Adam Parker Block Memorial----1951-2008

Adam Parker Block----1951-2008

Adam Parker Block, 56, died Sunday morning January 27th at his home in San Francisco after a protracted pulmonary illness. A fifth generation Seattleite, he was born at Swedish Hospital February 7, 1951. He attended high school at Lakeside and Putney Schools and college at Reed, California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts), graduating from Harvard.

Adam was a writer, avid reader and keen social observer and critic whose deep curiosity and insights crossed many disciplines. He lived in San Francisco for the past 30 years. In the 80’s Adam was popular music critic for The Advocate where he wrote a regular column, "Block on Rock". His writing also appeared in numerous publications including Mother Jones, the San Francisco Examiner magazine Image, the Bay Area Reporter, the New Musical Express and Creem. During that time, Adam interviewed virtually every pop star from Elton John to Bono.

Adam was a challenging and unforgettable friend, in turns fiercely loyal and loving and breathtakingly selfish, combative and self absorbed. His curiosity, knowledge, humor and spirit were contagious. Adam believed punctuality, deadlines and being awake during daylight hours were vastly overrated. He loved to outrage and often bragged that being gay, Jewish and half Texan (on his mother’s side)---he had something to offend most everyone. Adam loved literature, art, music, film, news, politics, humor, ideas, food, drink and travel---but most of all, smart lively conversation and animated debate.

Adam is survived by nine siblings; Jonathan, Daniel, Kenan, Susanna, Mary Judith, Tamara, Christina, Melinda, Newton and his step mother, Mary Lou Block as well as 13 nieces and nephews. Adam’s father Robert Jackson Block and mother Dorothy Wolens Block preceded him in death.

With Adam’s death, the lives of those who knew him will be calmer and quieter but far less interesting.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Postings and Contributions to Memorial

Contributions and Editing Postings
If you would like add a posting or have your posting edited (text, your e mail address added, a photo, or link placed in your posting) please send an e-mail to Daniel Block at
Video are also welcomed (AVI, MPEG, Quick Time, Real and Windows Media.)
If you have any photos of Adam they will be greatly appreciated. Please send them in jpg format to

Finding Postings
If you don't see the posting you are looking for you can use the search blog function at the top left corner of the page. If you want to browse earlier posts, you can either click "older posts" at the bottom of the page or see a list of all posts by clicking the arrows in the "blog archive" at the bottom right of this page.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie and Adam from Annie Janowitz

David Bowie died yesterday. It makes me think of Adam's trip to London around 1973 or 1974 and fascination with DB. I hope they meet today, after all these years, in some perfect place.

Annie Janowitz

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I met Adam and Kenan on the beach in Puerto Vallarta in the early 1980's. Adam read from the book, "Confederacy of Dunces" while I knotted the fringe of his Mexican blanket. Sunscreen flew and splattered all over his body and anyone else who was nearby. We rented a ponga boat and set out to sea. All the way I kept saying that I wanted to run into John Huston and sure enough, as our little boat pulled into Boca de Tomatlan....there was John Huston, all dressed in white. A true gift. On the way to the circus, Adam twisted his ankle, no slowing down, bought a cane and some meds and walked on. I have thought about Adam and Kenan many, many times over the years. I am honored to have met them both.
Nancy McKee 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

From Grail Marcus

Jenny and I have been thinking about you.  It's this season that Adam died, and we have found ourselves looking for the wine we had at your memorial dinner for him.  We hope you're well and that our paths will cross again before too long.

The essays I wrote for the Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary book weren't published, as the publisher insisted that the text be by Alice (reasonably enough), but I thought you might like to see the last chapter in any case.

