[Marxism] "Anthony Bourdain's Blog"

johnaimani johnaimani at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 19 22:53:46 MDT 2010

(JAI: At the start of the Cleveland show seen tonight there is a Hwy 
sign: "Cleveland-Keep Left", incidental or coincidental?)

      The Original (Goodbye Splendor)

      The Original (Goodbye Splendor)

Jul 13, 2010, 10:45 AM | Comments (179) 
| Permalink 

A few days ago, the city of Cleveland lost a truly great and important 
man. And I'm not talking about LeBron James. A hundred years from now, 
few--other than a few sports nerds--will remember him as much more than 
statistics on a long ago basketball court.

They will, however, remember Harvey Pekar, whose life and works will 
surely remain an enduring reference point of late 20th and early 21st 
century cultural history. Like those other giants of their eras, Twain, 
Whitman, Dos Passos, Kerouac, Kesey, the times he lived in cannot 
adequately be remembered without him.

It is true enough to say that he was the "poet laureate of Cleveland" or 
to describe his American Splendor as "Homeric", but those descriptives 
are still inadequate. He was the perfect man for his times, 
straddling...everything: the underground comic revolution of the 60's, 
the creation and transformation of the graphic novel, independent film, 
television, music (the classic jazz he championed relentlessly 
throughout his life).

He was famed as a "curmudgeon", a "crank" and a "misanthrope" yet found 
beauty and heroism where few others even bothered to look. In a 
post-ironic and post-Seinfeldian universe he was the last romantic--his 
work sincere, heartfelt, alternately dead serious and wryly 
affectionate. The last man standing to wonder out loud, "what happened 

His continuing compulsion to wonder what's wrong with everybody else was 
both source of entertainment and the only position of conscience a man 
could take.

After all, Cleveland, the city he lived in and loved, had, he reminded 
us, lost half it's population since the 1950s. A place whose great 
buildings and bridges and factories had once exemplified 20th century 
optimism needed its Harvey Pekar.

"What went wrong here?" is an unpopular question with the type of city 
fathers and civic boosters for whom convention centers and pedestrian 
malls are the answers to all society's ills but Harvey captured and 
chronicled every day what was--and will always be--beautiful about 
Cleveland: the still majestic gorgeousness of what once was--the 
uniquely quirky charm of what remains, the delightfully offbeat attitude 
of those who struggle to go on in a city they love and would never dream 
of leaving.
What a two minute overview might depict as a dying, post-industrial 
town, Harvey celebrated as a living, breathing, richly textured society.

A place so incongruously and uniquely...seductive that I often fantasize 
about making my home there. Though I've made television all over the 
world, often in faraway and "exotic" places, it's the Cleveland episode 
that is my favorite--and one about which I am most proud.

That show was unique among over a hundred others in that 
everything--absolutely everything--went perfectly and exactly as 
planned. Unlike every other episode, pretty much everything had been 
"written" (or at least planned out) in advance: the look, the American 
Splendor graphics, destinations, subjects and content. In the middle of 
a blizzard in the dead of winter, we got exactly what we were looking 
for. We wanted American Splendor and that's what we got.

This is due entirely to Harvey (and the incredible Joyce). Harvey may 
have had a reputation as cantankerous, TV-averse and difficult but from 
the very first minute he and his family were a delight. They opened up 
their lives to us in every way they could. They were exactly as they 
appeared in the great graphic novels and in the film--only warmer and 
even nicer.

The look, the tone, the sound, the whole feel of the episode that 
followed was Harvey's. There was a moment at Sokolowski's I'll always 
remember as quintessential Pekar--that perfectly encapsulated the way we 
all felt absorbed in to PekarWorld. We'd just finished shooting a scene 
with Harvey, Toby Radloff and Michael Ruhlman--and Danielle, Harvey's 
daughter, who'd been hanging out off- camera, temporarily went 
missing--out of Harvey's watchful gaze. I remember looking at him, 
swiveling his head frantically, the very picture of parental concern and 
exasperation and actually SEEING comic book curlicues, exclamation 
points, question marks and smoke emanating from his head. He had made 
the world around him his world. We were--all of us-- just passing through.

A few great artists come to "own" their territory.
As Joseph Mitchell once owned New York and Zola owned Paris, Harvey 
Pekar owned not just Cleveland but all those places in the American 
Heartland where people wake up every day, go to work, do the best they 
can--and in spite of the vast and overwhelming forces that conspire to 
disappoint them--go on, try as best as possible to do right by the 
people around them, to attain that most difficult of ideals: to be 
"good" people.

"Our man" as Harvey often referred to himself in his work, was a good 
man. An important man. A "great American" is an expression that has been 
cheapened with over-use, but if these words ever meant anything, they 
surely describe Harvey Pekar.

He was great. He was American.

For him to have come from anywhere else would be unthinkable. He will be 
remembered. He will be missed.


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