Thursday, July 28, 2016


A friend of mine named Mark recently died.  I wasn't sure if I would write about it--it's personal and most readers of this blog don't know him--but I figured I would share with the world a little about him.

I met him my first year in college.  He was a bit older, and was the kind of fun friend who'd let you know about cool things going on.  We went to various event in Ann Arbor while I was in college.  A bit later, one time when I went to his house out in the country (but not far from Ann Arbor), I looked through his video collection to see what rarities he had. I remember him showing me, of all things, Faces Of Death, the first in a series of cult films that purport to show you footage of actual deaths.  Not quite so hard to find in the age of the internet, but the kind of thing that got passed around a few decades ago.

Mark was always entertaining to be around, and we stayed in touch no matter where I lived.  Whenever I'd visit Ann Arbor we'd meet for lunch, and we also met up a few times in Vegas. Unfortunately, Mark missed our last lunch in the Fall of 2015--he'd promised to explain to me why Interstellar sucked, but now I'll never know.

I always thought he could make a living in stand-up, because he had an odd way of looking at the world--let's call it joyously cynical--and a great delivery.  He was very suspicious of government, and had good reason.  Let me tell you one of his best stories, which I often asked him to repeat. (I fear I don't remember all the facts perfectly, but since Mark isn't around to correct me , I'll relate it the best I can.)

He had some government official in his house (basement?, garage?) for some mundane reason (meter reading?).  On one of his shelves he had a bottle of glycerin.  As a joke, he'd written on it "nitroglycerin." The official saw it and went nuts. Mark tried to explain, but it didn't matter.  The guy called in the EPA (or whoever is in charge of such things).  They brought in some bomb experts (or whoever deals with such things) and safely disposed of the bottle.  And, of course, charged Mark thousands for the expense.

He was into movies, and, in fact, once helped run a theatre.  We sometimes dreamed about getting together and running one on our own--especially after there was a contest announced earlier this year in the small town of Houlton, Maine.  The owner of the only cinema there wanted to sell it for $350,000, but couldn't find a buyer.  So he said send in a short essay and $100 and if there are enough entries the winner gets to own it.  Mark had several idea for the essay.  First he suggested that we promise we'll show nothing but gay porn, helping out an underserved minority in Houlton.  Next he suggested we write "All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy" for a few pages. No one won, by the way--not enough entries.

Of course, if we had won, Mark knew what it really meant--we'd take on the debts and operating costs of the theatre.  It's getting tougher on exhibitors these days, and, as Mark noted, they're not in the movie business, they're in the popcorn business.

Even more recently, I told him a local theatre had a special night each month where they only showed old 16mm industrial shorts. He got mad, saying he had that idea years ago. In fact, he told me he came up with YouTube, Starbucks, Amazon, weird soda flavors and cell phones as detonators, but someone always beat him to market before he could exploit it.

Anyway, that's Mark.  I miss him.  He leaves behind his wife Dori, who I also know since the old days.  I hope she's holding up.


Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

I think I remember that house. One of my favorite trips from Chicago.

I spoke to my mom last night and she said something about how the world shrinks. This is what she meant.

4:23 AM, July 28, 2016  

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