His name wasn’t Leosh, but Leos — Elias Leos — and he wasn’t Portuguese, but Greek.  Old Greek, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  I met him on campus in 1972, under circumstances that I don’t quite remember, but I suspect Mervyn The Jew (who’d been at high school with him, and who himself became one of my lifelong buddies) saw my buddy Zonk and I (Zonk, one of the Four Muscadels) fleecing some witless rich kids at bridge in the student cafeteria.  Mervyn was an excellent (but flamboyant) bridge player, and he asked if he could sit in, and we said yes.  Elias had never played bridge before, but he watched us and then a week later, rather nervously, asked if we could teach him how to play.  Zonk, Mervyn and I saw the chance of having a permanent foursome, so we said yes — somewhat reluctantly on my part, because the three of us were almost tournament-class bridge players and I was a little leery of having a rookie in the four.

I needn’t have worried.  Inside a month, Elias was almost as good as we were.

He was, easily, the most intelligent and eloquent man I’d ever met, and to this day I’d still put him in the top three of that class.  For the first time in my life, I wasn’t the smartest guy in the room — not even close — but such was our friendship that it never bothered me.  He was studying law, and I was majoring in, well, bridge, drinking and virgin defloration.  (Shuddup, I’d spent my entire adolescence at a boys’ boarding school;  waddya think was going to happen to a 17-year-old kid away from parents and schoolteachers for the first time?)

For some unknown reason, Elias and I affected being Portuguese, our common greeting (and exclamations of rage) becoming “Como es ta?”  (pronounced Coom’ esh ta? — our pronunciation corrected by a real Porro, Maria Raposo Soares).  His name, ending as it did in an -s, became “Leosh”.  His nickname in our group of very close friends became “Greek Bastard”, always said with the utmost love and affection.

Leosh and I spent the next five years together, even after I quit university, an ignominious failure.  (He, of course, graduated top of the class cum laude.)  We would meet up for lunch, dinner (even though he didn’t drink —  a real anomaly amongst the gangsters I called my friends at the time), and he’d come over to my parents’ house often, where we’d just chat, listen to music and try to make each other puke with laughter.  It happened often.

I didn’t go over to his parents’ house but once, and I learned why.  You see, Leosh had a sister;  a very comely, dark and exotic-looking girl a couple years older than I.  Leosh saw me looking at her and said, “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”
“Don’t look at my sister.”
“Why not?  She’s lovely.”
“I know.  Don’t.” 
The look he gave me was unlike anything I’d ever seen before:  it was menacing, and quite sinister.
“You mean,” I said playfully (never give me an opening like that), “I couldn’t even ask her out for a date?”
“It’s impossible.”
“Why?  You scared I’ll seduce her?”
His voice darkened even more.  “Drop the subject.”
Of course, I wasn’t about to.  “Come on…”
“You’re not Greek!”  he hissed.  “It’s never going to happen.  Besides,”  he added, “she already has a boyfriend.”
“Greek, no doubt.”
“Of course.”

And that was that.  Young Playboy Kim meets Old Greek Tradition, loses by a landslide.

I never teased him about it, either.  It was clearly not something to make fun of, and I had no doubt that he would have ended our friendship in a heartbeat if I had.

So I never went after his sister;  but I did steal his girlfriend away from him a couple of years later.  And we still remained friends, after I discovered what he’d discovered:  she was a total tramp, the little Scouse tart.

Anyway, Leosh graduated with his law degree, and I couldn’t dodge the draft any longer, so off we went together, by some miracle assigned to the same unit, nay to the same company and platoon even.  Our beds were side by side in the barracks, and together we struggled on through Basic Training (boot camp).  Then he went off to Officer Training Command (OTC) and thereafter as a lieutenant to the SA Army equivalent of the JAG.  I went off as a lowly private to play my guitar at the Entertainment Group.

We stayed in touch less frequently after the army thing ended, mostly because of his work — he became, surprise surprise, the youngest-ever partner in his law firm — but also because I was playing in the band, and trying to start my own career in the process.  Whenever we did meet up, though, it was as though we’d only seen each other the week before and not months and months previously.

