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Dave Alway memorial - Phil's Rambling Rants
March 11th, 2007
09:11 pm

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Dave Alway memorial
I have just returned from my weekend trip to Otsego for the memorial for Dave Alway, the kind and generous filker whose death shocked us when we got home from GaFilk.

The trip started painfully early but without incident, with birder2 arriving at my house on time and with us leaving only a minute or two after the planned time of 7 AM.  We drove up Indiana 63 to US 41, jumped over to I-65 on Indiana 10, and picked up I-94 at Gary.  All was without incident until traffic came to a complete stop when we were almost at Kalamazoo.  Luckily, the traffic backup was timed just so that after I'd been literally stopped for a couple of minutes, I was able to edge around the semi in front of me onto the last exit before M-131 and take a surface street detour (which was marked once we got onto it, but if there was a sign that said "save yourself! get off here" before the exit, I didn't see it.  From M-131 the directions peteralway had provided were quite sufficient to get us to Glimmerglass House, where I signed the log, rang the gong (which very few people did, in spite of the sign right there exhorting them to), and started greeting people and taking some pictures.  (I will not be doing anything with the pictures tonight; I am dead tired and want to go to bed, but I do want to write some of this.)

I'm fortunate enough to not be a seasoned critic of memorial observances, but the non-religious "service" led by brother Bob, consisting of his and the other siblings' remembrances, was both more authentic and more touching than most that I've been to.  As was fitting for the memory of Dave, the memories were happy and humorous, and I think there was more laughter than tears in the formal memorial.

After the memorial, we began the final Glimmerglass House sing.  qnvhrtz was the original instigator of this recurring event and ran the last one smoothly.  Many people participated, and most of them actually sang, played, recited, or otherwise directly gave us something, with only a small number of people either picking or playing a track from a CD as an "electronic guest".  So many people participated, in fact, that there were only two rounds of the circle.  One round before a pizza dinner, then several of the family members had a special round where they performed things, then one round of the circle after, and then it was around 10 PM, when so many people had to leave that by the time the chaos of departures had mostly subsided there was nobody left.

I had had vague notions of staying around later in the evening when the circle was supposed to get smaller, but I was sleepy enough that it probably wouldn't have been wise even if there was any more of a circle.  (Considering the people who were actually staying in the house, they probably made some more music after we all left.  But I'm not going to worry about it.)  I also had planned on hopping on the road and just looking for a reasonable looking motel on my planned route home, but bigbumble practically insisted that we stay at his place.  He was able to provide beds for both of us in separate rooms (thus accommodating my need for a space private enough that I had hope of sleeping), for which he showed himself to be truly a gentleman and a scholar and worthy of praise for helpfulness above and beyond the call of duty.  Seriously, I know that what it takes to let me sleep is too much to ask even of friends I've known longer and better, so I generally prefer to just pay for a room.

We'd agreed an awakening time which would, in theory, get us on the road in time to visit my tiger friends at EFRC on the way home.  Thanks to the early Spring Forward, this meant a less than ideal amount of sleep and getting up was painful but achievable.  We had some breakfast at bigbumble's house, and then went back next door to Glimmerglass where peteralway, braider, catsittingstill, robin_june and Alan who AFAIK INOLJ, mrgoodwraith, and my apologies if I'm forgetting anyone, were up and about and (big shock) making music.  We had a little more breakfast, banter, hugs, enjoyed the music (I didn't participate since it was instrumental and the guitar was in the car, and hard as it was pried ourselves away a little before 11 (and later than I'd meant to leave).

The drive to EFRC was fairly unremarkable, except for a second incident of traffic coming to a complete standstill just at the point where I had an exit to ditch onto; this time on the northeast corner of Indy at the intersection of Indiana 13 with I-69.  This had the appearance of a major accident rather than construction, and I suspect that had the traffic stopped just a few hundred feet farther, we'd have been stuck there for hours and I wouldn't have seen my tigers.  Once off the Interstate, we dared the unmarked white wastes of the gap on the map between marked roads and successfully found our way to Indiana 234, which lead to Indiana 9 to I-70.  Navigation is pretty easy in the flat parts of Northwest Ordinance states.  We got to EFRC.  The weather was glorious, sunny and 60°F, and I had a very nice couple of hours going through the compound showing my friends off to birder2, who probably didn't enjoy it was much as I but didn't seem to be suffering.

