Sunday, April 26, 2009
Hats off to old Hickory McCracken
My old pal Hickory McCracken (pictured here) was a one of kind fella. He was only 5' 4" but he was taller than most men in ego and emotional stature. The guy lost some teeth in bar fight at only 11 years old when some drunken brawler grabbed his pops (a gentle old baker) and ol' Hick stepped in and turned the drunk's nutsack into a play-dough accordion. At the ripe age of 14, while spending the summer at military camp, he wrote a bunch of poems that covered the gammit of his heartbreak over his lost cat, quantum physics, the politics of international security and the music of Wagner. The poems were published in the New Yorker less than a year later. By the age of 16 (while studying for his LSATS, specially prepared for the pre-university gifted) Hick swung a summer job as a doorman at The Blacksmith Inn, his Uncle's tavern, and when drunken college types made fun of his shortness, golf hat or fisherman's pipe, I got all the more thrill watching him coax them into the back alley so he could beat them until they lay toothless, bloodied and crying in a steaming heap of their own defecate. By 18 he won the North American finals in one of the first televised Krav Maga (Isreali Military Survival Fighting) and Brazilian Jujitsu competitions. Amazingly, he still found the time to develop a solar-powered lawnmower and a musical instrument, a hybrid between a Gibson Les Paul guitar and a mouth-harp. By 20, Hick had scholarship offers from everywhere from Harvard to Le Sorbonne but instead decided against the brain-washing of formal education and went to live with one of his girlfriends somewhere in the Polynesian Islands where he could finish his watercolour paintings and get some peace and quiet. Hick was a poet, Hick was fighter, he used to light his pipe with a rusty old butane lighter; his mother was a seamstress and his father was baker, before exams he'd snort gunpowder he stored in salt shaker. A truck ran over his cat named Razor and his brother was later killed by a cop's tazer; sometimes he'd talk and joke, sometimes he'd sit deep and toke, but always with a vacant look in his eyes; like he was staring into a world that he loved but at the same time despised; I'd lend him books and he'd show me some punches; we'd sit down by the tracks and smoke during our school lunches; he'd tell about his Dad's drinkin' and I'd tell him about my Dad's mistress; once we hopped a train to Detroit at Christmas; the last day I ever saw Hick we'd have our last chat; he said "Life's a bitch, sometimes you gotta slap it like that." I'd thank him for the advice and he'd just tip his hat.