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Herb Fritz (1921-2004)
Cc. Forgetmagazine
from Nick Thran

I'm writing this in response to Kent's eulogy/war cry in wake of the death of Jack McClelland. This was surely some of the most keenly self-aware and well-crafted chest beating I've ever read. Piss and Vinegar? Yah. More like piss and vinegar and razor blades and arrows with oily rags in flames. This is surely something to rally behind, because it's drenched in the past, fucking drenched in it; I can feel the past in my hair and my clothes, and its better than blood, better than the clearest pool water and the best fucking wine, and the sweatiest, wettest sex may have come close to this; but this shit right here, the past, won't dry.

And I am thinking about legacy. About the writer as moth (and it should be noted, I arrived home from my girl's this morning, and there was a moth in my green bath towel, and moths in the empty glasses of wine Craigers and I had drank the afternoon before, and a moth stuck to the remaining fat of the serranno ham we'd eaten, ham smuggled a week earlier into the country from Spain by my father; and while we are playing with metaphors here, who the hell is this towel, this wine glass, this grease from the Spanish pig? ! What are their names? What have they done for me, ever, these fucking distractions, but kept me away from the flames?). About my Opa, Herb Fritz, who died on this Tuesday afternoon, on the same day as the right honourable Jack McClelland.

And none of you know my Opa, yet. He could barely read English let alone publish a book. He worked in the morgue in the basement of the Prince George hospital. He's from Austria. He fished hard and drank hard. He fought on the wrong side (but how could he know at the time?) of WWII. He'd tell me stories of French! brothels. Of finding, mid-war and hunger, a train cart full of oranges somewhere in rural Italy. About the thrill of stealing those oranges. Of tasting those oranges. Whenever the waitress at the local pub would ask him "Can I get you anything else, Herb?" he'd say, "A kiss." -and get away with it- a handsome, charming man, right up to the age of eighty-three. And he'd get away with telling jokes at Christmas dinner about two guys fucking a cow, with saying (and here's the punch-line, ready?) "If you could cook I'd marry you!" Get away with it because it was so bold. So unexpected. Because his smile was so big and he laughed so hard when he said it that everyone would just put their hands over their faces; hiding their own, more secret smiles. He'd cry at the breakfast table in his later days, while some god-awful Austrian yodel blared from the boom-box his children bought him because "It reminds me so much of home." And it wasn't cheesy, dramatic, foolish or anything. It was real. And the last time I saw him was grad. And I pushed him around on a wheel chair and I snuck him a pack of smokes. "Just don't tell your mother," he said, and we'd sneak out to the balcony to smoke together under the stars- the rest of the family oblivious, but probably not.

And I'm telling you all this, because there's always this other side. Because one of my favourite lines of poetry is "only the personal matters." Because I think that is bullshit. Goddamn it Kent, Craig, Darren, Miguel, Mike, Jack, you know it. Because legacy matters. Because I held the cell-phone to my own boom-box so my sister could hear the lines "Papa died smiling, wide as the ring of a bell" to a gentle acoustic strumming. So we could soundtrack this. Mythologize. Invent. Because book publishers die in sunny pools in Florida. Because my sister and I can cry to our own modern tunes. Because the past says yes, that's what you're supposed to do. Because it is real and it is beautiful, like my Opa saying two hours before he died, on the phone to me, saying "This morphine's shit, I just press a button and two minutes later, I'm asleep." Because that's all I wanted to hear; one more wry observation from a man who lived that balance I try so hard to understand: personal/legacy, man/myth. Because though he never wrote a poem or a story, he will live forever. Because I say so. Because it's up to me to make that happen, and I'm doing that, write now. Because I think that last typo was probably intentional. Because ok, I'm a moth, and I will feed and devour everything in my path: towels, wine, even my own family members. Because the past says yes. Because it is beautiful, and it is real. Because the personal mostly matters. Because the personal is what you don't have to invent.

Because it isn't just writers (or publishers) who burn.

Nick Thran plays him some mean harmonica.





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