We drove back to my house just as a pretty sunset was setting up, and birder2 recovered her own car and headed off while I had malamute hugs and dinner.  A very fine weekend; I regret never having made it to Glimmerglass while Dave was still with us, but I'm glad I kept my promise to myself and to Dave as well as I could by coming to this final sing.

I'll now speak perhaps somewhat crassly about my own and select other performances, since this was a filk.  I put this at the end so anyone so minded can skip it.

My own performances were a reading of Alfred Noyes' "The Barrel-Organ", a poem I'd never have noticed but for Dave reading it at filks, and "Swing the Cat".  I'd actually been practicing reading "The Barrel-Organ".  I'm still not perfect, but I made few enough stumbles and bobbles that I believe those I made were forgivable, and I hope that I'm getting both a little variety and a little interest into the poem.  I did receive some nice comments on it.  "Swing the Cat" was pretty fast, pretty clean until the superfast end, and seemed well received.  It also generated one of the rare hints of the spontaneity of followers in a chaos sing, when first birder2 quoted from her parody about the townspeople wondering what happened to the cats the ship stole, and then Art WINOLJ singing his chorus commenting about my work at EFRC that goes "grab the roadkill by its feet, swing it high and swing it neat, you might save YOUR life at that if you can feed the cat", both of which got laughs from the audience.

The most memorable other performance certainly had to be the belly dance by one of Dave's neices, whose name I forget to my shame.  (I just don't have the knack for retaining people's names, and the bigger the crowd of strangers the less likely I am to remember any of them; I'm doing well to remember just the names of Dave's siblings.)  Also well worthy of mention were two poetry recitations by a gentleman whose name I again forget.  Two long, tricky poems, delivered with verve and emotion, a few bobbles but definitely without losing the flow: Poe's "The Raven" and "The Walrus and the Carpenter" from Lewis Carroll.  (After the latter, I really wished we hadn't been bardic so almeda would have been able to follow with "I Am the Walrus".  (Which reminds me, I want the lyrics to that.))  sazettel gave one of the most moving tributes to Dave during the circle, explaining how with his steadfast support of her readings, he had given her the nerve to persevere and become a published writer.  And that, in turn, means that her wonderful books are another gift Dave gave not just the filk community but the wider SF world.  jerusha sang cadhla's "I Am".  I don't mean to detract from her a capella performance, which was great, but I really remember it because I was thinking at the time how much I wished I could play itainteasy's guitar part.  On the trip home, I spun Pretty Little Dead Girl again, and paused after track one to sermonize on the little-understood art of accompaniment and just how wonderful a practitioner of it itainteasy is, and perhaps I will write a separate entry about that.  peteralway introduced "Sad Waltz" with the story of how his performance of it at GaFilk (with braider dancing) had been one of the high points of a great con for Dave and how it was the last music Dave ever heard when Peter played it when they got home.  I'm crying again as I type this.  And people did dance as Peter played.  The Sass Trio (I felt dumb when I couldn't actually place Kate Early until Susan Urban introduced her; I knew I knew who she was but I wasn't expecting her in this context) did the Best. Version. Ever. of Susan's song Mrs. Worski's Garden.  The fictional Mrs. Worski's generosity on her deathbed tends to make me cry anyway, and now it's going to be tied to memories of Dave, another generous soul.  Almost at the end of the evening, catsittingstill sang a song patoadam had written about Dave's death which I somehow hadn't seen before which was just so right.  Brian, the unofficial DJ for the evening, sang "Bohemian Rhapsody" a capella, allowing me to actually hear words to a rock standard that's mostly just washed over me as sound.

I'm sure I could wring more memories out, but I really need to get some sleep so I'm going to stop now.

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[User Picture]
From:peteralway
Date:March 12th, 2007 04:01 am (UTC)
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...traffic backup was timed just so that after I'd been literally stopped for a couple of minutes, I was able to edge around the semi in front of me onto the last exit before M-131...