Then, disaster.  Coming home from work late at night, Leosh was in a terrible car accident.  Terrible in that his brain was damaged and his head nearly severed from his body at the larynx.  He came out of his coma after many months, but while his brain recovered somewhat, the damage to his larynx was devastating, and permanent.  Leosh, the smartest, most eloquent and most quick-witted man I’d ever met, couldn’t even speak in a whisper.  For the rest of his life.

I met up with him in 2017 when I went back to Seffrica for that brief visit in December.  I’d mentioned to Mervyn that I’d be in Joburg, so we met for dinner, and to my delight (and without my knowledge) he’d invited Leosh and his longtime girlfriend Bonita (whom I’d known way back in the day, but that’s an even longer story).

Anyway, I tried to talk to him, but couldn’t understand a word he said.  Bonita actually had to translate everything he tried to say, and the evening was marred by my sorrow at what had become of my dear friend, and my frustration at not being able to communicate with him as we had so joyously in the past.  Here’s the pic of us at the dinner:  Mervyn, Leosh and Yours Truly.  (If Zonk were still alive and been there, we’d have played a rubber of bridge.)

Anyway, life went on after that;  I came back the the U.S., married New Wife, and the rest you know.  Mervyn carried on with his life, smiling as always.

Leosh didn’t.  In the past year or so he’d become deeply depressed;  the latest operation on his busted throat (the eleventh!) had failed like all the others, and he began talking about ending his own life.  So obsessed did he become on the topic that Bonita finally left him, saying, “I don’t want to come home from the supermarket and find you dead!”

Anyway, two Mondays ago it all ended.  His brother-in-law (his sister’s boyfriend of earlier) went over when they couldn’t reach him and found Leosh hanging from the rafters.

His last words to Mervyn had been over lunch, only a couple days earlier.  Merv was remonstrating with him about always death death death talk, when Leosh croaked painfully, “Mervyn, I died thirty-eight years ago.”

He was quite right, but that doesn’t soften the tragedy of a life crippled and a wonderful, beautiful man brought low by it.

R.I.P.  Leosh, you Greek bastard.

Your friend forever,

Oh Boo Hoo

Once again, we have handwringing when some young asshole, as the saying goes, “fucks around and gets found out”.  In this particular case, we’re supposed to get upset when a drunken college kid gets shot because he thought he was trying to get into his own home at 2am, but it wasn’t;  and the actual homeowner shot and killed him.

That’s how the media paints it, of course, but that’s not actually how it panned out:

Nicholas Anthony Donofrio, 20, died early Saturday after knocking, banging, and kicking on the front door of the man who shot him when he broke the glass window and tried to manipulate the doorknob.

Frankly, I’d have done precisely the same thing under the circumstances — and I bet there are more than a few of my Readers nodding in agreement.

Anyway, sanity has prevailed:

A police news release added that the investigation determined the shooter – who legally owned the firearm – was covered by South Carolina’s so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law and no charges will be filed.

I don’t know what this “legally owned the firearm” business is, unless that’s some South Carolina thing I’m unaware of.

Whatever, it’s a tragedy;  but when you’re an underage drunk trying to bust into a house, there might well be a shooting.  The kid thought he was trying to get into his own house, but that’s not how it appeared to the actual homeowner.

And if the kid’s family wants to sue someone, they should start with the booze company (just kidding, they shouldn’t be thinking of suing anybody).


I’m a little worried about all the hoopla surrounding the songs of latest phenom Oliver Anthony.  (For those who don’t know who he is, here is his story, and here are his two latest songs: Rich Men North Of Richmond and I Want To Go Home.  Listen to all of that, and what follows may make more sense to you.)

There are two points to be made here, the first being the more important.

Jeff Reynolds at PJM says that Anthony’s voice is evocative of American singers like Levon Helm, B.B. King and John Fogerty.  I am fans of all of them, but I can listen to them sing all day.  I can’t do that with Oliver Anthony, because there’s too much pain there, and it hurts to listen to him.  His voice reminds me of Amy Winehouse, whom I also find difficult to listen to for precisely the same reasons.