Greil Marcus

Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse came into being as a place where people could gather, to mark occasions or in search of them, and over the years it has become a place of rituals.
That was perhaps especially true in first decade of the twenty-first century. Despite two stock market crashes, the wrecking-ball recession that began in 2008, and California falling into an ungovernable, deteriorating morass, Chez Panisse was finally on firm financial ground. There were crises over individuals and long-range plans, debates over remaining true to the past and shaping the future, but day to day, night by night, the food coming out of the two kitchens could have the laughter, earnestness, and dash of the first year, the tenth, the twentieth, the thirtieth. And rituals were a great part of why on any given night Chez Panisse could seem completely new.
People build their years around the annual garlic dinners for Bastille Day, the Zinfandel festivals in December, Parsi New Year in the spring, or weeks when asparagus, crab, salmon, morels, and especially tomatoes seem to be on every menu if not part of every dish. There is New Year’s Eve, for years featuring the late Charles Brown, who in the 1940s had reinvented American music with “Drifting Blues” and “Merry Christmas, Baby,” and who appeared at Chez Panisse dressed in cape and fez like a king out of the Arabian Nights. But even more vital than that are the rituals that people have made themselves.
Sometimes it can seem less that people go to Chez Panisse to mark birthdays and anniversaries than that they have birthdays and anniversaries so they can go to Chez Panisse. That’s so often the sense of the celebration, where the welcome, the food, the service, and the ambiance have to rise to the occasion—and then, if the salmon roe surrounding tortellini in a cream sauce breaks against your teeth with a pop you can almost hear as well as feel, or a plate of yellow, red, green, and purple tomatoes in oil and parsley smells so completely of what it is that, for a moment anyway, actually tasting it seems redundant, the occasion rises to the food, the service, the ambiance, the good night.
Engagement parties and wedding dinners, welcoming dinners for people arriving in the Bay Area and farewell dinners for people leaving. Recruiting meals for professors the university is trying to seduce—and yet, of all the rituals one might take part in at Chez Panisse, perhaps the most striking mark deaths. That is because so many people took such pleasure there that they made it known that when they died they wanted their family and friends to sit down in the café or the restaurant and take the same pleasure in memory—or simply because it might seem like the right place to conjure up a person’s spirit.
One gathering in 2008 was deeply commonplace—in other words, the sort of occasion the restaurant had been created to serve. Eleven people had come together in memory of a friend who had died earlier in the year at fifty-six.
He was tall, handsome, an exasperating, heedless man, a guest who was always late if he appeared it all, a person of bottomless enthusiasms and appetites for food, drink, drugs, music, people, movies, politics, books, cigarettes, and talk, talk, talk, talk. “With his death,” his obituary concluded, “the lives of those who knew him will be calmer and quieter but far less interesting.” He’d loved Chez Panisse; the people present that night were there to keep life interesting.
The months and years before had taken him from one hospital or rehab center to another, some bright and hopeful, some dingy and entropic, plainly leading only to a place a little better or a little worse. So when people sat down under the light sconces in the dining room downstairs at Chez Panisse, taking in the Arts & Crafts woodwork and metal work designed and built more than twenty years before by the carpenter Kip Mesirow, it was hard to touch the real spirit of the person we were there to talk about, so people looked at the menus. There was a picture of red and white blossoms on the front, with an Art Nouveau Chez Panisse colophon.
Jean-Pierre Moullé was cooking that night, alternating every six months as the head chef with David Tanis. The first course came out, asparagus salad with almonds, Parmesan, and arugula, as if in lieu of the conversation people weren’t ready to have. There was a Jermann Vintage Tunina and an Old Vines Turley Zinfandel on the table, and toasts over it: “But perhaps not pronounced too loudly,” as one person there said of the one who wasn’t put it, “for fear that he might show up, and tell us how to do it right, how to say it with style.” And then he did show up, and it was, people agreed later, wondering how this sort of alchemy works, because of something in the second course, sautéed scallops with green garlic and chives. So the night took off, with a recreation of the élan we were really there to celebrate. What would be the place where you had to go, the band you had to see, the politician you had to hate, the book you had to love, and how long would you have to wait? The dinner had moved on to rack and loin of lamb with herbs, anchovies, breadcrumbs, potatoes, artichokes, and spring oinions, and then to a lemon meringue tart, there were more bottles brought and taken away, and in the rush of talk there were pauses, too—as each person, in his or her own moment, seemed to consider just how lucky it was that they could be in this place, this night, with the frisson of each new smell or taste or sight from the plates before them. Finally it was almost impossible to leave; what the place had provided was a sense that no one present would ever be so close to their friend, or even each other, again. “His illness,” one of his oldest friends said afterward, speaking for everyone who was there, “had forced us to occupy ugly rooms—hospitals, offices, laundromats, his impossible apartments—but on this night we sat down together in the softness and sparkle of wood and copper, linens and glass.”

