red gone to hell, would not be needed.

So Emperor Dave, conflicted Frontman for a Board of Trustees as conservative as a super-subsidized Iowan corn mogul who sells his product cheap to outfits from nibletty golden cocks of wonder they are processed into High Fructose Corn Syrup, after the poison-laden "ears" have been circumcised and processed into the main ingredient -- following plain old sugar -- in more than 80 percent of all non-perishable and perishable packaged foods in America.

Fat People are the Outcome of this ingenious system.

Deniz didn't tell me this. I saw it for my own eyes. He just wanted me to wait until he was done glomming down half a bagel before I shot him. Then he was off to Santa's workshop on the hill.

So really when the corporate reps for EduCorpse Red cry poverty during a 4.5 billion dollar campaign and use crooks like Sandy Weill as a poster child -- it is a Big Fat Lie. They have the money to underwrite a lot more than our municipal services. They just don't believe we're smart or strong enough to leverage it out of them.

But there's a new mayor in town. And he's not playing the blackmail game Old Ben Nichols played. Oh no. Dear Alan Cohen, in one of his sleeziest backroom acts [and after sucking a lot of corporate cock], closed the loophole Ben Nichols used to stop the city he served, from issuing building permits to our Big White Brother on the hill.

But whose to say it's just the City's problem, this Big Red Hubris? We have a county and a town that deals with Cornell's "big swinging dick" aquarium full of sharks. They too are tired of towing the bill for a university that speaks with Forked Cow Tongues and platters of Wegmans finger foods.

We also have a State Congress that is scrutinizing this non-profit status as EduCorpse East starts to split its britches.

In an adorable movie called The Bishop's Wife, Carey Grant is sent down from heaven to deal with a once-kindly street smart minister who rose in the church ranks to become a Bishop. Played with marvelous nuance by David Niven, the Bishop is obsessed with wooing a major donor, an aristocrat of some means whose vision is a church of magisterial magnificence – but an edifice that requires the deep pockets of a one-percenter in order to be erected. Despite himself, Niven is enslaved to his Egoistic Passion Play.

In one of the movie's many memorable scenes, the Bishop has his lonely old dowager ready to sign. Dudley, Grant's name as the minister's assistant (he has no idea who he has hired or wherefore he comes until after the fact), beats The Bishop to the madame's posh New York or Chicago Mansion. There, not finding the Madame but knowing she is home, Dudley unlocks a drawer that contains a romantic piece of music, competently written for The Harp, schmaltzy as all get-out with angelic overtones.

Dudley, who as an angel can do anything, sits with the harp and plays the piece. The Madame drifts out of her boudoir in a swoon, unable to believe her ears ...

I won't spoil the rest, but let's just say The Bishop arrives and is furious to find Dudley there and orders him out. The butler bids take a seat in the prosperously appointed guest parlor. Then Niven finds, to his amazement, his Major Donor has pulled a 180 on him. She's had a change of heart and mind and pocket book.

She is going to put her money into real charity work, etc.

Dumbfounded and crushed, the deluded Bishop attempts to stand. There's a problem however – the seat is stuck to his ass. No one can get it off of him – and he knows Dudley has put him in this position so to "run some other errands." One of them is to hit on The Bishop's Wife.

Woops! The ending still gets me -- and this show does It's a Wonderful Life almost one better.

Our Mayor, Svante Myrick, is no angel ... but he is a Good Christian raised in the Southern Baptist tradition – one of only REAL religions pioneered in America. (Guess the other one or two and in the meantime, read Harold Bloom's stunning achievement "The American Religion (Simon and Schuster, 1992)." Here he opens our eyes to the amazing rise of what he calls "American Gnosticism" and with a desert prophet's near miraculous vision, coherently transcribed by a brilliant if controversial scholar, he foresees the coming of the Mormon and the Southern Baptists as the main religions of America in the 21st Century. It's worth your time.

But Svante is a savvy if slow-on-uptake speaker with beautiful hands and a plan. He is not approaching EduCorpse alone like some protagonist in a Beggar's Opera. He is assembling a goodly force of people with influence. And when David Skorton and his trusted advisers are finished doing business with him, they may find it hard to leave a business meeting without some embarrassing and comic episode coming to pass. And they WILL change their minds: If the City, Town and County backed with some bigwig movers and shakers who too, think it's about time the university -- and Ithaca College as well -- pony up in REAL gold lest they weep -- then we're gonna make some history.

