Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I met Warren in 1990 at New Directions, the local depression / manic depression support group. He once had us all over at his mom's house in Levittown and I remember how he cooked up delicious home made pizza and other tasty treats.
I first published Warren's poetry in the Summer of 1993 issue of my literary zine, Transcendent Visions. The poems were Death and I, Early Morning-Burlington Bristol Bridge and Love in Levittown. Warren was very humble about his poetry. I have published over one thousand poets at this point and Warren stands out as one of the best.
Warren and I had a lot in common. We liked the same type of music. He knew about The Ramones, The Mekons, Gang of Four, The Dead Kennedys, Laurie Anderson and other indy or punk bands. Warren also liked art and he was one of my biggest supporters. He once bought a piece I was working on. When I said "You can have it for 120." he said "That is to cheap." We agreed on 140 but he handed me 150 anyway. He was extremely generous and kind to me and other artists.
When I had a show in New York City, Warren and Tony met my sister Marie, my dad Norman and I at the train station in Manhattan. They took us out to lunch and then showed us around SoHo where the art show was. Marie really bonded with Tony and my dad and her commented on what nice people they were. To this day I get a chuckle out of my dad getting into a confrontation with this woman who bumped into him at the train station. She threatened to get the cops after my dad called her a nasty word and my dad said "Go ahead and get the cops." Tony said "No.No cops." Luckily it did not escalate into a major confrontation.
Warrens mom and sisters all live close to me, so whenever Warren was visiting his family he would give me a call and we would hang out. I would often show him what I was working on and then we would often go out to eat at Tommy's Teapot, a Japanese, Thai and Chinese restaurant and Warren would let me know what was in each dish. Being a chef he was so knowledgeable about different types of food.
When my sister, Marie, was in the hospice, Warren and I went to see her one Saturday. It was sunny out so we brought Marie out in a wheelchair and she had a few cigarettes while Warren smoked a cigar. I remember telling Warren how much Marie enjoyed Indian culture and music, so he made up a disc of sitar music for her.
When Marie passed away, Warren and Tony came to the memorial service. I remember how one of the Quakers wanted to change the time of the service and I said "No. You can't do that. She has friends coming from New York City and they are planning on being at the Meeting House at 6."
What else can I say about Warren? He was a fun loving man who cared about people. He was a talented, extremely articulate person who gave a lot to the world. Everyone who knew him will miss him.
I am planning on compiling a chap book of Warren's poetry, in February, to share with his friends and family.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
It was so nice to talk to some of the people who knew Warren!
Micheal: I am interested in Warren's work at CUNY. I was recalling this morning when he was explaining his interests to me in 1993 -- he said he was interested in what he called "hedontics;" from "hedonism," a pursuit of happiness in a way. Now the science of positive psychology is developing. I can't recall if he told me about his research, but I was interested to hear you were a subject, because I thought he was only working with RATS! -- maybe he just meant his advisors.
Could you send me an abstract/intro? email@example.com
Saturday, September 22, 2007
So many people have thanked me for caring for Warren while he was ill. I want everyone to know that I cherished the opportunity and it was a pleasure and a blessing to care for someone who cared for me and loved me so much. I know that Warren is now free from the prison he was in of not being able to communicate with others. His sister June once told me that she felt Warren could handle the paralysis and compensate for that but not being able to communicate with others had to be unbearable for him. I could not agree more.
I have to believe that Warren is now in a special place for wonderful and gifted people and our loss is their gain.
To Warren, I want to tell you I love you I will always love you and I miss you so very much.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Which was a good answer for him, as he also studied food preferences! (but I wanted speech data).
Later he moved to Boston, where he was a valued and popular co-worker. Someone else will have to comment on the activities of the “bowling league”; which I was shielded from (probably I was considered too priggish). After awhile, he had some health problems which lead to an extended stay in McLean hospital. He was always friendly and positive, even in that rather depressing environment. My son, Peter, was about 18 months old, and it was great to see them together.
It’s difficult to capture in words his enthusiasm and sweetness, despite the tough times he had. A great guy!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Dream of Joy
While you sleep and can't tell the day
from night and your mind decives you,
you hear the call to the present,
to present yourself. Like the sleeping
David, you are called, but think
it is to dreary duty or some requirement
and hit the snooze alarm to postpone the awakening.
And it comes, but the moment is
too happy to be real
and you can't imagine
that it could be.
Am I dreaming?
Wake! Look around you!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
There are more photos posted at:
I'm hoping to add more soon, but that may have to wait until my next trip north. If you want any, you should be able to download images at a fairly decent resolution by using the "download image" link at right.
There is a lot of high-tech to marvel over, to distract from other things. In the radiation treatments, they shot "weak" gamma beams into his head from 16 different angles so that they would cross at the point of the tumor, doing minimum damage to other brain tissue, while intensifying at the tumor. The tumor was called, he said, an "astroblastoma," a star-like thing, actually more like an octopus with tentacles. It was on top of a more benign tumor that had been giving him seizures and preventing him from driving for about seven years prior to that. But that one was a slow-growing tumor, and had actually become an integral part of his brain structure.
