It’s a day for sentimentality. My mom’s had her birthday, which is of course a wonderful occasion: but I won’t talk about that here as it’s a bit too private for the blog.
Yes Virginia there are things I don’t babble on and on about. I also don’t talk about why I’ve been somewhat quiet the past few months, blogging far less than usual. I don’t want to complain other than to say I’ve been busy due to a flood in my basement. We’re very lucky with how it has turned out (and thank goodness for insurance coverage) but that doesn’t change the fact that one gets preoccupied with all sorts of details. I’m going to write a long personal blog today because of how I feel about Larry and mortality and the necessity of grabbing life when you get the chance.
I hadn’t thought of Larry Earlix in ages and ages.
And he pronounced it so that it rhymes with “girl—ix” or “swirl-ix”, no matter how you might think he—a guitar player after all—should have pronounced it… No not “Ear-licks” or “beer licks” apt as that might be for a really good lead guitar.
But I was reminded of Larry listening to the radio yesterday, as we were invited on “Here & Now” (an afternoon drive-home program) to remember the Volkswagen Beetle and to share our memories. I didn’t call because I knew at the time that what I was remembering would be impossible to capture in a little phone-call to the kind folks curating the contributions for Here & Now. Indeed I wondered how sentimental I might become recalling Larry, the coolest person I knew at the time if not the coolest person I ever met.
Of course one man’s cool is another person’s faux-pas, so it’s relative. Others from that era might roll their eyes at the thought. Larry was not tall. Larry was not imposing. Larry was gentle and kind, articulate but not an imposing academic. Many knew him for his background support work, not any starring roles.
So, in the process of thinking about the car I remembered a lot of other things about someone who was for a time my best friend.
I remembered that I phoned Larry awhile ago. It must have been the 1990s, I realize now. Wow times flies. I looked him up through something that might have been the internet. Was there a google? No, it was long distance directory assistance. Yes I remember now you used to be able to ask for phone numbers, if you had the right part of the world.
But I found a phone number and called him up. I remember a friendly chat, with someone I’d known long before, the voice so familiar.
He suggested I come visit him in California.
If you have that impulse to call someone, to chat or talk? Do it. Go with it. Don’t hesitate, wondering if there will be a next time.
That call was the first time in a long time, and it turns out, the last time we would or could speak.
Googling today I couldn’t find very much. If I had, I’d do what I usually do, I’d make a list with bullet points. By now people know me for that, right? I do what I do blogging as in my life as a manager at the university, whether I’m talking to my customers or my staff or my boss.
But when you find next to nothing, bullets are out.
So what did I find? The first link Google offered, I wasn’t even sure it was him at first. The name Earlix is uncommon, just like Barcza, which is a huge advantage when you’re googling. If your old pal from the 1970s is Smith or Jones or Mancini or Singh: you will have a much harder time.
Google gave me three possibles, and in each case I was skeptical (feel free to search for yourself, using “Larry Earlix”). The second seems only marginally possible, but I’ll come back to #2 in a moment.
#1? The first thing that caught my eye was disheartening especially if I admit to myself that yes, I was hoping to talk to an old friend. The first phrase is
“Unfortunately, Lawrence Earlix passed away at the age of 51, the date of death was 07/26/1998.”
Hm could it be the right Larry Earlix? Reading those words I was hoping it was the wrong one.
The site came up as
Lawrence Earlix (Larry), 51 – Monterey, CA Background Report
I don’t know about background reports. And I was just curious about an old friend. IS this him? Larry was older than me. In 1998 I was 43. Hm, 51? I didn’t know how much older he was, but that sounds totally plausible. I saw Larry regularly in the latter 1970s when I was connected to the University of Toronto’s Varsity newspaper. I was the classical music editor –a free job—and also the proof-reader –a paid gig. Larry used to drive me and the layouts to the plant up on Lesmill Rd. We used to go up the Don Valley.
Jeepers it’s all coming back to me, in a stream of banal details that are rich with associated memories.
I remember the guy who ran the plant where they printed the paper, who used to call the Varsity’s layout editor “Alex Alphabet”: because he had a long Ukrainian name, and in those days it was normal to mock anyone ethnic. I don’t think there were any persons of colour, and speaking of colours, LGBTQ was barely on the horizon on a campus with perhaps one or two openly gay professors, one of whom I admired very much & studied with (although he –the brilliant Douglas Chambers –challenged me & my miserably mixed up attitude saying “why are you here”?..a question I still haven’t fully answered to this day. I’ll have to talk about him in another blog).
