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tribute: remembrances– Gary Whited

There are two remembrances I’d like to write of: 

– I am remembering two things that were my earliest impressions of Philip. One was his amazing capacity to “live off the land” while living in the city. He maintained a practice of going to Haymarket on Saturday night just as they were closing down for the weekend and throwing out their leftovers. Philip would describe arriving just as the unsold produce would be getting thrown into piles that front loaders were about to scoop up and dump into garbage bins. He’d walk through filling his bag with the best of the leftovers, melons, greens, root vegetables, onions, many things I had no name for that Philip was confident would be a great addition to what he fondly called his “garbage stew.” Each Sunday, or maybe it was Monday or Tuesday, he’d throw many things into a pot, along with some dried beans, or a piece of pork, and cook it for hours. It was a large pot as I recall, and made a big enough stew to last for a good part of the week, even when neighbors, like myself, would come by for a bowl, or he’d bring a pot of it up to our second floor apartment at 54 Westland Ave., and make an entire meal for Elizabeth and me. He cherished this practice and blessed us all with the weekly harvest!

– The second memory is that someone had given me a bottle of Aquavit, telling me it was a Norwegian liquor that I should enjoy since I was Norwegian. I had sipped it a couple times and decided it was one of those alcoholic beverages that one would need to “acquire a taste for,” and I was timid in my acquisition of this taste. One night a gathering of friends took place at our apartment, including Philip, and the Aquavit was brought forth from our cupboard. Not many at the gathering took a liking to it, but Philip, ever curious and willing to try anything, at least once, seemed to take a liking to the stuff. By the end of the night it was well over half gone, and yet Philip walked upright and unaccompanied back to his apartment, seeming not to be affected by his imbibing in the stuff. However, the next morning when I saw Philip out in front of the building, though he didn’t look hung over, he did report that the Aquavit had left its mark. I was impressed at how Philip could, as they say, “hold his liquor.” I never saw him, or heard of him, taking another shot of Aquavit. 

There are other memories of long conversations over his first novel, Harvesting Ballads, as it was taking shape and then being shipped off to the editor, and after many back and forths, I do remember the celebration of its acceptance. Some years later I happened to be listening to “Fresh Air” one day, long after you, Jennifer, and Philip had moved away and his voice came so clear like a bell from his interview there! It brought it all back to me, and I cherish the memories of Philip’s writing process as I knew them. 

Many blessings to all of you as you gather to celebrate this wonderful man, writer, friend, husband and father. I will be thinking of you.

Gary Whited

October 24, 2014

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