At the time, two years ago, if you can't guess what I'm saying, the tumor was inoperable, but some of the treatments, in radiation and chemotherapy, were cutting edge. He heard more than twice, about particular circumstances, "If you would have showed up five years earlier with this, we'd have to tell you there was nothing we could do." Well, this January, even the "inoperable" label was removed, and he had an operation. And more chemo.
And he called me, maybe in May, to say he was "better." I was standing in front of the cashier at Staples, and I told her sorry, I did really have to take this call -- and when I was done I told her through tears that it was a friend of mine who has had a brain tumor, and he just told me he was getting better. (People with brain tumors have a lot of trouble with communication; you have to make it as easy as you can.)
Well, enough about that. People get caught up in the minutia of illness.
Warren Stewart was one of, if not the, most cheerful, gracious, kind, generous, understanding, brilliant, and funny people I have ever known. I still remember back in the early days him showing up at a party I threw in a PA farmhouse, wearing a fez. In my family, it would be said: I threw parties where men wearing "fezez" might show up.
The first time I met him was at a "Bad English" concert he invited us to, in a small venue just off the U. Penn campus.
No, the first time I met him, maybe, was in New Orleans, at the Jazz and Heritage Festival. David Owen arranged for two blocks of tickets to New Orleans, one from Philadelphia and one from Boston, and we all stayed at the Charles Hotel in the Garden District. We had a big banquet dinner one night at Tujac's, the famous restaurant on Decatur Street, and Warren selected the wine.
He was half Scottish and half Catholic-Arab, was 10 lbs at birth, and grew up in the famous housing tract "Levittown, PA," where his mother lives today.
He was a linguist and statistician and French-trained chef. I met him through my ex; they worked at Kurzweil AI, here in Waltham, developing speech recognition software.
When he lived in MA, his neighbors called him the "Southern Bon-Vivant," a term I love, although where we're from is not technically "Southern." Heo told a story of this woman raving in the back yard, with a broom, while he was hosting a barbeque. The quintessential Yankee Rose, I guess. Man, could he throw a party. His "target kill ratio" for bottles of wine:person was 1:1. Then there was the scotch whiska.
He was a person of such abundance; he was always offering me the most amazing treasures, Russian boots or tiny pelts of Persian lambs, sheets of crocodile-embossed leather. When I thought my kitchen was empty, he made a delicious chocolate mousse from what he found there.
I remember all his assorted coffee machines he had in the kitchen on 11th St., and the microwave with no glass, just the mesh, which was "a Faraday Cage; the glass does nothing at all," he would say ...
Then there was the friendship he offered me. No one has ever commented on my good qualities as much as Warren. Talking to him, every time, improved my self-worth. He made me feel special. It was safe to dream aloud with him. And it was fun, and funny.
And then there were all the things he understood about people . . . it was wildly comforting to find someone who knew what I was talking about, and he always did.
I sent him some videos of Big Cats recently. He claims he used to have an in with the big-cat keepers at the Philadelphia Zoo, and used to be allowed to pet the tigers. Is what he said. Well, they were different times ...
He wore his summerweight Stewart Hunting tartan; Ed wore his woolen, primitive-wrap Walker tartan. The ladies (me included) jealously suffered from the loss of visual attention to these two peacocks in kilts.
I was just reading the program he made and laughed 'til I cried. The order:
Piping in ... "Scots wha' hae yea"
Chairman's Welcome Toast
Piping in the Haggis
Address to the Haggis
Toast to the Haggis
The Immortal Memory
Toast to the Lassies
The Lassies Reply
Scotch Drink ("... They certainly do")
Auld Lang Syne
He had prepared a haggis he had ordered from a gourmet haggis place in the Northwest somewhere (Seattle?). It was delicious.
Anyway, he produced a six-page program, including Bruce's Address at Bannockburn, The Selkirk Grace, Address to a Haggis, Scotch Drink, and finally, Auld Lang Syne.
The Selkirk Grace
Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some can eat that want it;
But we have meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquiantance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
Chorus: For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be you pint stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine;
But we've wander'd many a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl'd in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us briad hae roar'd
Sin' auld lang syne.
And there's a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak' a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.
(Certainly the more fun Burns writings among these are 'Address to a Haggis' and 'Scotch Drink'. Look them up.)
Comment from Dave Houston "If it's not Scottish, it's sober!", a blog buddy of mine in TX:
Och! What I'd have given to attend.
Here’s to them... brought us this far
And to them we’ve yet to see,
Them that made us what we are
And them that we will be.
Here’s to them that are in need
And to them who help them too,
Them that follow them that lead
And them who’s heart’s are true.
Here’s to them that love this land
All them of Scottish creed,
Raise them now to that Almighty Hand
That spread them Scottish seed.
Les Cravates Du Mal
Just have to share.
