Thursday, February 25, 2010

Epitaph

EPITAPH, n. A monumental inscription designed to remind the deceased of what he might have been if he had had the will ans opportunity. The following epitaphs were copied by a prophet from the headstones of the future:
Here lies the remains of great Senator Vrooman,
Whose head was as hard as the heart of a woman-
Whose heart was as soft as the head of a hammer.
Dame Fortune advanced him to eminence d--- her.

We mourn the loss
of Senator Cross,
If he'd perished later
Our grief had been greater
If he never had died
We should always have cried.
As he died and decayed
His corruption was stayed.

Beneath this mound Charles Crocker now reposes;
Step lightly, strangers- also hold your noses.

The doctors they tried to hold William Stow back, but
We played at his graveside the sham and the sackbut.
2010 Update: A carved remembrance of a deceased loved one, meant to outlast the mourner as the departed would have wished.
Old Cheney's gone, his fate his here
And those who loved him need not fear
His disposition nor shed a tear
Unless he gets the devil's ear.
Regarding yesterday: Again, my apologies for hijacking this blog for analog purposes. At Weirsdo's kind request, here is a little more about Jan, who passed on Monday, and a partial explanation of the poem and post. (This is long and not reading or not reading it all will bring no offense.)

First, basic history: In 1983, a 15-year-old pre-onset curmudgeon was working in a gas station, where cacophonous Jan and his well named first wife, Glori were customers. Jan owned a flower store and hired me away the next year. When I left for Deep Springs, he hired my younger brother, then my sister, my friend Eric, and when my friend Anton set up a computer consulting business, I think Jan bought a computer so he could hire Anton. He hired Anton's younger brother (oneandre in yesterday's comments) and, I think, Anton and Andre's younger brother, Arturo. By the time my youngest brother was old enough to work, I think Jan had lost his shop, but I'm pretty sure MacLean would have had a shift otherwise. As we grew up and did other things, Jan was always there to treat us like kings, leer at our girlfriends (my sister excepted) and mentor us in corruption, dissolution and how to break the law not for greed or malice but out of sheer, catastrophic carelessness.

Note to Pia: As you might have guessed, I was Jan's delivery driver in 1984 or 1985 and while I might wish to revise the truth and certainly did at the time, I'm confident I troubled no marriages. In my defense, this was not due to any lack of bad intent.

About Jan: There are three things that I think are most important in explaining Jan. First, he was a manic mad genius. His medium was floral design and at one time he owned one of the 20 largest flower shops in LA County, did the flowers for the NBA's L.A. Clippers, decorated celebrity homes for Christmas (for Jan, I have lain garland in Dolly Parton's bedroom, a dream come true, most certainly.)
Second, Jan was a thorough mess. He lost his shop, and earned a loss on almost every big decorating contract. He was generous with his time, advice and money far beyond his assets. If someone paid him $20,000 for an event, he would feel guilty until he'd spent $20,000 on flowers and overpaid 5 young people and all their friends to work with him, then thrown a party to celebrate the successful completion. His parties were legendary. I would not be surprised if at the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor's office, they have an actor to play Jan at trainings.
Third, Jan was the salt of the Earth. I have heard it said that in this life, people can so debauch themselves that their own parents won't accept them and even then, God loves them. Jan, too. From antisocial teenage cowboys, to alcoholic baseball players, to thieves who had stolen from Jan himself to the sick, addicted, immoral, needy, broke, lazy and doc, there was nothing wrong with anyone that Jan wouldn't greet them as a best friend and equal. As a result, he had some famous friends (sports stars, hollywood types) and some that would have been completely disreputable had they not been entirely anonymous. One measure of the affection people had for Jan is that almost my entire circle of Los Angeles friends and family is a subset of Jan's and every time three or more gather around Jan, at least one is a perfect stranger to me.

