Category: Deaths

A writer passes

I was thinking that I should start reading the work of Tony Horwitz. I was intrigued by early notices of his latest, about Frederick Law Olmstead’s trip through the South before the Civil War. These notices reminded me how interesting his other books look.

Anyway, he’s gone now, at 60 years of age. He left an impressive body of work, but he gives hints that it came at a price. I just reserved his John Brown book from the library. Perhaps Katja and I will stop by the Brown homestead in Lake Placid next month.

WSJ obit.

NYT obit.

Since I’m thinking about writers and death: I learned new things about Bill Buckner, who died a couple of days ago. After a fateful night in 1986, Buckner spent his life in infamy for the grounder that went through his legs. Yesterday I replayed that inning on YouTube. His notoriety seems profoundly unfair: All these years I’ve assumed his error let in both the tying and winning runs.

But no: Relievers Schiraldi and Stanley blew the two-run lead. The score was tied when Mookie Wilson dribbled the grounder that he had a fair chance of legging out anyway.

OK, if Buckner had fielded it cleanly, he might have preserved a tied game, allowing the Red Sox another inning. But that’s not the same as blowing a World Series. It was an unfortunate error, but it was deeply unfair for him to be subjected to so much abuse.

What do writers have to do with Buckner? Why, of course, it’s writers–unimaginative hack writers–who have written the legend of Buckner’s error, reinforcing and reminding and inflating and embellishing.

NTSB files: Icon A5

Retired baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died yesterday in his brand-new Icon A5. The Icon A5 is a light sport plane, although Halladay apparently was a full private pilot. He received his training and license in 2014, after he retired from baseball.

The A5 has a number of safety-minded features, including an angle-of-attack indicator, a Ballistic Recovery Systems parachute, and control elements apparently designed to create benign stalling characteristics. When the model was first introduced, there were other, more controversial features, including mandatory cockpit audio and video recording. After consumer outcry, those requirements were dropped. One requirement not dropped was an agreement to hold the manufacturer blameless in the event of an accident (i.e., no lawsuits).

The Icon was being marketed to the non-aviation community as an airborne version of motorized vehicles just as jet skis, ATVs, and motorcycles. In other words, as just another toy for thrill seekers.

As for the accident, of which there are few details, all the warning signs are present: rich guy with a competitive personality, newly certificated, with a fancy new airplane. It remains to be seen how the pilot came to crash a plane designed to be flown low and slow, with ample safety margins.

But then, what is slow for a normal airplane is very fast when you’re flying a “jet ski with wings,” just over the water.

Remembering Grant Hart

Grant Hart died earlier this week. The musician and artist who rose to fame on the strength of his brilliant career with Hüsker Dü, was 56 years old. He was the group’s drummer, and he wrote and sang about half of the songs, including many of the most famous.

On a cold night nearly seven years ago, a friend and I saw him play in a Durham club. I wrote about the experience for the Indy.

It was, on one hand, a little upsetting to see Hart playing alone on stage in front of 50 people who’d paid $7 for the privilege. But then again, what else is there to do in this world?

Hart may deserve more, but I don’t get the feeling he particularly wants or needs it. He seemed shy, and oddly youthful. His face, worn as it was, still seemed guileless and even innocent. He fumbled with his guitar strap and amps, and made nervous, self-deprecating jokes. He opened with “Never Talking to You Again,” from which he segued into a verse from Hank Williams’ “You Win Again.”

Last night, I went to a house concert at the home of friends. The headliner was Iain Matthews of Fairport Convention fame. The opening act was Peter Holsapple, a Durham resident who made his reputation leading the 1980s guitar pop band dBs. He included a rendition of Grant’s song “Green Eyes.”

I learned on the Internet today that Grant wrote the song for his cat.

I didn’t get there in time for Holsapple’s set, but fortunately, one of the hosts made a video of his take on “Green Eyes.”

My excuse for arriving late: I was flying down in Harnett County Regional Airport (HRJ). It was the first sublime experience I’ve had in the air: We took off around 6 p.m., and it was sunset over the airport and the Cape Fear River. Enveloped by this soft glow, we circled and landed and circled and landed. I had a breakthrough, and I finally started nailing my landings. Then we flew back to Sanford, and spoke about my preparations for my first solo, which should happen soon now that I have unlocked the key to landing the plane safely.

Dü you remember: Grant Hart at Motorco | Music