[Marxism] Chuck Grimes is dead

Louis Proyect 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 
always passionate.

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 
revolution. NOW.

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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