A few jokes from yesterday's verse partially explained: There were three restaurants where Jan would often entertain twenty or so of his closest friends at a time. Two of them were famous with Jan and his friends for mixing mai-tais. Many of the jokes were meant to gay bait. Homosexuality was not excluded from the traits that Jan wouldn't hold against anyone, but he got ribbed a lot because, as he often put it, "I have a girl's name and I'm a florist." He started balding early in life. One time, on a visit, I helped Jan all night decorating a massive tent for a party and the tent was to be used one night which astonished me. Jan had pot and at some point we had a twenty foot ladder set and bending to reach the top brace and Jan kept sending me up with buckets of water and flowers so that I made my peace with the Lord, then he changed his mind about how those decorations should look and went up himself, working with a single toe on the ladder. At one point I pointed out that he only had one toe on the ladder and he replied "Oh, yeah. I could fall, huh?" I told him that when he smoked pot he was "dumb as a box of rocks." and we both laughed, he nearly plummeted to his death, and he never could quite remember the phrase. Any time after that I found him stoned he would announce "I have rockses in my boxes!"

One last personal note: I very much appreciate all the condolences offered in the post below. Jan was given six months to live in, I think, 2003. I don't think the doctors overestimated the cancer or even underestimated Jan as much as they'd underestimated how much Jan could die and still not be dead. The night before he passed he asked me to move him on his bed and, meaning to shift him a few inches, I accidentally lifted his entire body (the exact kind of oafish hillbilly calamity Jan's mocked me for nigh on thirty years.) Those of us who saw him a fair bit in these last years are all very glad to see the end come and no condolences are necessary.

Now, ladies and gentlemen meet the late, great Jan Mueller: (if you don't see a video, click here)

34 comments:

TLP said...

You're a sweet guy in spite of yourself.

This is maybe my favorite of all your posts, ever. And I've loved a bunch of them.

Wish I'd known Jan.

TLP said...

The video is wonderful! Jan isn't as I had pictured him at all. What a character! And I love his messy place! (Yes, I hate any mess in my own space, but somehow love it elsewhere.)

I know that everyone who knew him must miss him like crazy. He really, truly was talented.

Nice post. Just very, very nice.

quilly said...

I wish I could have known Jan. The world needs more people who accept, forgive and don't place blame.

Ariel the Thief said...

I love that video, my fave part has always been when Jan shows up with his glasses under his jaw. I wore glasses in the bigger part of my life, so that completely stuns me.

Thank you!

Thom said...

Mahalo for letting us get to know Jan a little bit better. That's not how I had him pictured either. That was a great video. You da man my friend :)

Ariel the Thief said...

Epitaph, desperate trying to make one gravestone different to the other.

Ariel the Thief said...

"And then they died, the end."

Tom&Icy's definition for the word epitaph in 2008. No way to top it. :)

jenn said...

I agree with TLP that this is one of my favourite posts.

I watched the video with a sense of self-pity. He totally loves what he's doing. Something to be learned in that.

Sorry for your loss, Doug, but it's clear he left a footprint in your life...seems to be your backside.

Omnipotent Poobah said...

epitaph: Saying nice things behind someone's tombstone.

Having said that, your epitaph for Jan is splendid. He sounds as though he richly deserved the kind words you gave him.

Nessa said...

He seems like someone who just lived. A very fascinating person. I can certainly see why people were drawn to him.

Your post is a beautiful tribute to an incredible man.

Doug said...

Thanks, TLP. If I'd remembered this video yesterday morning I could have saved a bunch of confusion.

Well, Quilly, fairness requires that I admit I haven't mentioned his second wife. It took a lot of wrong to make Jan hateful, spiteful, judgmental and bitter, but the mother of his children was up for the challenge.

Ariel, I keep missing that part. My favorite part is always "I haven't read the book, but the kids tell me." I don't think there are thirty words in that book. That Jan!

Thanks, Thom for wading through it all. It's good of you all to be interested.

Ariel, Tom's was untoppable, but you managed to equal it.

Jenn, I'm not sure he didn't leave something of a shadow on my gray matter too. My sobriety isn't Jan's fault.

Heh, Poobah. That's a good definition, too.

Thank you, Nessa.

Anonymous said...

Doug's Dad says: Now you know what we lost. I am sitting here with tears in my eyes after watching the video. And I am an an insensitive, stinky boy.

cooper said...

Sorry for the loss of your friend, from your words, and that video, he appears a life worthy character indeed.

Jim said...

This is a nice tribute blog to Jan. You did good by him. He sounded like a fellow that I would be comfortable hanging out with. Too, yesterday's got a name instead of initials since the last time I saw it. That was good.

The video was great, it explained Jan very good, filling in some spots in your write up.

I am sorry for your loss. I know you will have him on your mind quite regularly.
..

sauerkraut said...

