[Marxism] Chuck Grimes is dead
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 18 03:40:47 MST 2014
(Posted to LBO-Talk by Joanna Bujes.)
As I write this, I am listening to Glenn Gould playing Bach's Goldberg
Variations. Chuck loved this recording and sometimes played it when I
came to visit.
Chuck lived in a studio apartment walking distance from U.C. Berkeley,
where he had obtained an MFA many years before. He was there when the
tear gas flowed, when Mario Savio rallied the students, when the noose
of a posting to Viet Nam was gradually tightening around his neck and
that of his friends. The apartment had not changed much since his
graduate school days. A spartan cot to sleep on. A desk for his
computer, a drafting table for his art. That was the living room. A
hallway to the bathroom, lined with books. A kitchen with an ancient
stove that only he could light. A small, decrepit fridge with
stalagmites occluding access to the freezer. Everywhere, books. When his
son was small, the living room stretched to allow them both a place to
sleep. Now his son was grown up, a doctor, happily married, the source
of the little bit of peace that Chuck allowed himself to feel.
I got to know Chuck a dozen years ago through his postings to LBO. How
could I not be attracted to the passion of his writing and thought? How
could I not want to meet someone who had not given up on the dreams and
projects of the sixties ...those few years when we all thought that
change and freedom were possible? We lived just a few miles from one
another. We met at a local coffee shop: Au Coquelet on Shattuck, in
Berkeley. My sister had worked there throughout her undergraduate days.
He laughed a lot. Insisted on having me see his place. He needed to know
if I would turn my nose down at him -- he was very poor. Despite a
lifetime of experience working with the handicapped and wheelchair
repair, he had not been able to rub two sticks together. The little
money he had, he spent on books. Travel was out of the question. Money
for art supplies was out of the question.
He was on the small side. Maybe 5'6". I towered over him, but he forgave
me. He was incredibly strong. What money and time he had, he spent rock
climbing. I remember going to a mass rally after 9/11 with him and Sabri
Oncu in San Francisco. Cameras dangling around his neck, he would hoist
himself up seven, eight feet in the air on various ledges to survey the
mass of people stretching out as far as the eye could see. He put up
with my ululating and reveled in the teeming crowd. Had there been a
revolution, he would have laid himself down and become the road if
needed. But he never got that chance.
He was the angriest and the most forgiving man I have ever met. We
shared a lot of interests: Bach, philosophy of science, film, art,
history...and, of course, endless hours of lbo gossip. He took infinite
care with his posts. Worked on them for days at a time. And without
being writerly, they were beautifully shaped, honest, articulate, and
Inspired by his step father, he had always wanted to be an artist. But
his physique and his rough and ready manner barred him from the rarefied
spheres of the impresarios and gallery owners. He was a consummate
craftsman: photography, computer repair, wheelchair repair,
rehabilitation, print making, framing, and cooking. Whatever he put his
hand to absorbed his entire attention. He wanted to be loved, supported,
understood. The middle class art of selling himself was foreign to him.
He was perhaps the last hopeless romantic. He insisted adamantly on the
He had had a tough life. His mother died of a drug overdose when he was
twenty. Instrumental in putting together a program for disabled students
at UC Berkeley, he got politely tossed when the professional bureaucrats
arrived to capitalize on his work. Despite superb training in the arts,
he could not get a job teaching art nor doing web design in the emerging
hi tech universe. He settled for wheelchair repair. Saved his energy for
study and reflection, which he pursued without pause all his life.
He was very much alone. Hard drinking and hard smoking combined to make
his last years difficult. A bout of flu seven years ago ravaged his
lungs and left him dependent on an inhaler he could almost not afford.
My family dramas and his mounting alcohol consumption conspired to keep
us apart. I did not see much of him in the last couple of years. He
wrote to lbo less and less. The last time I saw him he gave me one of
his drawings. I insisted he draw more, and he insisted I write more. Now
that he is gone, I shall have to be my own muse.
He taught me to understand art sensuously and to appreciate the infinite
amount of knowledge and work that go into a work of art. He helped me
feel that my passion for truth and beauty were eminently sane. I hope
that the many hours I spent listening to him, helped him feel sane and
understood. I hope that somewhere, somehow, he knew that my appreciation
was echoed by most everyone who subscribed to lbo.
When I think of him I think of all that longs to grow and I think of
everything that conspires against growth and life in this hellish
system. There is no forgiving that.
He will be much missed.
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