Unfortunately, that construction mess had started Friday evening, so there was no way to get out a warning until it was too late. Oh, and that's US 131.

...I'm fortunate enough to not be a seasoned critic of memorial observances, but the non-religious "service..."

That's a family tradition

I think there was more laughter than tears in the formal memorial.

My theory is that the quality of a person's life can be measured by how much fun people have at the funeral. It tells you the kind of person they attracted to surround them. I really wasn't trying to deliver a comedy rountine--just to tell the truth as I knew it.

</i>I had had vague notions of staying around later in the evening when the circle was supposed to get smaller, but I was sleepy enough that it probably wouldn't have been wise even if there was any more of a circle.</i>

There was no more circle that night--with overnighters from as far a Pittsburgh and Tennessee, they really had to crash

"Swing the Cat" was pretty fast, pretty clean until the superfast end, and seemed well received.

That's a fun one.

The most memorable other performance certainly had to be the belly dance by one of Dave's neices, whose name I forget to my shame.

Rebecca, AKA Becky, engineer, graduate student, and pilot.

Also well worthy of mention were two poetry recitations by a gentleman whose name I again forget. Two long, tricky poems, delivered with verve and emotion, a few bobbles but definitely without losing the flow...

I don't know the man's name--he was new to Glimmerglass, but I will also point out that he was reciting from memory.

peteralway introduced "Sad Waltz" with the story of how his performance of it at GaFilk (with braider dancing) had been one of the high points of a great con for Dave and how it was the last music Dave ever heard when Peter played it when they got home. I'm crying again as I type this. And people did dance as Peter played.

My ex-cousing-in-law, shadowriderhope joined me on the sax. My eyes were glued to the keyboard, and any peripheral awareness was directed towards Hope, so I didn't have any idea about the dancing, though the next morning, braider mentioned that she had danced to it. I'm pleased to hear that it was people (plural) dancing.

Almost at the end of the evening, catsittingstill sang a song patoadam had written about Dave's death which I somehow hadn't seen before which was just so right.

That song appeared (lyrics only) on LJ just a few days ago. When I saw that Cat had it in her hands after her turn, with chords and everything, I just had to play the "official bereaved card" to hear it.

Thank you for coming.
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From:braider
Date:March 12th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC)
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*grin* Among others in the back of the room, your brother and neice danced to it.
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From:tigertoy
Date:March 12th, 2007 04:55 pm (UTC)
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I don't know how I could have left shadowriderhope's saxophone out of the memorable performances, even as brain-fried as I was.
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From:robin_june
Date:March 12th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC)

A couple of jigsaw puzzle pieces for you

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The bellydancing niece was Rebecca, which made me think of Dave's friendship with another Becca
(who might or might not be on lj) whom I chiefly remember because her hair was capable of growing down to her calves. Dave had mentioned when around her that he had a niece who shared the name, but I hadn't made the connection..

Larry Kestenbaum recited the Poe and Carroll poems. Larry is a very old friend from the Michigan State University Tolkien Fellowship who, once the Fellowhip was more or less defunct, joined the Saturday group that Dave would drive up to Lansing for rotating Chinese restaurants' dinners with Alan, me, Dr. John Filpus, Frank Lessa, Mkie Grimm, Rob Butler, and maybe a few others that I don't recall (and beyond what Alan recalled when I woke him back up a moment ago). Larry moved to Ann Arbor and became a local politician before we moved to Columbus in 1991; as such, I've told him that lj is a Much Safer Place than MySpace.
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From:peteralway
Date:March 12th, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)

Re: A couple of jigsaw puzzle pieces for you

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Larry Kestenbaum I just realized that not only do I recognize the name from Dave talking about him, but that I've actually voted for the man. He's the county clerk here.
From:birder2
Date:March 12th, 2007 04:16 pm (UTC)
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You obviously didn't see me turning green with jealosy as you scritched & petted all those cats & I couldn't even touch any of them.
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From:tigertoy
Date:March 12th, 2007 05:09 pm (UTC)
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That's your government, keeping you safe.
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