The only other thing I found on the internet about Larry that I’m certain is him –and which sadly corroborates the fact of his death in the first URL I shared– was a tiny page with a photo from 1995. Because it’s again mentioning Monterey California, I have to think it’s the same guy in both and yes this is him in the photo. It’s the third of the three things that come up on Google,, with this URL: https://www.qsl.net/kc6jev/
Larry is the nerdy looking fellow on the right. He’s likely posed standing because the fellow on the left who is seated is probably much taller. I can hear his accent in my head, a very American intellectual kind of accent that brands him as a northerner, even if I should associate him with the mid-west. He told me of his time in SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, the Chicago riot at the democrats convention in 1968 (a time like our own? Nixon would win that election) but I don’t know what state he actually came from, was born in where that accent originated.
…where his mother and father had lived.
So #2 is much more ambiguous. No wait, having looked more closely I’m sure it’s him also. He’s politically active back in 1987 which is the date of a news report.
I am going to quote this piece from LA Times because links have a way of ending or changing & then ceasing to work:
- just like the phone numbers of old friends with whom we lose touch, or
- just like the beating hearts of our friends.
The piece is written by Pete Thomas, Dec 11 1987. And I quote:
The Alliance for Resource Management announced that an initiative to ban gill nets along the California coastline did not reach the 550,000-signature goal required to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for June of 1988.
This is the second time such an initiative has fallen short of the necessary signatures. The first was sponsored last year by editor Ken Kukuda of South Coast Sportfishing magazine.
The final count is incomplete, but ARM spokesman Larry Earlix estimated the shortfall at 250,000 signatures.
Despite the failure, Earlix said he was optimistic about next year.
“We’re already prepared for next time,” he said. “We know there is a broad-based general concern and we feel confident that we have the public mandate to take our position to the California state legislature. A whole state-wide organization of activists is now in place.”
Should it fail again?
“If there continues to be a lack of commitment by the state in protecting the fragile ocean environment, we’re just going back to the people and do it again,” Earlix said.
As I quote Pete Thomas’s piece from 1987, over 30 years ago, I think I’m honouring my mother and my old friend Larry who is fading away in my dim brain. I suppose I’m honouring myself as I meander through memories of long ago.
Larry was a political animal. I mentioned SDS right? Larry had been in Canada for awhile. I don’t know if it’s accurate to say he was a draft dodger—that bizarre epithet of another time—because I don’t know the full timelines of Larry’s life. Given that he was at least 5 years older than me and was doing graduate work in Psychology (ah yes, I am remembering that he was involved with the student union for Psych, that was in the basement of Sidney Smith Hall), it was entirely possible that he had come here—or somewhere in Canada—during the Vietnam War.
He had been in Chicago in 1968, a decade before I met him. Argh, there’s so much I don’t know, and will never know about him.
I remember riding in that Volkswagen Beetle, not just the twice a week runs up to the plant (hm was it twice a week? Or was it three times? I can’t remember) but a trip up north. I had told him about the Perseids, one of the great pleasures to be had in the summertime. This year the Perseids peak on August 13th, by the way. Larry was enthused, and so we went north on Hwy 400 until we decided we’d reached someplace that was indeed dark enough. The Perseids are wonderful, but even more so when you travel out of town, away from the bright lights of the city.
I also remember the last chapter of our relationship, when I guess I became impossible. I was music-directing a show at the U of T, a production of Joker of Seville with texts by Derek Walcott, music by Galt MacDermot. Ron Bryden had worked with Walcott at the Royal Shakespeare and was enthused about the show. Ah this is one period of my life when I wish I could have a do-over (!). I learned a great deal about middle-management working on this show, trying to cope with the acoustics of Hart House Theatre, singers of varying skill levels (there was at least one tone-deaf singer whose song was eventually cut, at least one rhythm-deaf singer trying valiantly to sing something syncopated). They were working without amplification, accompanied by a band who were perceived as too loud and therefore felt unwelcome and alien in a show where they should have been the heart & soul of the story. I saw the hurt in their faces (Larry wasn’t the only one) and didn’t know what to do. I was young and innocent and had not yet learned that most valuable of skills, knowing when & how to keep my mouth shut. It didn’t matter that Larry was a fine guitarist, not when we were seeking to reconcile the impossible acoustic & the unamplified voices. I think this is where we parted company, where Larry was kind & gentle & loyal even though he had committed to something that was a lot less fun than we had expected. But Larry was a great stabilizer, like the heavy water in a reactor that keeps things from over-heating. He was cool and ironic and yes, distant: while perhaps nursing slights that I didn’t properly address, being swamped with demands from all sides.