Today you can go anywhere—to restaurants or farmers’ markets in Minnesota or Provence, to Troisgros in Roanne to a razor clam shack on the Oregon coast—and find the presence, the influence, inspirations, and aspirations, of Chez Panisse. You can find it in style, in modesty, in the crafting of better and fresher foodstuffs, simpler cooking, in food that has been raised, harvested, marketed, prepared, and presented in a way that allows it to speak for itself. And yet if you return to Chez Panisse, sit down, and, if the moment is right, taste what you ought to taste, smell what you ought to smell, it will explode with a sensual brightness that makes you think, no, there is no place like this, not anywhere.
“That’s because it’s home—but your home can be anywhere,” Alice said one day when the notion came up. “These ideas, these values—the values or gathering over food, of cooking by the seasons, of drawing on what’s around you, are universal. That’s why they can work anywhere”—and if values are universal it is precisely because every place and every time is different. If the impulse is to make your own history, and find a way to let your own small story open up into a greater story, a greater history, then you come to understand that the smallest is also the biggest. “You reach the level of the terroir,” Alice says. “You discover your own place, what it has done, what it can do. You search for the taste of your own place. You reach bedrock—and begin from there. The taste that makes you feel that there is nothing like this place anywhere—it’s because every place is different.”
“It’s the senses,” Sharon Jones says, putting the same ideas into different words. “That’s what Alice has always said, from the start: ‘Smell, sound, light, taste.’ That’s it. Open people’s senses up—and that will change how they see life and the world,” their sense of what it is and what it’s for.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

from Paul (Serano) Wilson

So sad to just learn about Adam...

I met Adam, or I should say He "met" me in 1978 at my first parade. I moved to the city in 81' Catherine was his room mate amongst the piles of newspapers and such. Adam always made me feel very important.
I remember he took me to the "Stud" on Folsom st. (telling the cab driver Exactly how to get there!). I think I was 19. We also went to a Jackson Brown concert @ the Cow Palace. Oh yea, backstage the whole thing.

Savoy Tivoli across the street. He was a wild one, but so was I. I think we lost contact around the later part of the 80's.
Again, My deepest condolences.

Paul( Serano) Wilson
Big hug to Catherine ; )

Saturday, July 19, 2008

from Greg Brock

I received an e-mail today at work from an "Adam Bloch." I immediately thought to myself: Hmmm. I wonder what ever happened to the Adam Block I knew in San Francisco? Sadly, I found his memorial page when I googled him.

Although I lived in San Francisco only two-plus years and lost touch with most people there when I moved back to Washington, D.C., I have always remembered Adam most vividly. How could one not? He called me in April of 1987 while I was an editor at The Washington Post. He was writing a free-lance article on gays in the mainstream media. (A short article!) I was one of only two openly gay staff members at The Post at that time. When he told me he lived in San Francisco, I said: Oh, I'm moving there to work for the San Francisco Examiner. So he said he would interview me in person when I got there. Except for the job interview, I had never been to San Francisco. And I didn't know a soul there except the editor who hired me. So the very first person I had any contact with was Adam. You can just imagine what a welcome to The City that was! I had asked him how I would recognize him when we met for coffee. He said: I'm tall, long hair and will be wearing jeans and a leather jacket. How about you? I said: Well, I'm very short, wearing khakis and a Polo shirt. Need I say more?