Warren was the founder and curator of the "Ugly Tie Museum,"
-- Les Cravates Du Mal --
He was a voracious collector of ugly ties. I had gone with him several times as we prowled the vintage boutiques and thrift stores of Lambertville, NJ, Levittown, PA, and Brooklyn, NY.
I started my own collection of ugly ties, but my secret is I find them quite beautiful. I "would wear them," but I never have.
He was a connoisseur of ugly ties, and collected along the lines of several provenances.
I'm not saying he was a snob about it; we ARE talking "UGLY TIES" here.
I always thought: Provenance be damned, it is only a matter of "liking," and a thing of extraordinary worth and beauty can come from anywhere.
You probably don't remember me, but we met at my Uncle Warren's viewing last week. A friend forwarded me your column this morning and I just wanted to thank you for writing such a great story about Warren. Seeing as how he was 20 years older than me, I never had the privilege of knowing him as a child; only given a glimpse through pictures and stories. Growing up, Warren was sort of elusive to me - the only Uncle not around for every birthday and holiday because he was at school or traveling. Not that I minded; these were things I admired greatly. I still have most of the odd, but loved, gifts that he sent me - an old fashioned mini-eggbeater to use in my Playskool kitchen, a stuffed aardvark (who but Warren would send such a thing to a little girl that loved kittens and the color pink?), a story written half in French so that I'm still not sure exactly what the characters are saying. I wore the cross he gave me for my first communion all last week.
Warren was not a big part of my everyday life - days, maybe even weeks could pass without giving him any thought. Until he got sick, anyway. But, at the same time, he was a huge part of my life.
I remember my sixth birthday party. All day, my parents made a huge fuss because a "surprise guest" was coming to the party. I immediately thought this must be my uncle. I was so convinced, that when a beautiful woman with pink hair rounded the corner into the backyard, I didn't even recognize her as my favorite cartoon character, Jem.
My cousin Katie and I used to plot out our dream futures together. Mine always involved a pink house in Boston with several cats. I had never been to Boston or owned a cat, but that is where Warren lived with his cats, Wally and Beaver.
I remember the gift he gave me for my 16th birthday - foreign money (I can't remember for which country) for my first trip to Europe. I knew he was proud of me, but I don't think he ever knew that he was the reason I wanted to travel so badly, the reason I tried (but ultimately failed) to learn French, and probably the reason I will hop on a plane tomorrow for Prague with my passport securely in the travel wallet he gave me last Christmas.
Aside from the unique, carefully selected gifts we always received at Christmas, Warren left us all with much greater gifts. He taught me about being different and appreciating those differences. He collected friends like someone might collect items for a museum. He had one of everything. His ex-wife was the first woman I had even known to not shave her armpits. His neighbor showed us how to make art out of tinfoil. Instead of crayons and coloring books, Warren selected watercolor paints and pastels for us to play with at the beach. He took Mike and me to one of those Chinese restaurants where dead fowl hung from the front window and cooked crawfish at a family dinner. He introduced us to jazz, the ballet, and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. He encouraged us to drink good coffee and scotch (sorry, Warren, I still prefer Dunkin Donuts and beer).
It's easy to feel ok right now. My life will go on the same, even with this immense hole in it. But the smell of pipe tobacco will always make me look around the room for a man with playful, bright blue eyes and a dark beard with cookie crumbs peaking out from just below his mouth.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
And his creativity extended far beyond cooking. One day we discovered that a co-worker had been doing all of his text editing with ed(1). We all applied a totally inappropriate amount of peer pressure to get him to switch to using emacs. After extensive public humiliation, John switched to emacs, and Warren wrote many verses, sung to the tune of the old spiritual, "Hang down your head, Tom Dooley" which chronicled the switch John made from ed to emacs. Does anyone out there has a copy of "Light up your life, John Dooley. Emacs has come too thee." by Warren Stewart?
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The first time I met Warren was in Paris, over a decade ago. He came over to Kai's house at Gare de l'Est and made dinner for a few of us down and out Bohemians. I remember how excited he was about the cold cuts he'd found. It was the first time I ever tried okra (fried with a crust of corn flour) and I'm an okra-lover to this day. I remember also that I pulled a piece off off a paper-thin slice of ham, leaving the fatty part on my plate and he insisted something like, "Eat that fat! It cost $60 a pound! And it's the best part!" So true!
Warren gave my son the stuffed monkey that became his first favorite toy.
When we moved to Brooklyn, we came from Paris bringing only what we could carry on the plane. We left all our dishes and kitchen stuff behind. Warren had me over for dinner and when I left his apartment I was carrying half a kitchen's worth of cooking utensils. I still have them. I remember that he had a collection of spatulas and spoons and whisks with easy-grip ergonomic handles for the elderly people he volunteered with. He told me that whenever he saw one on sale, he grabbed it (ever thrifty!) because they were so useful to elderly cooks.
I have more little stories I'd like to write about, and I'll get to them later, but I didn't want to let more time go by without posting something.