Biff America: Too much love for a parking lot to hold
February 23, 2008
“Hey Berger, it’s Beans. Did ya hear Donny Bags died?”
I received that phone call last week from my pal Eddy Beans. Ed was on his way to the funeral and was calling on his cell phone.
“How did it happen?” I asked.
Had Eddy mentioned the name of many other of our mutual friends the question asked would be more like, “What did he die of?” as if the assumption was of natural causes. With Don Bags you might not make that supposition.
Donny lived a fast life. There was illegal street racing, Vietnam, and a host of many other high risk activities, some within the boundaries of the law, some not.
Eddy interrupted my thoughts by saying, “Stomach cancer. He’s had it for years and never told me. I am so pissed at him!”
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Ed’s last few words were made almost inaudible by his sob.
He added, “I’m on my way to pick up Hank, Wiff and Frankie we are all driving down together ” don’t you hippies call it carpooling?” Ed continued, “The word is there isn’t enough parking at the church to hold all Donny friends; even though a lot will be on motorcycles.”
I started to say something when Ed interrupted: “Did you know he was a war hero?”
I told him that I did not. In fact I didn’t know Donny Bags all that well. Perhaps the fact that we once dated the same girl at the same time was a bit awkward for the two of us. But more than likely, given Don’s size, it was only awkward for me.
“There’s a lot of stuff that people don’t know about Bags,” Eddy said.
Eddy was right there was much about the recently deceased’s life that few people were aware of. I think that was part and parcel of living a life on the fringes of society.
The same could said for Eddy Beans. There were always rumors that Ed and Donny were partners in various business ventures.
As if reading my thoughts Ed said, “And I’m not talking about illegal stuff either.
Donny did lots of good stuff that only a few of us knew about. He gave his sister a down payment for her house. He took care of Paul’s mortgage all the while that Pauly was recovering from back surgery. He used to buy Thanksgiving turkeys for every single mother who worked at the Turnpike Tavern. I used to help him dole out the birds. Once he forgot to save one for himself. His wife almost killed him.”
Ed seemed to be about go on when he interrupted himself and said, “Hey man, I’m coming to a tunnel. Gotta go. Promise me you’ll drink shot of Jameson in Donny’s honor.”
I can’t say I was at first too broken up by the death of Donny Bags. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in 10 or 15 years and we were never close. I knew him as a big jolly fellow who reportedly had a dark side. I knew he served in Vietnam, and I was told he had Agent Orange issues and I knew he never had a real job. But learning of Donny’s kindness, knowing that kindness died with him, caused me to feel much sadder for his passing.
Another guy, who I didn’t know nearly as well as I would have liked, also died last week.
Like Don, Bob Guthrie served is country during Vietnam, but it seems that’s where the similarities end.
Bob was a doctor, Donny a hood. Bob road a bicycle, Don drove a Harley. Bob gave his time, energy and money to causes he believed in, Don delivered turkeys to single mothers in trailer homes. They both left a wife who loved them and a community that will be depleted by their passing.
The word is on the street is if you want to go to Bob’s Guthrie’s memorial service you better park miles away and take the bus in. The church’s parking lot cannot contain the vehicles of all those who loved and respected the man. Better yet, if it is not snowing, ride your bicycle.
Bob Guthrie and Donny Bags died last week. The only thing they had in common was their compassion and generosity. But come to think of it ” that’s all that matters.