Those images tell you all you need to know about our ensuing friendship. Talk about night and day! When Adam realized I didn't know anyone, he said: Oh, I'll get some folks together. Indeed he did. About 50 people showed up at my empty apartment (I was waiting on the delivery the next day), including Randy Shilts. Thanks to Adam, I was on my way. My time there ended up being two of the best years of my life. And though Adam and I were not daily buddies, we did see each other a fair amount. And every time I was around him, I liked him more and more, and was increasingly fascinated by him -- though always somewhat intimidated by him.

Even though we both went on with our lives after I left, he has remained one of my fondest memories. The last time I saw him was 19 years ago. Yet, when I saw his memorial page, my heart just sank into my stomach. That, as much as anything, tells you what a lasting impression he made on me. Like many lives he touched, mine is much richer for having known him.With fondest memoriesand deepest sympathy

Greg Brock

Monday, June 30, 2008

Film Premiere dedicated to Adam

Friday June 27 at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco, BruceLaBruce dedicated the San Francisco premiere of his new gay zombiefilm, Otto; or Up With Dead People to Adam. Adam had written about Bruce several times in his columns in the Advocate, including about the zine that Bruce co-edited, JDs, and also about Bruce's earlier films.

Larry-bob Roberts

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

from Darrell Kirk

Adam was a white-hot comet that blazed across this earth. I met him in 1987 when I worked for his father. I have never met anyone with such an absolute thirst for life and meaning.

Godspeed to you Adam.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

from Chris Boothby

I was Adam Block's junior year roommate at Putney School. I just received the latest Putney Post and read the obit there and thereby found this blog and have been reading many of the posts there finding bits and pieces of the Adam I knew. As near as I can tell Adam was the only one of us who openly identified as gay at Putney and seemed to delight in shocking the rest of us with his readings of the Marquis DeSade. Naive as I was, I think I assumed that this was just a phase he was going through and expected for him as I hoped for myself that it would play out with adolescence. So, as I finally came out in my early 50's, thoughts of Adam have been with me periodically and I had accomplished enough web research to know that he was in the Bay Area, his critic role, etc, but I had not actually made the step of contacting him. Now I find myself shocked that this is no longer an option.

I was one of the ones who hung out in the potato shed secretly smoking with Adam and others as described by his friend Schuyler herein. I had a different opinion on the potatoes, as instead of digging and handling them, I was the one who drove the tractor the rest loaded with their bushels of the crop. I also remember the incredibly smudged glasses and as Adam's roommate, his lack of hygiene, both personally and spatially. I will always see him in dark blue blazer with copious dandruff flakes covering the shoulders.

Perhaps it is just as well I had not contacted Adam. Like Adam, not only did I like men, I was also devoted to alcohol and other drugs, but I reached the bottom of my downward spiral with addiction in '79, so seeing him actively using would have been very uncomfortable.

I am very happy to see such an outpouring of fond memories of Adam in this blog. The picture from 1965 is exactly how I remember him. I am currently in Portland, near Reed College and glad to know Adam had his stint there. Just as others note, I remember Adam's wit, intelligence, voracious appetite for reading and eagerness to challenge assumptions. I am glad to hear these traits were operative to the end.

Chris Boothby,
Portland, Oregon

Friday, June 6, 2008

from Ries Niemi

Blissfully ignorant until today, I found out that Adam was gone in a pretty appropriate place- sitting on the toilet, idly reading the Lakeside School magazine which was dunning me for money. (Doesnt Bill Gates give them enough?)

Adam was a unique force on the planet, and even though I had not seen him in far too many years, his absence is something I can feel. I wondered what that was.He opened my eyes to the fact that you could actually survive as a professional Shit Disturber- and the world has lost its master. There is no doubt that knowing Adam has affected who I became. I will miss him.

