Saturday, June 03, 2006


I lost a really good friend from Dallas this week. His name was Jack and he was a gruff, funny, brilliant, smooth talking, caring, and honest man.
I met him after returning to Dallas. You see, I had originally moved there in the fall of 1999 with my fiancée who took a job at the Morning News. I was brave (or foolish!) and quit my radio job in Kansas and went along. As it turned out, I ended up taking lots of orchestra auditions, and also took a part time job at a cigar shop. My fiancée ended up having an affair with one of her married coworkers and we broke up that spring. I ended up moving back to Kansas for a few months, but returned that fall to teach violin and play in orchestras in Dallas. I also went back to the cigar shop part time, mainly for a discount on cigars and the good company. That's when I met Jack.
As I write about it, it seems like it was a sort of the good ol' days or perhaps the "salad days". I had my violin in my hands for 8 hours a day, teaching 52 middle school and high school students each week, and either hanging out at the shop or playing concerts in the evenings. I did quite a few freelance gigs besides being on the sub list for the Abilene and Shreveport (LA) Symphonies. Shreveport if you've never been is about two hours east of Dallas and its all highway...and is a playground for Dallas and Houston because of the riverboat casinos. When I took the gig there, I met lots of cool folks, both in the orchestra and in the casinos. It was a blast to play violin at night and play roulette during the day. My first trip there, my stand partner turned out to be good friends with a pitboss at the Hollywood Casino; we ended up with tons of comps - on top of our perdium - and stayed at the Best Western just across the way, from the concert hall and the casino!
So whenever I was either working at the cigar shop or just stopping by, I had my violin - and in Dallas you don't want to leave it in the hot car, or have it naturally I'd bring it in with me. Jack always wanted to hear a tune. Either a classical piece (I can hear him sing Dvorak, Massenet and Monti) or a Sinatra tune (Fly me to the moon was one of his favorites), Jack was singing along or telling me the words. Jack and another friend of ours, Raffi, even picked up a book for me of Latin tunes - I just ran across it the other day! When we'd go out to eat, again either after the steaks were eaten or during dessert, the violin would come out.
One evening we were at Bob's Steak and Chop Shop and Elizabeth Hurley was dining there (and maybe Matthew Perry too) - I had my violin out and the guys dared me to serenade her. On my way back to play for her, Bob himself stopped me, "Absolutely not!" A small consolation was Mike Modano, captain of the Dallas Stars, was in the bar that night later and said hi to all of us...I still think Elizabeth might have enjoyed a little on the g-string, but I digress.
Jack would have us over to his house, we'd swim and laugh, play with the dogs, watch a hockey game or listen to music...usually Roz his wife would have some incredible meal prepared. It was like the four musketeers: Jack, Raffi, Fred and I were all close and enjoyed the same sorta things - mostly though it was Cuban cigars and beautiful women.
Jack and I were always hitting on women, me because I was single and Jack because he had the charm. Somehow he'd always manage to have some cutie on his arm or sit with him at the shop. Mind you, he was faithful to Roz, but he was a huge flirt.
No matter who came into the shop, Jack could have a great conversation with them and 9 out of 10 times, he'd sell them something they probably didn't need or had decided to come in for...but that was part of Jack's charm. It was also a great part of Jack's personality. He had been a clothes salesman out east as a young man, and again, as I type this, remember it was women's fashion/dresses that he dealt in...hence part of the power he had with women! His sales skills were awesome, just like his loyalty and friendship. Eventually, we both left the cigar shop - I was fired and he quit. It was a hoot to meet our friends across the street from the shop and sit there at Starbucks while the owner and manager would glare at us. Jack had been fired years before by the owner, on the basis that the owner was immature and an idiot (too true.) I was fired for talking to customers about Cuban cigars. It really made Jack angry and he soon quit. He ended up at a much better and friendlier shop in Addison, and I ended up getting a job in radio in Las Vegas.
Jack was also a wheeler and dealer. I don't think we ever paid full price for anything - he'd trade cigarettes or cigars that we got at cost for free sandwiches at Einstein Brothers...and we always got comps in Shreveport. You see he'd come out and see a concert I'd play in and stay over at the Horseshoe Casino. We'd give cigars to the pit bosses and always had a free meal, comps to shows, etc. One trip, the season finale of the Shreveport Symphony, Jack came out and we had dinner reservations at the steak house (The Douglas Fairbanks Steakhouse) at the Hollywood Casino. We checked in at the Horseshoe Casino (I was still in my tails) and everywhere we went Jack introduced me as a concert violinist (which he always did, it had a real effect with my white tie/tails though!) We smoked cigars and I went to play roulette. Jack was off, playing 3 card poker and the slots...when he won a huge jackpot. He was very calm coming over to get me, and told me to cash in, that's all he'd say. So I did, and he told me he'd won. Seeing it in cold hard cash was pretty amazing. We joked about a "cow-orker" at the time who said, "That'll help." It became our mantra whenever we won, got change or anything monetary, "That'll help!"

The last time I saw Jack was in Las Vegas. He and his family were out celebrating his daughter's 40th birthday. We met at the Flamingo and hung out. After several drinks and cigars Jack played some poker. Not long after Jack was back in Dallas he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Jack passed away on Thursday morning, and while I won't get to go to the service on Monday, I am playing violin at a function today. There's a meditative section and I'll play my heart out, dedicating my composition to Jack.

You'll be missed my friend. Have a Cuban for me, my friend, that'll help.

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