I'm posting this without permission because it's public, I'm not making money on it, and that's how I roll. But I will say that all due credit is given to Mr. Taylor (of whom I'm a fan wishing only for greater and continued success in the literary world) and his web site is listed at the bottom of the article. Go visit it. Buy his books. He's good. Always was.
Publication: Review of Contemporary Fiction
Author: Taylor, Justin
Date published: April 1, 2011
From 2001 to 2004, I helped host an open mie night called the Poetry Jam at a place called the Civic Media Center - a nonprofit community library and activist space - located in Gainesville, Florida. In late 2007, word reached me in New York of the death of Ron Palovcik, an older man whose tenure as a Poetry Jam fixture both predated and outlasted my own. Ron, an alcoholic, had come home from a night at the bars and fallen backward while trying to sit in an unstable reclining chair. He was knocked unconscious, his airflow was obstructed, and he died of asphyxiation. This eulogy was read on my behalf as part of a memorial event for Ron held at a bar called the Shamrock, next door to the CMC. It has been modified or updated in places but is in essence unaltered. One person's name has been changed, though I'm not sure she wouldn't prefer to be recognized. Tom Miller - a musician, poet, failed mayoral candidate, filmmaker, and professional amateur pervert and provocateur - was another Poetry Jam fixture, and presumably still is. He currently hosts a YouTube series called "The Asshole Chef" on his channel, "millerworks," where you can also find a video of Ron Palovcik reading his poem, "Screams of a Faceless Rat," which is alluded to but not named in the piece below. I would guess, conservatively, that I heard Ron read this poem twenty-five times.
I wouldn't say I knew Ron well, but I did see a lot of him. He was usually drunk, sometimes very drunk, and could alternately be a pleasure or a pill, depending on just how drunk he was, how the rest of his day was going, and whether or not he had Tom Miller with him. Miller, I can't help but mention, once took me on perhaps the sweetest date I've ever been on- certainly the sweetest one where I did not do the treating, though it also must be said that only one of us knew from the beginning that we were on a date. Anyway, Miller always brought out the best in Ron, and I don't mean to be cruel, only honest, when I say that sometimes the real surprise seemed to be that there was a best in Ron to be found. Ron, like so many before him, both great and small, did some of his most significant work not as an artist but as a patron of the arts, namely the Tom Miller Arts. It is tempting, in praise of Ron, to mention the various CDs, books, films, projects, and events of Tom Miller's, but since Miller is thankfully still with us- or, rather, with you, since he and I have rarely been in touch since I escaped Florida- I will let it suffice to say that when I lived in Gainesville, any time a new Tom Miller abomination presented itself, you always knew to save some gratitude for the old guy in the corner. He might have had a dour look on his face, but the pride showed through.
Which is not to say that Ron was some shadowy, sidelined figure. He was a Poetry Jam staple- you could always count on him to get things started, to rile things up, and to go on too long but not too too long, with his lurid tales of shitting himself in front of the Hippodrome or cutting a rat's face off, or his fucked-up German parents, or the teenage girl who even in his fantasy about her told him to get a life. His best-known poems were the stuff of Jam Legend long before I ever started standing in the spot where the mic would have been if our open mic had ever had one.
Ron once gave me a copy of his then-complete works. It was five chapbook-length collections (one was called Headless Chicken Sprints then Drops. I don't remember the names of the others), and some miscellany, all printed out on regular copier paper and held together with a binder clip. That document is in Tennessee, where my parents now live. It used to be in a drawer, but then my parents got divorced and Mom bought an apartment and Dad lives in an extended-stay motel, so I guess it's in a box now - either at Mom's place or at the storage unit Dad rents, with all our old furniture and all the other shit he has no place to put. Wherever it is, it's at least grouped with the other major works from that era in Gainesville folk art: Ian Schleiffer's I'm Okay You're Fucked Up: New Age Alcoholic, Jimmy Nil Fishhawk's Gone, that one Sheila Bishop chapbook that has "Heart's Chaparral" in it, the collected works of Mark Bennett (RIP, 9/11/2005- died of an asthma attack, uninsured), two self-published chapbooks of my own, and a whole bunch of other stuff I can't think of right now. If this sounds dismissive, it shouldn't. Or at least it shouldn't very much. I'm very far away from the old scene now - spatially and in other ways- but my feelings about that time and place have not diminished in retrospect. My memory of how much it all meant - to put it plainly: everything- is vivid and profound.
I'll always remember the night Ron and Miller came over after a Jam and stayed up all night getting shitty on K Cider and playing Mega Man on SNES. I don't know how often he carried a pistol, but the night at the Shamrock that he showed it to me while he talked about his "enemies" is another thing I'll never forget, even though I never figured out why he pulled the gun on me in the first place. I also can't remember why or when he gave me the packet of poems, except that part of me maybe thinks he didn't. I think he gave them to Allison Foster, whom he might have been trying to fuck at the time. After all, what female didn't Ron want to fuck? Also, who could spend more than five minutes with Allison and not be half-ready to fuck her or marry her or anything else she asked for, assuming of course that you could figure out what- if anything- she was actually asking for? If she really gave it to me - the manuscript, I mean - her reasons are either something else I don't remember or something else I never knew. Anyway, I'm glad to know it'll be there when I go looking for it. Except that I probably won't until whichever parent turns out to have the thing either dies or moves, and I'm forced to go to Tennessee and deal.
"There's a line in Othello about a drunk: 'To be now a sensible man, by and by a fool, and presently a beast!'" But of course I'm not really quoting Othello, because nothing in America comes unmediated- occurrence is simultaneous with reoccurrence, so you get your tragedy and your farce together. The popculture junkies- especially those about my same age- will know the source material without being told. Would Ron have known it? I didn't know him well enough to guess. For the rest of you, the speaker is Barney Gumbel of The Simpsons, who is speaking in his capacity as narrator of his own self-produced amateur film about his life as a world-class alcoholic. I don't keep returning to booze to malign the dead, only to remember Ron as he was, at least to the extent that I knew him, which was on Thursday nights at the Civic Media Center, or else at the bar next door. I don't know what his life was beyond that tiny stretch of University Avenue, but in that world, such as it was, he was family.
JUSTIN TAYLOR is the author of the story collection Every thing Here Is the Best Thing Ever. His novel, The Gospel of Anarchy, will be published in February. His website is www.justindtaylor.net.