Adam’s Memorial Service----March 6, 2008---Temple De Hirsch, Seattle
Remarks by Kenan Block, Adam’s younger brother.
Adam, Adam, Adam. There was no person in my life who could make me laugh harder, make me angry and frustrated for long periods, or who taught me more than my big brother.
Adam was a remarkable older brother, the best man at my wedding and often, my best friend. He was someone I loved and to paraphrase Woody Allan, I idolized all out of proportion.
Adam cared about injustice and would generally side with the underdog. My memories of him include my first day of first grade at Stevens Elementary when Adam found me in the crowded cafeteria at lunch to check how I was doing. Later that same year he woke me at dawn to watch the first American space launch.
I remember around age 9, Adam challenging me at the dinner table one night to prove the earth was in fact round. Every seemingly sensible argument I offered faced a tough rebut---How did I know all the photographs from space were not fakes?---and the least acceptable response to Adam was my saying that my teacher had told me so.
One day when I was 12, Adam told us about this amazing new band from England we had never heard of before---The Beatles and he insisting we watch them for those 4 weeks they were on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Adam was always recommending books, music and movies. His advice trumped any teachers. At 12 Adam had me reading “Cather in the Rye” and for years to follow he would take me and other siblings to the University Book Store to buy us a stacks of paperbacks that we had to read---from Anis Nin to Kurt Vonnegut and Ken Kesey.
Adam was born with chutzpa. He was 11 during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and would constantly take our father’s gold pass to get in. He loved meeting the famous. So when John Glenn visited the Fair, Adam put on his blue Brooks Brothers blazer and snuck into the Space Needle elevator with the superstar astronaut and his entourage. Adam carried himself as though he belonged so everyone just assumed he was the son of some VIP as he followed the group around.
Adam liked being the center of attention and never seemed to mind that he constantly made everyone wait for him. By the time he was in college Adam had earned a fitting nickname from our father that would continue through adulthood---“His Lordship”.
Perhaps most important of all---Adam had a curiosity and a dose of fearlessness about experiencing life and the world on many levels and dragging anyone who was with him along for the adventure. It was at times maddening---at times embarrassing---but never dull. And no one was safe from being interrogated by Adam---or being offered advice.
On one of our periodic expeditions, we found ourselves on the strange tourist island of Freeport in the Bahamas---I think it had to do with a Pan Am $99 dollar roundtrip promotional fare that we couldn’t pass up---a 3 day lark. Adam had a young boyfriend in tow as he often did. After landing we grabbed a cab at the airport and Adam began interviewing our driver who had the unforgettable name Simeon Wildgoose…after a through interrogation we found out what the locals really do---like going to the visiting Third World carnival that was in town. Adam insisted we go---an adventure that included an actual freak show with adult Siamese twins that we viewed for 75 cents. On that same trip, Adam got Simeon to set up a private visit to his cousin’s coconut rum factory. Over the years Adam would affectionately invoke the name of Simeon Wildgoose.
In the mid-eighties, on a trip to New Orleans we joined some friends with a rental car. Adam had scouted out a bayou backwoods day trip that took us to a diner in Baton Rouge that invented the fried chicken salad, then off to a tiny town with a legendary instrument store that was famous for making guitars and squeeze boxes. Next, just winging it, Adam directed us down a long dirt road where he found a young Cajun boy who he talked into taking us out on his rickety motor boat for a tour of the bayou that was right out of Tennessee Williams.
Then there was going to restaurants with Adam. First came Adam’s preliminary research to make sure we were eating at the most interesting place in town. No matter how fancy the restaurant, after getting menus, Adam would rise and wander table to table to inspect the food folks had ordered and interrogate them about how it tasted. All of us in Adam’s party would do our best to pretend we had no association with this rude character---but of course Adam would return with great insights allowing us to place our orders based on his shameless reconnaissance.
For anyone in Adam’s orbit there was his constant questioning and unsolicited advice. What was particularly maddening---with his remarkable thirst for information and his stunning memory, Adam often knew more about a given topic than the “expert” he was talking to and advising.
During the many years I worked at what was then The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour Adam would bully me about the boring, centrist guests we had on the air. With great frequency Adam berated me for failing to get the likes of Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky on the NewsHour as regulars.
I may not have gotten Michel Moore on the NewsHour---but in part because of Adam I did get folks like Molly Ivins to become regulars.
There are too many stories and memories. But in full candor during the last ten years or so, dealing with Adam increasingly became a struggle. As his health started to fail, he stopped his freelance writing and became even more self absorbed, combative and angry. The phone ringing after midnight was almost certainly Adam, who would be leave me an annoyed message because I wasn’t awake and waiting to listen to him carry on for an hour or two. The notion of working during the day and sleeping at night were bourgeois rituals to Adam.
But through it all, Adam had a truly remarkable group of loyal and loving pals who put up with him, tried to be of help and tolerated Adam’s constant second guessing of any effort to help.
Adam did finally manage to die peacefully at home and on his own terms. I and others were in the process of moving him up to Seattle to Bailey-Boushay House, but clearly Adam didn’t want to leave. San Francisco had truly become Adam’s home and he got live out his life in that city he’d so come to love.
There was one tragedy of the timing of Adam’s death---it was just days before the California Presidential primary and we had failed to get him an absentee ballot to so he could cast his vote for Barack Obama.
Wherever Adam is now, I hope he is at peace, but I am confident of one thing--- he is not giving any peace to those who are with him.