Ries Niemi
Industrial Artist

Friday, May 23, 2008

from Connie Champagne

I had the pleasure of knowing Adam for many years. He was brilliant-- quick, fierce, very funny (although not always intentionally so.) He was very critical, but of course, that was his gig for so many years as a writer. I miss Adam. I think he knew I was very fond of him. I loved him.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Adams Writings New Link

Fred Nemo has uploaded almost 100 articles written by Adam block.
You can find the by going to

Saturday, April 5, 2008

from Roger Henry

I carry Adam with me every day. In mannerisms I've picked up from him, from the way I say, or hear the word "Un-believable!", to the silly little voices we would do with fingers in the air while doing a little dance. I realize I not only got to know the adult Adam, the one who could think on a global scale, but couldn't see 5 feet in front of him leading on occasion to him knocking down various little old Chinese ladies around North Beach, but also the opportunity to know the kid in Adam. The side not afraid to make a fool of himself, the endless imagination, the incredible sense of adventure, the one who would laugh at and do great impersonations of my Grandma. And what a laugh!

Don't get me wrong, the man drove me nuts but with Adam, you just looked past that cause you knew that he was a special guy.

I picture Adam with his hat, sun glasses, filtered cigarette, multi-colored scarf, black leather jacket with a stack of newspapers under on arm, jeans with an ink stain in the back pocket, one pant leg caught on the top of his black boot heading out for his next adventure. Where ever that adventure is, you can bet he will find the center of it and explore and experience it to it's fullest.

I love you Adam, and I will miss you.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

from Christopher Wild

I am a friend of Larry-bob's and am co-founder of The Queer Zine Archive Project. I read a post at written by Larry about Adam's passing. It was a random coincidence that in November 2007 I had written about Adam's articles on queer zines from The Advocate. My article appeared in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin based Queer Life News which has limited circulation in the Milwaukee and Madison metro areas as well as other parts of the state.
for article go to

I will be publishing this and my other queer zine articles in a book at some point later this year. I would love for other fans of Adam's to read my article and learn about his important contribution to the history of queer zines.

Christopher WildeCo-
The Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Photo from Brook Dillon

Entrenched - by Brook Dillon
San Francisco 1997

I like this image and there are many more from that day. I came over to clean, fighting to recycle every New York Times (and sneaking others into the recycling bag, evil), and my payment to myself was bringing my camera and tripod and photographing Adam and a fair amount of his flat. I didn't do this to shame Adam, but to honor the reality of it, for better, Adam's grand appreciation of culture, and worse, Adam overwhelmed by all that combined with his addictions. I knew Adam for 18 years and went thru many ups and downs with him and loved him dearly and I'm a photographer, it's my art and a passion, so I felt allowed, and Adam didn't stop me, though he was so obsessively reading and talking on the phone that he hardly payed any attention to my endeavor.

from Thor Anderson

Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1975
"Now, this is a fine piece of horse manure!" Adam waved a draft chapter of my senior thesis under my nose. "Only fine?" I gave him a look, and was rewarded with a lop-sided grin. "Well, whoever heard of a bunch of Indians wearing cowboy hats! I'm sure that they could do better than that. Didn't you say they're Mayans? It seems to me" "Adam." "they're not taking their Native American heritage very seriously!" "Adam." "You say here that they wear plastic cowboy hats! Good Lord." "Adam, I'll be sure to pass that on next time I'm there. Better yet, you should tell them." "Well, someone's got to tell them!" The image of Adam Block presenting a fashion statement to a village of Maya Indians in the highlands of Chiapas flashed before my mind, and I knew that he was fully capable of showing up with just such a mission in mind. "So, how about the writing?" He waved a hand. "It needs some work." We set out to page through the manuscript.

