Hot Air

Saying Goodbye to RE

Attendees at Saturday’s memorial service for Bloomington fixture RE Paris recounted tales of the book addict’s life.

The gazillions of books she’d amassed throughout her years on this planet have been donated by sons Eric and Nick to several orgs. I was allowed once to peek into her basement where she kept her literary trove. I thanked her to never force me down there again — the sheer number of stacks and piles and the certain nightmare of accounting for all her tomes made my head spin and I’m dizzy enough as it is.

RE eventually did inventory all her books and then she put them up for sale online. It was her dream to run her own book selling outfit and before she died in July she’d accomplished that, actually making a living at it. She also dreamed, acc’d’g to Steve Volan, who’d read her business plan, of taking over the old white house on College Ave. that now serves as HQ for the Monroe County Dem Party. She wanted to open a combo book shop, cut flower shop, cafe, and all-around third place there. She would live in the garret above the operation.

Her plan, sez Volan, was impeccable and, I learned Saturday, her brother-in-law (who is rolling in dough) was willing to finance the place. But the congestive heart failure that she didn’t even know she had cut both the plan and her life short.

The most touching — and apt — line came from RE’s sister, who lamented, “She was a wounded bird.” Nothing could top that for encapsulating the life of Miss Ruth Ellen Paris.

RE Paris

A Young RE

Anyway, the aforementioned Steve Volan served as emcee of the memorial. It must be said he did a fabulous job of mixing reverence, respect, and gentle humor throughout the proceedings. The memorial, ironically, turned out to be life affirming. Kudos, Steve.

And farewell, RE.

Mortality’s Mug

Speaking of mortality, this next story has to do with my own.

Let me preface it, though, by confessing my pockets are the worst place imaginable for my money for a couple of reasons:

  • No. 1 — From my own undisciplined, instant-gratification POV, the sound of scratch jingling in my pockets is a clarion call that demands I spend it. I’m a drunken sailor when it comes to the USD. It’s clear I don’t like the feel of money in my pocket — or, for that matter, in my wallet, cigar box, sock drawer or even under my mattress — since I work so assiduously and quickly to empty said receptacles of funds.

Empty Pocket

  • No. 2 — From a more mature, sober-sided perspective, if a profligate spender like me actually has a pocketful of currency,  she or he (me) will continue to engage in the self-sabotage of not putting aside money for a rainy day. I always respond to that charge by saying, Yeah, but what if it never rains and I’m stuck with all that money, huh? Anyway, money in my pocket ≄ money in my future. Money, by my gut take, is not for tomorrow; it’s for today.

Okay, got it?

The presence of The Loved One in my life is a welcome fix to that character shortcoming. She, to borrow a line from that noted philosopher Mike Ditka, throws around nickels like manhole covers. She labors mightily, setting up a budget for us and making sure we keep to it. She researches investments, shifts assets from here to there, and otherwise cracks the fiscal whip around Chez Glab/TLO.

In that role, she has discovered that buying our toiletries online in bulk actually saves us dough in the long run. For instance, every once in a while I’ll find on my desk a newly-delivered box of several dozen units of Tom’s of Maine underarm deodorant (either Woodspice or Lemongrass — they both pleasantly enhance my bouquet).

Now then, the other day a box arrived containing a few dozen packages of Williams mug shaving soap. (See, I loath grocery store shaving cream because it stings my handsomely sensitive face — remember, one of my goals in life is to avoid pain and unpleasantness at every turn).

Williams Mug Shaving Soap

The Harbinger

As I emptied the big box and stashed the soaps in my toiletries drawer, I realized that at my age several dozen shaving soaps will probably last me until the end of my life.

Imagine that! Think of any product you buy regularly and then imagine not having to buy it again because, well, you’ll die before you need to do so.

Arrghh!

I was hoping for some more romantic, even literary late-life symbolism of my mortality. Think of Michael Corleone sitting in his garden, reflecting on his life. Or any number of statespeople, famed artists, or saintly figures deciding to get to work on those memoirs.

From "The Godfather: Part III"

Michael, At The End

Not so with me. I have be forced to grapple with humanity’s saddest and most challenging realization via the delivery of a bunch of shaving soap.

Damn.

Critter Commemoration

Let’s stick with mortality. Yesterday, people took to the streets again in Ferguson Missouri, to express outrage over a fire that partially destroyed a makeshift memorial to slain black teenager Michael Brown.

Ferguson’s mayor wants the world to believe that the fire was accidental — perhaps the lit candles ignited a cardboard sign or a teddy bear. The people in the streets want the world to believe the fire was started intentionally — several have claimed they smelled gasoline as the fire burned.

In any case, the memorial was comprised largely of stuffed animals.

Brown Memorial

Before And After

Where did the practice of placing stuffed animals at spontaneous memorials come from? The first time I recall seeing it was in the photos of the memorial set up for Princess Diana back in 1997. I figured the whole teddy bear thing made sense in her case since she was, after all, a princess and it’s the infantile among us who are most prone to mourn the passing of princesses.

There also were scads of teddy bears and stuffed animals littering the sidewalk at the Michael Jackson memorial. Again, it makes sense — and you don’t need me to explain why.

Companies that sell teddy bears and other stuffed animals have even begun marketing their products specifically to the grief-stricken. And, in fact, one firm offers a “teddy bear cremation urn” that can be personalized with the name of the deceased. Pardon me while I shudder.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.57.20 AM

Many of these are products, mind you, are geared to customers who’ve lost adult loved ones. I suppose I can understand getting all teddy bearish if you’ve lost a kid, but sending a teddy bear to the funeral home where your 66-year-old uncle who died of coronary artery disease is laid out seems to rather trivialize his memory, no?

I know this: After I turn in my timecard if anybody attempts to memorialize me through the use of a teddy bear (or, almost as bad, a crucifix) I’d want to come back and haunt the holy bejesus out of them. Too damned bad I don’t believe in an afterlife.

3 thoughts on “Hot Air

  1. rickcolbert says:

    I’m glad I found your remarks about RE Paris, or “Ruthie” as those of us who grew up with her in Nashville knew her. As so many of us do, we lost track of each other after graduating from high school. How I would love to learn more about her life.

    • I’m her son, Eric. She settled in Bloomington, IN and lived there from the mid-1980s until the end of her life. My younger brother and I grew up in Bloomington, and even after my parents ended their marriage, she did the best she could. Ultimately, she ended up with a Master’s from Indiana University (my brother and I both graduated there as well, and we’re the sons of a professor). Unfortunately, right as this happened, the economy took a turn for the worse, so she never really recovered after that. I can’t really tell you anything else (don’t really feel comfortable telling a lot of the other stuff), but thanks for reaching out.

  2. rickcolbert says:

    Thank you for your comments about RE Paris, or “Ruthie” to those of us who grew up with her. I would love to learn more about how she spent her adult years.

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