It’s clear that Anthony will run the risk of ending up like Winehouse (whose tragedy I explored here):  manipulated by others for their own purposes and benefit (whom, thankfully, he’s so far managed to keep at bay — not the least by telling the music industry to fuck off with their multi-million-dollar poisoned apples).  I hope he stands firm.

The second part of this is that the agony of which this young man sings is clearly resonating with millions of Americans, because what he’s talking about is real.  People are being fucked over by government and people who control the media, people are being fucked over by companies, and people are facing a future that is, frankly, as bleak and horrible as he sees his own.

And here’s where the second bunch of bloodsuckers come into the picture.  Expect soon that the political types will step forward, trying to claim the ground that Anthony and so many others like him are standing on, and making politicians’ promises to fix the circumstances that they — all of them — have been complicit in the creation thereof.

I hope that Oliver Anthony tells them, too, to fuck off.

Here’s the takeaway from all this.  The reason for Anthony’s runaway success is that millions of people not only feel his pain, but share his pain.

And unless I miss my guess, come 2024 those millions of people are going to vote for the candidate whom they think will best help alleviate it.

The political establishment had better hope that they do it through the vote, by the way, because the alternative is kinda messy.

Natural Suckage

Whenever some natural disaster strikes a place where I’ve been before, there’s always a hint of a personal tragedy for me.  (I don’t think I’m any different from most people, of course, but there it is.)

Such is the case with Ahrweiler in Germany, which lies on the banks of the Ahr River right before it empties into the Rhine at Remagen, and it’s a town that has many happy memories for me.

I remember that when I was there, about a dozen years ago, I thought that I could easily live in Ahrweiler — the town is gorgeous (although come the summer every year it floods, only with tourists), but the scenery everywhere you look is just spectacular.

The Romans thought so too:  the mountainsides are festooned with grapevines dating back to those days, and there’s a large Roman villa outside the town that was only discovered a year or so before I got there.

Some pics I took when I was there:

And the town is shot through with drainage canals and pipes: 

…which didn’t seem to help much.

One would think that Ahrweiler’s proximity to the Rhine outlet would spare the town from flooding — especially as the town itself is ringed by a wall dating back to medieval times or earlier:

…but that didn’t happen this time:

The people of Ahrweiler received no warning of the impending crashing waves.

Leonie from Ahrweiler had the terrifying experience of watching the water destroy the city.  At about 11pm Leonie and her family had gone to bed, but before falling asleep she was disturbed by loud noises outside their home.

The electricity had gone out and it was pitch black. The only way they could see was with candles and flashlights.

She looked outside to notice that there was a lot of water running down the street, but didn’t realise the severity of the situation until the water level started to rise to her doorstep.  She woke up her mother and grandfather and they started to bring food and water upstairs.  However, the nightmare had just begun – a massive wave burst through the front door, obliterating everything in its wake.

I should point out that Ahrweiler lies at the very foot of the Ahr Valley, which starts way up in the Eifel Mountains.  It’s a steep drop from up there to the Rhine Valley below:

I hurt when I think about it.

Historical Voice Stilled Forever

I see with extreme regret that historian Paul Johnson has died.  Shit.

There is a very good case that Johnson’s History Of The American People should be required source material for high school U.S. History classes.

And his History Of The Jews and History Of Christianity (along with Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn To Decadence) should be part of World History classes in both high school and university curricula.

Oh, for heaven’s sake:  if you read all of Paul Johnson’s history books and absorb just a third of the material, you’ll still be one of the most educated people on the planet.

He will most definitely be missed.

Studying Genius

I’ve studied music, sung it, played it and pretty much been into it ever since I could walk.

But I never got close to figuring out where Jeff Beck was going, ever.  I could only listen, marvel and appreciate the man’s endless artistry and talent.  And now he’s gone, leaving only his body of work for us to enjoy.

Probably my favorite Beck was his guitar on buddy Rod Stewart’s People Get Ready.  Haunting, melodic, beautiful and perfectly suited to the emotion of the gospel hymn, Beck’s soaring riffs turned it from lovely to sublime.

Yeah, sublime — that’s the word I was looking for.  Once again, the music world has lost just one more thing of beauty, and the world is a little less lovely.

Damn it, I can’t even write a proper obituary about the man and his music.

R.I.P.  Jeff.