Bad PR is not what they need right now. And bad PR is what these two schools are about to get a heavy relentless dose of, once the word gets out they are merely a cast of Midwest fuddy-duddies who too long have played their non-profit, get out-of-paying-taxes free card.

I'll be there. President Skorton, you are a good man playing The Bishop to the Holy See who have the City by the short and curlies. Balls to the Wall, boss. Put down that silly flute, you are a high school band-level musician. Quit the Haiku, anyone can write it, and fight your overseers. It's embarrassing to listen to your arguments that "without Cornell" Ithaca would be little more than Watkins Glen without a race track.

Wrong, sir. We'd just be another Central New York Tiny Town enduring a severe and lengthy economic slump that's only going to get worse. Cornell is not really needed: I'd still live here. It beats what creeps like Sandy Weill have done to the rest of the country. It beats more stilted Press Releases from your overstaffed PR branch. And it beats watching an honorable Man continue to, time and again, plump for a university whose bloom has faded as a pragmatic institution delivering real goods to the state into a huge clearinghouse for any comer with enough bucks to rent out lab space and a hallway in Olin or Kavli or that Tower of Bufferin on Tower Road (Weill Institute -- what a headache!).

Send Weill off to prison where he belongs. And all his Wall Street cronies.

As for Deniz, he needs better food, a shower and a good rest. Just like any other well-deserving slave to American higher education's advanced degree system.

Thanks, Deniz.

– Franklin Crawford, Open to the study of every kind of humanistic endeavor, including the making and distribution of Smarties

Images: Frankie14850, Deniz at Green Star Pharmacy

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 October 2012 21:14

Jake Ryan, working class hero of academia, departs our company, sad thing

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Jake Ryan DeWitt Cafe


←MAKE NO MISTAKE THIS IS JAKE: On one of the few, if only, occasions Jake wore a Longhorns cap, I was there with my camera. His misfortune for hating most of what came out of Texas, except his academic co-author Charles Sackrey, and it memorialized in the only picture of him outside hospital. He was a Giants fan, as all boys from the Bronx ought to be. Taken in May 2009 at DeWitt Cafe.

Tiny Town, USA – I met Jake Ryan in 1976 or '77. By then he'd been a professor of political science at Ithaca College for I don't know how long.

He was known for his central role in organizing the anti-Vietnam War sit-ins, teach-ins and so forth, on campus and was pro Black American rights in a time – roughly 1965 till the end of the war, when Ithaca College was a staunchly conservative, private college.

His reputation as a "radical" professor was well known by the time I entered music school there in 1976 and he was notably one cool cat. The problem was, he taught politics, a subject I disliked, and I never saw the man in action. A friend who majored in politics introduced me to Jake somewhere along the line, probably after I dropped out for a few years when my family fell apart. 

Booze must've been present, because I would not have spoken to a professor if I were sober then, and he immediately appealed to me because not only had he been anti-war and cool, his sympathy for the death of my brother in Vietnam was deeply earnest. He understood the mark of that death on my person and it explained more about me than I could ever tell him. 

Of his own work to fight the war on a small campus then deeply entrenched in the politics of the right, I knew little. But Jake Ryan was no slouch. He'd come from a working class family in the Bronx. His father was a meter reader for the borough and his Jewish mother fussed over Jake a great deal, according to Charles Sackrey, a colleague who would later co-author a book with Jake, "Strangers in Paradise: Academics from the Working Class." He was brave, honest and fun. See Sackrey's piece about Jake in his own biography at http://www.awcaonline.org/CharlesSackrey/index.php?title=Early_Lessons_at_Ithaca_College

So Jake was a half-breed, with an Irish father and Jewish mother. From his paternal side he acquired a thirst for alcohol; from the mother, a sense of when it was time to cut back – some times the Irish won. In the long run, the Mother took over.

I adored him in my wild years and often sought his company during the many challenges that faced me during a protracted wannabe artist period in Tiny Town. He was one of the first adults to tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself; a habit I think he believed I'd fallen victim to, coming from a crummier background than his own. He was right. I was overplaying my victim card.

