Life & Death
First, a preamble: I acknowledge it is good policy to eat well and exercise in order to live a healthier, more comfortable life. (Along those lines, I’m also in favor of good weather and traffic safety, but we’ll tackle those controversial issues another day.)
Anyway, two deaths in the news in recent weeks have grabbed my attention. James Gandolfini and Randy Udall. Both died relatively young. Gandolfini was 51 and Udall 61.
Gandolfini & Udall
Randy Udall was a member of the storied, multi-generational political family dynasty of the West and Southwest. His kin included Mark, a senator from Colorado, Morris, a member of the House from Arizona, and Stewart, Secretary of the Interior under JFK and LBJ. Other Udalls began holding political office as far back as the 1880s and a brand new generation is settling into legislatures and statehouses as we speak. Here’s the Udall political family tree.
You Probably Can’t Read This, But You Get The Idea
Gandolfini, in case you’re a Nepalese hermit, was the beloved actor who played Tony in the landmark cable series, The Sopranos. His family didn’t exist in real life but it, too, has been treed.
Two known guys; two shortened lives. Conventional wisdom has it, though, that Udall’s exit was an unfortunate, tragic happenstance. Gandolfini, the CW holds, has nobody to blame but himself for his early departure.
The wags say Gandolfini pretty much killed himself. Udall’s death, on the other hand, is being positioned as somehow organic and in harmony with nature — “natural causes,” the news stories insist.
That’s because Udall was a hiker, an amateur naturalist, thin as a rail, brown from the sun, his lung capacity probably rivaling that of a harbor seal.
James Gandolfini was a jolly mound of rigatoni- and braciole-derived heft.
The Smoking Gun
For all the food fetishists out there (and Bloomington, believe me, is crawling with them), I’ve got a bit of news for you: They’re both in the same place right now.
That is, six feet under.
No, not the HBO series. Buried.
I can’t help but thinking a lot of folks believe they can hold off check out time indefinitely. I’m loaded with Facebook friends who put up urgent posts that meats, breads, the wrong kind of fish, prepared foods, non-local foods, cookies, cheeses, pasteurized milk, rhubarb, peanuts, hot dogs, cold cuts, reduced fat anything, couscous, frozen yogurt, trail mix, granola, energy bars, bran muffins, blueberry pies, rice cakes, smoothies, bananas, and pretty much everything else in the world that’s edible are as dangerous as so many cyanide cocktails.
I have no idea what these people eat but whatever it is, they’re not happy about it. That’s because, I’m certain, most food fetishists aren’t terribly fond of the whole idea of sticking things into their mouths.
James Gandolfini dug digging into an enormous plate of melon and prosciutto risotto or truffled polenta. And you know what? He was happy as a clam before, during, and after mealtime.
It’s a good bet poor old Randy Udall had to make do with a garden salad minus any olives, Parmigiano-Reggiano, anchovies, feta, or — horrors! — croutons. I can’t imagine him patting his nearly non-existent belly with a satisfied smile on his face.
Udall swore up and down he derived happiness from trudging through miles and miles of wilderness, braving rainstorms, mosquitoes, poison ivy, and all the other health propagandists doing the same thing. He died while on a solo backpack hike along the Wind River Range in Wyoming, his walking poles still in his hands. Gandolfini died in Italy, probably with a toothpick between his fingers.
I’m sure they were both happy. I’m just as sure they’re both dead.
Dead Man’s Curve
This is the only death song I could find that isn’t sickeningly sweet or terrifyingly ghoulish. The best I can say about is that it fits.