Switzerland, 1985
It was well into Spring, but mounds of heavy snow persisted in drifts and piles as we made our way to a tiny, over-heated bar. It was bustling with locals from neighboring alpine villages. In short order Adam provisioned us, and then sought out the cutest boy in the establishment. Soon he was holding forth at the far end of the bar, communicating through a smattering of French, English, Swiss German, and alcohol. He probably mentioned our audience with Pope John Paul, perhaps without emphasizing that we were amongst thousands receiving His Easter benediction. Somehow the evening concluded with Adam's young friend eating his wine glass, right down to the stem. I don't really know how this came to pass, but I do remember Adam's infinite delight-- in the moment, in spectacle, and at life's ever-unfolding absurdities.

San Francisco, 1995
"Adam, there's a newspaper on the stove." "Could you please not move anything!"

San Leandro, 2007
"We have got to make this movie! Wait. Ahhh. Uhhh. Let me catch my breath. I was surrounded by chanting rabbis, but they were actually rat-people." "Adam, I think that was us around your bed, trying to bring you back." "Hum. But now, you've got to be here when this chimney blows. It's like an atomic reactor or something. It's unbelievable. And the people here. They keep changing, and no one speaks English! They're all born-again Christians. I tell them that when they get swept up into heaven in the rapture, this atheist Jew-boy isn't going anywhere, and there had better be someone here to help me." For some reason Adam intones the last phrase with a gentle Texan twang.

San Francisco, 2007
"I realize that I don't really have anything more to do here. I know I'm a handful, and I don't want to just hang around. Lord knows, that's the last thing I want." The same lop-sided grin, this time with a wide-eyed glance over my shoulder. After fussing with the humidifier, I took my leave. "Give my love to Consuela and the girls." My wife of twenty years is named Consuelo, but I gave up correcting Adam long ago. "I love you Adam." "I know."

Thor Anderson, San Francisco

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

from Hayne Bayless

I have a distinct memory of Adam at a party at your house in the early 60s. We kids had sequestered ourselves in a room away from the parents to listen to something called rock 'n' roll on the record player. Adam was MC. At one point he leapt up saying, "Now watch this, this is the Twist!" Grinning, he proceeded to dance. It shocked me just as I imagine Elvis' debut shocked Ed Sullivan's audience. But what I recall most fondly was Adam's sheer joy at his own audacity.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Eulogy from Kenan Block

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.

from Jonathan Block -When Death Comes

by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity,
wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up having simply visited this world.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Eulogy from Jill Bullitt

Adam’s Memorial Service----March 6, 2008
Temple De Hirsch, Seattle

I was recently reading Adam’s Salon Magazine commentary on a 1995 Bruce Springsteen concert in Berkeley. In it, Adam suggests that “the Boss” watch the Preston Sturges' film, “ Sullivan’s Travels’” to learn how to stop impersonating the misery of those he sings about (now that he’s so rich) and to worry more about entertaining them, instead. In “Sullivan’s Travels”, Adam says: “Joel McCrea plays a successful Hollywood director of screwball comedies who feels compelled by the Depression to make a serious Capra-esque film about social justice. Setting off disguised as a bum, (McCrea) ends up jailed in a dismal Southern prison. At a rare screening for the prisoners, McCrea discovers that the anarchic humor of a cartoon provides the cons with glorious brief respite from their grim lives. McCrea learns first-hand that a dose of laughter and delight can offer the oppressed something they need far more than any earnest indictment of social ills.”

Anyway, when I was reading this a couple of weeks ago,I thought ”omigod, I’ve got to tell Adam about the time I snuck into the party Robert De Niro threw for Mandela right after he got out of prison and got to hear Mandela tell Eddie Murphy the exact same thing! In a case of life mimicking fiction, I saw Mandela lean over and tell Murphy how deeply important his comedies were to him at Robben Island. I couldn’t believe it, Eddie Murphy (of all people!), made continuing with daily life seem possible for Mandela and his fellow political prisoners! Since this was right after (morally craven) Murphy had made the hugely stereotypical and bigoted ”Coming to America,” I was astounded.