Once he took me out for a birthday lunch and asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told him I badly needed socks and so we went to a place on The Ithaca Commons where, lo and behold, he bought me a batch of fresh socks. I was extremely grateful: I was in the midst of the three-day drunk and hygiene was an issue as I'd been asked not to return to my partner's home till I was cleaned up. Sober, that is. Then he dropped me off at a hotel somewhere "out of the way" as I was headed for trouble. I was stone drunk, it was mid-afternoon and a hotel was the safest place to put me in storage to sleep it off. He may even have paid for the night.I remember waking, in the dark of a room that wasn't mine, and grateful for the hot shower and those clean, new socks. 

That was a long time ago, Jake. And now it's all a long time ago, Jake. 

You know, he died on Wednesday, August 29. Yesterday. All too soon it will be last week ... and then last year and then ...

He was one among many friends now past that I repeatedly made the most stupid unconscious assumptions about: Somehow, they will always be around, somehow. It's Ithaca. We don't die here we become a rock or a tree or certain window in a house that catches the light just so. How does a man grow so lazy and unaware about the passage of time? The only excuse: It's a collegetown and its annual influx of youth give it a timeless atmosphere. 

Jake encouraged and admired my writing when I was a young and badly damaged half-man. He hated my poetry, though, but then, he never got to see me really have a go at it. Mostly he seemed to feel I was in far finer fettle than I ever believed I was. And maybe I was and maybe he was right. He caught one of the community theater shows I was in and enjoyed it immensely. I was thrilled. Then he said "that other guy you were with was really funny." I looked perplexed. "Oh," he said. "You were good, but that other guy, he was really funny." 

He got his name not as an alternative to "John" his birth name, but rather, as he told me recently, because of his jaunty response to anyone who, by way of greeting, asked him how things were going.

"Everything's Jake," was his response. 

His long time colleague Marty Brownstein – famous enough to have a Hal's Deli sandwich named after him – had this to say of his dear friend: 

"Jake Ryan's passing is a monumental loss for me, as it is for the legion of students fortunate enough to have experienced his mentorage. Jake was a shrewd and kind teacher and friend, heroic in his leadership of our Politics Department in perilous times and an architect of its growth. Jake's passionate concern for peace and social justice was matched by his wit and gentility in conveying those
lessons. Noble!"

Noble? Of that I had some invisible sense. "Shrewd" was spelled in his crooked smile, his "don't-bullshit-me" eyes and his wisecracks. He enjoyed a good joke well told. He was not much for puns or wit of my variety. Once, when he was discussing the sudden death of an old friend who ran a carpet outlet I couldn't help myself and said "I guess he got the rug pulled out from under him."

Jake was not amused. He knew how to honor a social moment and I was out of line with my cynical crack. (Sorry, Jake, but it was pretty damn fast on the draw at least).  

We met off and on through the years in my checkered life here in Tiny Town.

At some point in the 80s, after I returned to IC, he'd become coach of an organized softball team and a friend of mine brought me onto the team. I had no idea it was anything as serious as it was, (Ithaca softball leagues in the 80s were damned serious) and when I realized it was truly competitive, my natural talent for it disappeared. Basic performance anxiety. Jake tried to help. He saw that I was getting anxious about a kid's game. But there was no fixing it. Sure I knocked a few runs in and made a couple good catches, but ... Once I took a sport like that seriously, I inevitably failed at it. Jake kept me on the roster because we were short of players and I was a competent fielder. He was always dead honest in his appraisal of anything I did right or wrong. 

We had some very good players. He was a good coach. Jake smoked – my friend, it got you that stuff – and sipped whatever awful beer was brought to the game. The kind of beer even I could not drink. He tried to help me when my batting went wrong. I had a helluva throwing arm and the one time I managed to launch a softball from center field directly to the catcher, he told me never to do it again.  It was showboating and unreliable. Throw it to the second baseman.

A lot of sad things happened to Jake in his life. But he married a dear woman, Karen, and they adopted a lovely daughter and she told me after his passing "there was no unfinished business between us." Some of the good, the bad and the ugly, I know. Most I don't. All of it was moved out of consciousness yesterday. May it all drift off into the ethers until either/or and neither/nor cannot be told one from the other, onto that farther shore.

There Jake, a rhyme. Good on ya, my loving man. My luck was it, to know you a bit.

– Franklin Crawford

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 August 2012 18:39

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