Friday, March 25, 2016

jack is dead

Last night my friend Anne sent me a note telling me my pal (and frequent commenter here) Jack Brock had been killed in an accident. He was riding his iconic bicycle on the main highway through this area and was struck by a car.

That is all I know about the accident. But the important part of that tale is that Jack is dead.

Every town has a Jack Brock. That is, every town with a soul. He is the type of guy who is just a bit eccentric, but almost always brings a smile to your face just by seeing him no matter your current circumstances.

In Jack's case, it was that darn bicycle. I guess it was not so much the bicycle as how Jack had it tricked out -- with the cliché Mexican flag (flapping away with no discernible irony) and his omnipresent stereo system blaring out traditional Mexican tunes. Everything about his rig was just plain fun.

Our local message board is replete with paeans to Jack's smile, his personality, his love of life. All of that is true.

But too often in death we strip away the more complex layers of the deceased's personality. Falling back on de mortuis nihil nisi bonum, and reducing the corpse to a real nice guy.

Jack was nice. But he was far more than that. He was honest. And that honesty often manifested itself in his role as provocateur and curmudgeon.

He knew how to live life. When it came to food or music or dancing, he was not a spectator; he was one of life's participants.

Jack would talk about any topic with a reckless disregard for political correctness. He would lob some of the most outrageous comments into conversations with people who took themselves far too seriously. And when The Serious People reacted in moral outrage, Jack would always offer an apology that was far more sardonic than sincere.

Actually, there were two topics he would not discuss with most people -- religion and politics -- because his views were -- well, let's just say they were not orthodox. Because those topics are the lifeblood of most of my conversations, I was able to coax Jack into discussing them.

His reluctance was pragmatic. He had never met a person who could convince him to change his mind on politics or religion -- nor had he ever changed another person's position. "So, what was the point?", he would ask.

It turned out that our views on religion were universes apart. But he was very articulate in what he believed, and we both respected each other enough to have interesting talks without allowing emotions to overrule our beliefs. Jack had a rare gift.

On politics, we agreed on almost everything. At times, we would try to outmaneuver the other in who could take the most outlandish ground. He usually won.

But, because we agreed, we did not have many conversations about politics. What is more boring than talking with someone who shares your opinions? Where is the tension? The ability to learn? The ability to strike for the jugular?

I had always assumed that Jack was an American. That is why he always confused me when he would talk about returning to Canada. But he was just a legal resident there. The Canadian personality never found a home in his being. He was thoroughly American despite the fact of living in Canada since the 1980s. Thus his tendency to reject political correctness.

And he was an artist. Most of us here in Melaque knew him for his photography. He sold his work at the local art shows and was always a strong supporter of other artists in the community.

That may be because he was also an exquisite wood sculptor. If it were not one of those art world snarky criticisms, I would say he had a sculptor's eye for his photographs. That is one at the top of this essay.

But there will be no more bike rides. No evenings listening to Gilbert and Sullivan. No more photographs. No more smiles. And no more comments that would make the smug clasp their pearls.

Jack, a lot of people are going to miss you. But, more importantly, life here is going to miss you.

I hope you are absolutely wrong about an afterlife. I have no idea what it may be. But, having enhanced this one, you will undoubtedly enhance it.

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