But there are some great memories.
We saw Animal House together the first week it opened, possibly the day it opened. Yes it’s the quintessentially sophomoric sexist film that is like a best friend who keeps making jokes to make a Donald Trump proud, a film packed full of talent & funny lines and also moments so politically troubling that I find the film hard to watch. Larry saw it as a very political film; I remember he said it was about the birth of the counter-culture. It’s very much about the end of an era of innocence when you consider that the last scene takes place on November 21st 1963: the day before Kennedy was shot. Good or bad, I associate the film with my own youthful times with Larry. Funnily enough I was reading about this film, and the many tales of its creation on this IMDB page, which reminds me—again—of this whole process of remembrance and forgetting:
and mortality. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077975/trivia
But there’s no question that people like Larry punched above their weight-class, influential beyond what you might expect. I recall a few American exiles of the 1970s, who influenced my life & influenced others in our city. I met Kip at this time, a pacifist Quaker who had come to Toronto with his wife to avoid the draft, taking me to the Friends House. I recall Jane Jacobs coming north with her children to keep them out of the war. I wonder if anyone has tried to capture the cumulative influence on Toronto of this exiled group, some of whom would return to America when it was permitted. Larry went back and had a whole life in California, trying to stop gill-netting: and who knows what else…? I hope our bad time in Joker didn’t persuade him to stop playing the guitar. He had a lovely sound, wonderfully musical.
I remember him for one clever thought he shared, that could epitomize him. He kept his valuable guitar in a beat-up case, so that one would under-estimate what might be inside.
Larry himself was easy to under-estimate, so much more than what he seemed.
If you see this and knew Larry in any capacity please feel free to get in touch. I’d love to know more.
Larry grew up in Skokie, IL. He lived on Crawford avenue. I met him freshman year in high school. He belonged to a local Sea Explorer post that I joined. His dad owned a big boat and it was my first experience on the waters of Lake Michigan. We shared a lot of outdoor, boating and camping experiences and even spent a week canoeing and camping in Canada. Larry also had a younger sister. We went our separate ways after high school. Back then, we were all considered nerds, but no one really seemed to care, because we were the true, outdoor, nature lovers.
Thank you for sharing. Yes we (and you can make that “we” as big & inclusive as you like) really did all go our separate ways.
I might be able to fill in some holes of Larry’s life for you (though my guess is that you knew him much more than I did).
I can tell you that Larry went to Canada to avoid the draft. He had met a woman (Kate), got married and had a daughter who was born December 1970, they named her Kemma. Unfortunately things did not work out and Kate and Kemma moved back to Chicago in 1976. Larry lost contact with them soon after.
Thanks to the internet, He and Kemma were able to reunite in 1996. It wasn’t perfect but he was able to meet his 26 year old daughter, and his 2 year old granddaughter before he passed in 1998 from stomach and esophagus cancer.
While he no longer had that beat up Gold beetle, he did have a VW bus, and I have his old gituar..
I am very grateful for your message, i don’t think I can possibly put the feeling into words (i got a bit teary eyed). The people I met from the USA who came to Canada to avoid the draft were without exception the most remarkable people I knew, and a huge influence not just on my politics, but indeed on my eventual personality, meeting me at a time when I was impressionable and still just a gormless kid. While I was somewhat adrift, not knowing who I was, the people who came here (as Larry did) had not just clarity but conviction. He knew who he was, and so I shouldn’t have been surprised that he eventually returned to America rather than staying here. It was very exciting to read (belatedly) a bit about his activism south of the border, when I wrote this piece, and discovered he had passed away. I was sad, but I believe that the only point of regret is to teach us how to be better: how to appreciate & be grateful. And I am so grateful for Larry’s time here. Trust me, one of the reasons Toronto has become such a tolerant inclusive place is through the infusion of wonderful people like Larry, refugees & asylum seekers who didn’t just take refuge but help influence us, who speak up and change our direction. We are the better for his presence & his input.
Thank you so much for your message.