Of course, I had forgotten that I can’t tell Adam.

Adam and I grew up on the same street. The Block kids were smarter, funnier, naughtier, and more argumentative, than any other family we knew, and my older brother and sister and I continually sought to go play with them at their lively, boisterous house.

Right after Adam’s mother (who was also my god-mother) Dorothy, died, Adam and I started the 3rd grade together at Stevens School, here on Capitol Hill. To our dismay, we found ourselves squarely “in the peculiar world of third grade” (to paraphrase what he later told Schuyler, regarding another school) ”in which you are held prisoner by adults often less intelligent than you are.” Adam, when he discovered that our teacher, Miss Straight, was both criminally dull and moderately cruel, almost immediately made his move. And he did so in what I would call classic Adam fashion: he talked her to death. Before my eyes, he became a kind of machine-gun of humiliation for her, firing one question after another at her that she couldn’t answer. Adam skipped a grade, based on this performance, leaving me behind, to get beaten up after school and to try out a tentative 3rd grade friendship with a girl who lived near us too, until I learned her brothers were famous for shooting the legs off birds.

Although he came to visit me when I was in college in Palo Alto, and we rode around in my blue and white 1956 Buick Special; our friendship mostly took place later, in San Francisco. Starting thirty years ago or so, after I moved to New York, I would look up Adam when I came to town. We would sit in one little North Beach cafe or another and just talk, and I would show him images of my recent work. He seemed unfailingly interested in seeing what I was doing, which puzzled me, slightly, because my paintings didn’t fall within any parameters that I imagined him to be very interested in at that time. Although we had both grown up around fine examples of the work of Morris Graves and Mark Tobey, and my work was derived from a language rooted in, among other things, NW painting, I couldn’t really imagine why he would be that interested in it. Sometimes, I felt his interest came from a kind of loyalty to our shared past. But, in any event, with regard to wanting to see me and what I was up to, his interest was unfailing. Adam was family, also, in the way that your first friends with whom you share ideas become your family.

Right before my 50th birthday, Adam called me in Paris to offer to come celebrate it with us. When my husband and I were married 12 years ago, we eloped, and although we had a very nice reception a year later, we were hoping to have a real party for my 50th, for the self-selected group that would make such a journey to come play. I had mailed out scores of very colorful invitations designed by my daughter, Makaiya, who was 10, of a kitty flying over the world. The picture was one that I, the mom, considered to be an utterly charming image, one that I imagined would be impossible to turn down. We were inviting our stateside family and friends to launch into the air to us, and the invites contained an offer to put up our guests in Paris for a few days (possibly, but not necessarily on the floor of my mother’s Paris apartment) but, offering food and lodging of some sort, anyway. When Adam called, fully intending to come, I had to regretfully inform him that he was actually the only one planning to come from the States, although, as I told him, the turnout of friends from Europe would be considerably better. Unfortunately, this news dampened his enthusiasm enough to cause him to reconsider. But, how I loved him for that instinct, for his loyalty and warm heart, and for his special brand of wit and intelligence that has helped keep us all warm during the cold times.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

from Julie Glantz

Adam was basically the Majordomo Extraordinaire of my welcoming committee when I first chased a dream and a boyfriend to San Francisco in the early eighties and moved into the three story Victorian on Grant Street with Adam Block and Rob Morris.

There was always some opinion or advice Adam had to offer, whether it was invited or not. He certainly had a point of view and a sense of humor that was unique.

The endless rants about the Chinese landlords were unforgettable, as was Adam's remarkable sense of decor, in the form of every single newspaper, magazine, book, postcard he'd ever received just stacked everywhere. The parade of visitors, and the accompanying comments or full on critiques when they left were the stuff of brilliant comic monologues and sharp social commentary.

That experience certainly made a lasting impression: after returning to New York for a couple of years, I truly left my heart in San Francisco and returned to stay in the early nineties.

