Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Human Interest

Farewell, Jan Glidewell, and may the circle spin on

When I decided I wanted to pluck some gems from the trove of 3,500 columns that Jan Glidewell wrote for the Times, I expected they'd be irreverent, iconoclastic or borderline lewd.

Jan wrote like he lived his life. There was nothing really out of bounds for a man who fought with the Marines in Vietnam and fought society's norms on clothing, religion, race, sex, and drugs the rest of the way.

But when I asked readers to help me pick the excerpts, the suggestions I got back were mostly of a different sort.

They were columns about things Jan had done for them. They were columns about his generosity. As his colleagues know, Jan didn't hesitate to share his views, or as Times reporter Jamal Thalji reminded guests at Jan's memorial gumbo bash last weekend, views of him. Occasionally, Jamal said, he would open a desk drawer to find a gift from Jan — a full-color photo of Jan clothed only in his flowing white beard.

The best example I found of this kind of column came to me from his last wife, Betty Kennedy. He wrote it in April 2001 and the headline was "Potter's wheel helps the circle continue." It starts this way:

"Just the hint of rain fell outside the small shed behind my house as a switch was thrown and a soft whirring began.

"A shapeless glob of wet clay, reflecting the single electric light with a color on the gray side of taupe, spun as rivulets of water made galaxy shapes as they streamed toward the edge of the spinning wheel.

"I mused on the microcosm at work before me. The wheel, a circle, long a symbol of life, rebirth and the cyclic nature of things, was functioning by the same laws that control the earth and the universe. The Coriolus effect that affects the spin of water going down a drain and hurricanes smashing across the Atlantic was affecting the rivulets of muddy water destined for a yellow plastic catch basin, its color long obliterated by layers of clay sediment — and away from the act of creation taking place at the center of this mini-universe."

He goes on to explain that the potter's wheel had been a gift to his wife, Lee, but she had become sick soon after and had never had the strength to use it before she died in 1997.

So Jan gave the wheel to a friend and co-worker, Suzie Hayes, also a talented artist. Tragically, a recurrence of cancer meant that she had no time for pottery before she died.

"Another potter came into my life at about the same time — my daughter-in-waiting as I call her until her mother and I are married — a 19-year-old woman full of enthusiasm for life and art. ... I checked with Suzie's husband, Tom, and offered to buy it from him. It had, after all, been a gift. But he would have none of that ...

"I passed it along to Kathleen at Christmas time with a note telling her the truth, that I had never given it to a potter I didn't love, and that all I asked was that she do what her predecessors had been unable to do — use it.

"I watched that circle close on the floor of the shed as her hands reached into the shapeless lump and drew forth a perfectly symmetrical, delicately thin pot ...

"I like to think there were more than one pair of hands on the clay."

Editor Bill Duryea can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
This college professor gives her students extra credit for going on dates

This college professor gives her students extra credit for going on dates

About 12 years ago, Boston College philosophy professor Kerry Cronin added an unorthodox task to her syllabus: Ask someone out on a date, where there will be no alcohol or physical contact. Sounds far easier than a research paper, right? A lot more ...
Published: 04/17/18
Watch: Bolingo the Gorilla ‘dances’ with his trainer at Busch Gardens

Watch: Bolingo the Gorilla ‘dances’ with his trainer at Busch Gardens

Could Bolingo and Rachel Hale be the next Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers?The only thing standing in their way, it seems, is that Bolingo is a gorilla who does his best moves behind a glass wall.A video posted on the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Facebook p...
Published: 04/12/18
I watched ‘The Room’ for the first time with Tommy Wiseau there. Here’s how it went

I watched ‘The Room’ for the first time with Tommy Wiseau there. Here’s how it went

YBOR CITY — It’s 1 a.m. and I’m hunched over a pile of plastic spoons, studying a list of phrases I’m supposed to shout aloud (Liar! Unfocus! HI, DENNY!) when a man with stringy ink-black hair sweeps to the stage."Oh, hi, Tommy!" a guy in back shouts...
Updated one month ago