I think all of you dear, precious few who read this thing are fellow geezers, so all of you have probably already had the dreaded Procedure I underwent this week. On the whole, well… could have been worse. Everything seems to be hunky-dory down there and I got to see a picture of my colon, which looks not unlike the famous picture of the black hole.

Anyway… one of the reliable pleasures of my geezer life these days is reading the obituaries in the print edition of the Sunday Times. A well-written obit is a thing of beauty, a capsule biography that can be absorbed over coffee… unlike that fking Einstein book that I bought so casually and has been mocking me for the last decade.

This week there were four. The two on the first page were for relatively young people, starting with…

Buddy Duress, a small-time heroin dealer living on the streets of the Upper West Side who became a sensation in the New York film scene as an actor and muse for the movies “Heaven Knows What” and “Good Time,” which helped launch the careers of the filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie, died in November at his home in Astoria, Queens. He was 38. The death, which was disclosed only in late February, was from cardiac arrest caused by a “drug cocktail” including heroin, his brother, Christopher Stathis, said.

Buddy Duress — one hell of a moniker, that — was a stage name, one he adopted while making the first Safdie Brothers movie. His real one was Michael Constantine Stathis, born May 21, 1985. He had a troubled life and he had his reasons. In the article his lawyer is quoted thusly:

I represent so many people with the kinds of problems he had, and they always have excuses. Michael never did. It seems paradoxical to say that an admitted and convicted thief was honest, but he was honest. He was honest about who he was.

Duress/Stathis’s obit takes up about 9/16 of a page. Below the fold is this one:

Max Hardy, who helped bring a new level of chef-driven yet accessible cuisine to his native Detroit, and who was widely considered among the most promising of a young generation of Black culinary stars, died on Monday. He was 40.

No cause is given, but since he “had been in good health as recently as the weekend,” I would have to guess heart attack. He doesn’t seem the OD type.

He worked constantly and with an entrepreneur’s energy. He had his own lines of chef clothing and dry spices. He partnered with Kellogg’s to bring plant-based items from the company’s Morningstar Farms brand to restaurants like his. And he appeared regularly on Food Network programs like “Chopped” and “BBQ Brawl.”

He (also) founded his own nonprofit, One Chef Can 86 Hunger, which spreads awareness about food insecurity and healthy eating, especially among young people. During a 2019 government shutdown, he offered free lunches to furloughed federal workers; during the pandemic, he opened pop-up food kitchens to feed at-risk Detroit residents.

The juxtaposition seems designed to engage your judgemental mind: the junkie, dealer, and sometime actor vs. the hard-working and charitable chef. Try as you might it’s hard to resist the comparison; then you turn the page and see death notices for two much older folks:

Richard Truly, a naval aviator and astronaut who flew aboard two early space shuttle missions and, as NASA’s associate administrator, guided the agency’s return to space after the Challenger disaster, died on Feb. 27 at his home in Genesee, Colo. He was 86.

Günter Brus, a founder of the radical art movement known as Viennese Actionism, who courted outrage and arrest in the 1960s by using his body — and bodily effluvia — to shatter the bourgeois civility of a country haunted by its Nazi past, died on Feb. 10 in Graz, Austria. He was 85.

And wow, it’s hard to imagine two more different guys. The former was an aerospace engineer type who walked the straight and narrow; the latter an Artist who went to the edge and beyond.

In 1968, with leftist student rebellions erupting throughout Europe, [Brus] participated in an incendiary Actionist event “Kunst und Revolution” (“Art and Revolution”) at the University of Vienna. Mr. Brus’s contribution involved urinating into a glass and smearing his body with excrement, before belting out his country’s national anthem while masturbating. At the end of the performance, he drank the urine and vomited.

Here he is somewhat earlier, performing an art piece called “Wiener Spaziergang” (“Vienna Walk”):

Climbing from a Citroën 2CV parked in the Heldenplatz, or Heroes’ Square, of Vienna, he was clad in a suit and covered in white paint from head to toe, with a line of black paint, like a violent stitching, running up the center of his body and face.

Calling to mind a Franz Kline painting with legs, Mr. Brus’s action suggested the violent division of the Austrian psyche — or perhaps his own — wrought by the Nazis, as he strolled toward the Hofburg imperial palace, where Hitler had once addressed cheering masses.

Later, says the obit,

Mr. Brus continued to work at what he called a manic pace as a painter, graphic artist and the writer and creator of “image poems” — collage-like graphic narratives including drawings, text and other visual elements. His wife told Kleine Zeitung in 2018 that he had produced some 80,000 drawings over the years.

At 80, Mr. Brus said that he had no desire to attempt to court scandal as he had in his early days. When asked if age had become its own source of provocation, he demurred.

“No,” he said. “I just find it boring.”

Interesting cat. Though now I feel bad for neglecting Mr. Truly, who had a remarkable career and came to NASA’s rescue at a time of crisis. Any of us should be so lucky as to lead so full a life as either of them.

And as I sit here with the sun in my face and the clock ticking towards 5:00, with dinner guests due at 5:30, I realize that when I started this I was trying to make some kind of point. About the myriad different paths that are out there, the futility of trying to judge one life against another, and the endless amusement that can be derived from doing just that. But I can’t say exactly what that point was… you’ll just have to decide for yourself. Over and out for now and a glorious Saturday night to all. Like the man says, every day above ground is a good day.