Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Steve Grayson, 1950- 2014

My friend Steve Grayson died two nights ago. He owned the Golden Spur for over thirty years, and made it into THE community center for Magdalena and the surrounding ranches. Betsy Huntington and I met most of the people I still know there, not to mention the increasing number we have lost. He makes an appearance near the end of Querencia- the book, when Betsy's sister Jane comes out to take her back to Boston to be buried; he recognizes her, and gives her a shot of Jack Daniel's on the rocks, something I doubt that she ever drank except here. My dark joke that everybody in the book but me is dead is coming close to the truth.

Steve's good cheer, warmth, and good sense made it impossible for anyone to do anything more than START trouble there. In all those years, no one ever pulled a gun or knife or swung more than a single punch. His good nature did not mean he was any kind of wimp, but his authority was always gracious. For along time his Missouri- born mother Mildred ("I have two sons, a Baptist preacher and a tavern owner") worked in the bar; until she was 89 I think. When I didn't have a phone she took my messages, including the one that eventually got me to Asia,

He and his wife Colleen (they were a perfect pair-- you rarely saw one without the other), were sports fans, and Steve and his two kids all had been serious basketball players. They followed everything , especially football, and played killer pool. Anyone who knows me knows I am not. Steve knew me. On the eve of the Superbowl, about ten years ago, Steve was talking to two strangers at the end of the bar. He came to refill my drink and asked me, casually, if I knew what teams were playing. I looked at him in disbelief and said "How the hell would I know? You've known me for twenty years and I've never known when anybody is playing-- not once!"

He grinned like the Cheshire cat, walked down the bar to the strangers, and said "Pay up!" I drank free for the rest of the night.

He is survived by Colleen (who in the antedeluvian days before computers typed several of my books), son Phil, who is a writer, teacher, and editor in New York city and sometimes appears here, and daughter Denise, who does high- end computer work near Washington DC.

We will miss you, Steve.


Phil Yearout said...

RIP Steve. I didn't know you, but it sounds like I would have like to.

Federico said...

Losing a friend is always hard, my condolences!

Anonymous said...

So sad to hear the news.
The Spur will never be the same without Steve , please remember me to Colleen and her family . Too many happy memories of the heart of Magdalena.


Chas Clifton said...

That's a loss for all Magdalena. What happens next, I wonder.

Steve Bodio said...

We are fortunate. There was a rough patch after Steve, when a California real estate developer and crook who had a country band and a fake name nearly bankrupted the place and drove away customers. But local construction company owner and rancher Darryl Pettis took it over with Steve's help. It is now run by his son Montana, who is a musician and football coach born to run a bar, and is undergoing a renaissance. Check out the site at goldenspursaloon.com and you will see all of us.

Anonymous said...

This didn't seem like especially appropriate funeral talk, so it got abruptly cut short there, but I did have a little bit planned to say.

He wanted a fun, light-ish celebration of his life devoid of most remorse, which is a silly thing to ask for when death comes so abruptly and quickly, but it suited him. He was a silly man.

He wanted it light, so I thought I would immediately bring up cancer. (that's not a joke he would have liked, but he would have shaken his head, which I always took as the highest complimet).

Steve was a cancer, astrologically speaking. And it suited him. Cancer is indiscriminately expansive, that's its thing, and Steve was the same. He favored life a bit more than professional cancer does, but they worked in similar ways.

I loved the way his friends were always surprised at the friends he had. Ancient old men could sit and swap stories about him with modern day teenagers. Cowboys and Indians, Baptist preachers and tavern owners, the most crassly prudish ancient women of Magdalena and the most reckless expatriates of Istanbul, he always had that bartender's ability to absorb people on their own terms. He was genuinely interested in mostly everything. He was indiscriminately expansive.

Colleen is legitimately brilliant, and their daughter is probably the smartest person I've ever met, but his was the genius, really. The open eyes, the open mind, the open heart. The indiscriminately expansive approach to life.

When people die you hear that they made peace, or that they came to terms, which I don't think he did. He seemed already at peace. He seemed already on good terms. He went into death with as much dignity and courage as I can imagine, and the attitude of his last days was the same as the years and years before them. Accepting of reality, full of plans, lacking in regrets, and fully comfortable with the man he was and had been.

Perhaps there were friends he regretted having fallen out with, but he showed no signs of that, and hopefully he was happy that the friends he'd been told by so many (myself included) to just drop and move beyond were still his friends to the end of his life.

He seemed to know what was important to him, and to have been happy to have been governed by those things. He talked to me a lot about regrets, about things he'd wished he'd done and decisions he'd wished he'd made.

I think he was very invested in my having the best life possible, and he offered the exact sort of vague advice you'd most want to that end. I can't imagine that I chose the life he'd imagined for me, and in a lot of ways we were very different people, but he was indiscriminately expansive, and I think the fact of having a brilliant computer scientist daughter and a wastrel vagabond son suited him and his tastes in a lot of ways.

He was indiscriminately expansive, and content with himself in the weird way that allows that.

He was great.

Steve Bodio said...

I only hope that when my time comes Jackson will write as honest and loving a portrait of me. Thanks.