I spoke with Adam many times after I'd made the big migration, even saw him on a couple of occasions, but my life had changed so much that we hardly moved in the same circles anymore. When I got the email with this news of Adam's passing, I felt a sharp pang in my heart, knowing for certain that an incredibly bright star would shine in everyone's memory. Truly an unforgettable character.

Julie Glantz

Sunday, February 24, 2008

from Kathy Galvin Block

The Only Moving Gallery
I wish I'd thought to ask Adam about his memories of that whole enterprise when we spoke in January... The moving gallery was several chemically-enhanced pals of Adam (from Reed, I think) who took on personae like The Sixties Earth Mother (I think that was his beautiful friend Catherine), angry ghetto revolutionary, street druggie, other cliche characters of the times.
They would go to the galleries in costume and in character and actually interact with gallery patrons. It was terrific performance art. I especially remember the black guy being really cheeky and rude to fancy society types who thought they were liberal but had not actually met a young angry African-American man, nor heard many of the words he was using in an art setting...wish I remembered more. Seattle seems so sophisticated now, but, as I know you remember, it was a wannabe city then. Not as bad as Denver where the audiences still clapped between movements of the Symphony, but not quite Paris. I used to think Seattle was the most middle-class place I had ever seen, but I hadn't been anywhere yet so I wasn't the best judge. One of Adams Reed buddys was a Brit called John Sutcliffe, who was educated at Sandhurst (the Brit version of West Point). ( note from Daniel Today John and his wife Emily have Sutcliffe Vineyards in Colorado Don't remember much about him, except he was pretty entrepreneurial and a fast talker.

Barbecue Sauce
I must ask Kenan if he remembers stopping to see us in Illinois on his and Adam's legendary pilgrimage to Graceland. They got off the City of New Orleans train at about 8am. We had all the kids (only three then) in carseats. Adam and Kenan each had a paper bag concealing a bottle of bourbon, and Adam had a huge plastic vat of some BBQ sauce he had scored somewhere known only to the BBQ cognoscenti. When he lost it he reckoned someone had followed him from the Big Easy and waited for the chance to rip it off and abscond. It was a memorable family get-together, i must say!
(note from Kenan: The Barbeque Sauce was from Brady and Lill's in Memphis now called The Bar-B-Q Shop

The Elvis Painting
I also one Xmas remember Jonathan and I gave Adam a large velour towel-cum-velvet painting of Elvis. We thought we were being arch and sophisticated and too, too witty. But later I overheard him describing it to a friend. (He did not know I was listening) Adam was describing our gift as "so beautiful, if you hold it against the light it's like a stained glass window." Oy, what was Adam on, anyhow?

Recovering Drugs and Cash
I remember when he left his wallet at the Lamphere house after a Fourth of July party? He rang Barb at like 4am and demanded she drive to 1617 RIGHT NOW because there was money anddrugs in it and he needed them RIGHT NOW. Barb is no wuss: Adam's powers in the area of turning his imaginative creations of guilt and a sense of criminally abandoning their most sacred responsibility on people like a look at Medusa's face (or was it the Gorgon?) should have been studied by Think Tanks or made into a book like Dominating, Controlling and Imposing the Compulsion to Obey You on Anyone (for Dummies ). A rational, intelligent and strong-minded adult would suddenly turn into gabbling, apologetic mush and do Adam's bidding just to stop the pain.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

from Anna Shapiro

I was at Putney with your brother, and we were often in the art studio together ca. 1967-8. An echo of him made its way into a scene of a novel I wrote. There are further echoes in the published book, but this scene got cut before I published the book (Living on Air, Soho, 2006). I wish I'd known him in later life, but I certainly thought of him during the last nearly 40 years. I hope this captures him a little.
Anna Shapiro


Unpublished Excerp from Living on Air,
by Anna Shapiro © Soho, 2006

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