I knew a guy like that once... unfortunately, there aren't enough of them to go around or to come around more than once in a lifetime. Although you, too, have your moments. :-) Never knew you were all mooshie inside.

Tempest Nightingale LeTrope said...

Oh, Dahling, I am sorry to hear of the passing of your friend Jan. But I did rather go into a swoon when I saw the comparison of a good and womanly heart with the hard head of a politician!
In all seriousness, I am sorry to hear of your loss.

C.J.Duffy said...

If I hate anything and I don't think I hate anyone then I hate cancer. Not the disease itself but the god awful way it reduces human dignity to sweat stains on a sheet, urine spent accidently, soiled clothes and shrunken, bright eyes.
I have seen many family members die slowly of this foul scythe of human life and can only say how glad I am that Jan no longer suffers. He sounds a regular bloke and one whose mad exploits will live in yours and other memories for years.
x

Doug said...

Pop, you are an insensitive, stinky boy but I understand.

Yeah, thanks, Cooper. He was that.

RIght, Jim. I realized it was a silly extra layer of confusion to not be more clear about who the departed was.

Haha, Sauerkraut. Mooshier outside.

Thanks, Tempest.

CJ, the madness lives on.

Karen said...

The Madness of King Egalitaria?

I saw that movie. Nigel Hawthorne played the Mad King. Helen Mirren won an Oscar for portrayal as the lovely Queen Charlotte. Ian Holm portrays the much misaligned Dr. Willis, who attempts to cure the King through behavior modification.

In the end, the King's malady cures itself, but by that point, the colonies were lost.

In memoriam:

“Voyage upon life's sea,
To yourself be true,
And, whatever your lot may be,
Paddle your own canoe”

Susan at Stony River said...

What a wonderful tribute to such a friend and character! I would have loved to have known him too. This post is beautiful.

My father died of cancer too, for years and years and years. When my sister died of it, she went much more quickly, and I couldn't help but wonder if it was on purpose.

Doug said...

That's nice, Karen.

Thank you, Susan. I understand what you mean. Quickly sounds better.

weirsdo said...

Great portrait. I love his Max boat.

Doug said...

Wasn't that great, Weirsdo? Sadly, I was much more enamored of it than Jan's kids seemed to be.

Ariel the Thief said...

We all say the more quick the better, but few of us will say the same when we are actually set in the boat and hear the falls from the distance.

On his videos Jan always talks about his kids with great respect and affection. A kind soul's way of drowning the devil. :)

Anonymous said...

Quiet, insightful, intelligent. Just as I remember you, Dougie Fresh. And I say that with the utmost sincerity. My heart stopped and my eyes filled with tears when I stumbled upon this remarkable tribute to an inimitable sole. Thank you for the poignant, witty, perceptive homage to Jan, Jan our Flower Man.

Doug said...

Perceptive, Ariel. If there was anyone Jan tried hard to win the good opinion of, it was his kids.

Thank you anonymous. Want to hint who you are? You can email me at dpascover at mac dot com.

Minka said...

read it all through! (no applause necessary;)In my mind, even better than the poem. great to see the love between a lovable maniac and hillbilly curmudgeon. Cheers!

Doug said...

Thanks, Minka. Prose is maybe righter for Jan.

Anonymous said...

Your videos of Jan are great, as are your stories. The second paragraph in "About Jan" I know was right on from my own experience dealing with Jan. If I wanted to buy flowers at the Flower Pavilion, I would have to do it behind Jan's back otherwise he would not allow me to pay for them.
Of course, he did give me plenty of free flowers for Mom and Joy. What a wonderful man. Jan will long be remembered. - Tom

Doug said...

Tom, thanks. I do remember that from working at the Flower Pavilion, how customers and friends would conspire to pay full price while others would ask "is Jan here?" I hope to see you at the funeral Friday.

Tom said...

Doug - I had every intention of making the trip, but I learned today that due to circumstances beyond my control I will most likely not be able to make it. If things change I will be there in person, but rest assured that no matter what I will most certainly be there in spirit. You can ask The Iceman to explain. :-)

Doug said...

No explanation needed, Tom. Unless it's funny. We'll represent.

Tom said...

I trust all went well and that Jan was smiling down from above. :-)
- Tom

Doug said...

Tom, he was smiling down from a plasma television which is what he would have wanted, I'm pretty sure.