Monday, February 13, 2006


I saw a fellow walking a Whippet dog this afternoon and I thought immediately of my late friend Harry. I miss Harry. I wish you could have all known him, he was unique.

I met Harry through a mutual friend and we hit it off immediately; you know, just one of those people you immediately trust, immediately like and want to include in your circle.

To have seen Harry was to love him.... all of 5ft5, maybe 120lbs, big glasses, whispy moustache and goatee, odd shaped ears and a voice that rivaled Gilbert Gottfried (you know the gravel voice commedian). He was almost gnome like in appearance. But it is always what is inside that counts and with that, Harry was as handsome as a Hollywood leading man.

Harry was a florist, and a damn good one. He operated a little shop downtown that was really more of an outlet for his projects than a walk in shop to get a pre-made bouquet for your sweetie. His clients were the most wealthy and powerful in town. Harry's arrangements graced banquets for the sports teams, notable weddings and events, the Opera and Symphony, funerals and parties. Once, for a winter wedding, he went to the airport at 4am to meet a cargo plane that had his shipment of iris flown in from South America for a bride who insisted on iris for a December wedding. She got it, and it was spectacular. I loved to stop by his shop and chat with him while he worked. He was a total master at making flowers do his bidding. Once, after finishing a project, he bundled the scraps and rejects into a huge bouquet and gave it to me. It was a sight to behold, I took it to the office where everyone oohed and ahhed over what they thought had to be hundreds of dollars worth of flowers..I let them think I was generous!

Harry's house was a showplace. It was 1/2 an older duplex on what was for years an un-named street in south KC, more of an alley way than street. Even though he rented the place, he made it his own. He bricked the driveway and created an elaborate stone and brick patio with leafy trellises, orchids everywhere and little Zen bells in all the trees. The small property was landscaped with gardens, fountains and a huge water garden. He called me one morning when he was installing the water garden..ok imagine a gravel, cigarette smoke tinged voice.... "Donnie, I have the FUCKING Titanic in my back yard, its ASS sticking up in the air like it is looking for DICK. OH my GAWWD!!!" Harry always had a way with words... He had sunk the empty pond liner but over night it had rained. The water level rose in the ground, forcing one end of the large black liner out of the ground just like the Titanic at about a 45deg angle. I still laugh about it.

Inside the house was a showplace of antiques, meticulously restored toy pedal cars from the '50s and his own original artwork. I envy people with a eye for art and decorating. Harry could look at a room and turn a K-mart special apartment into something out of Home Beautiful.

Harry had special names for everyone, if you were dubbed Uncle or Auntie, then you knew you were part of the family. I was Uncle Donnie, his old high school friend was Uncle Ums (actually Greg but Harry called him Uncle Gregums so it stuck with him), Auntie Pam, Uncle Al, Auntie O (short for Oletha),Uncle Donuts ( I don't even remember his name and I see him around town occasionally. He was Harry's neighbor and rather a big fellow. One day he was leaving for work and was taking a couple of donuts with him. Donuts forgot something and went in the house, leaving his car door open and the donuts sitting on the seat. As luck would have it, Harry let his dogs out who immediately made a bee line to the open door and scarfed down the donuts...thus Uncle Donuts was born) and Little Sister (not his sister but a young gay fellow he had known for years..I don't remember his name either).

Harry had two Whippet dogs who were his pride and joy. Neon, a rather surly female and Winston, a younger male. Both were absolutely gorgeous dogs, he paid a small fortune for both of them. His first Whippet Devo (get it you punk music fans?? the group Devo had a song called "Whip It") died at the age of 12 from Cancer. He was a show winner and a wonderful dog. Winston would do anything to annoy Neon who would then proceed to be a bitch for the rest of the day. They were fun to watch. I wonder who got the dogs?

Harry was an entertainer, his parties were legendary. In 2003 I was living in St Louis and was visiting KC one early spring weekend. I stopped by unannounced to see if he was home on my way out of town. He was having a cook out with Uncle Al, Auntie Pam, Little Sister and Uncle Ums. There was no question that I was to join them as a glass of wine was thrust at me, a fish filet was prepared and put on the grill (he had procured some fresh tilapia) and I was told to sit. I got back to St Louis much later than planned.

I was glad I stayed, it was the last time I saw him. At the cookout, he introduced me to some one who had entered his life, Helen. I immediately hated that bitch Helen with a passion. Helen was not much of a lady, or even a decent human. She was a tumor... a huge malignant tumor growing on Harry's short thin neck. I was not surprised Harry had cancer, he smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish. I was also not surprised Harry named his tumor, he named eveything else. The prognosis was good he said, don't worry.

A couple weeks later Harry called me and told me he and Helen were not getting along and were getting a divorce. I was not surprised as I knew it was a marriage made in Hell. Like many divorces, it was bitter and not easy; Helen was not going away quiet. I talked to him on the phone a couple of times but since Helen was grabbing him by the throat, his already raspy voice was almost gone. Our conversations were brief. I then sent cards but never talked to him again.

As we got busy with trying to survive we tend tp forget important things, so I lost track of him. I called a couple times but no one answered. I figured he was sick and hoped the messages got through.

I heard from a friend that he had died. I wonder what became of Neon and Winston. I should look up Uncle Donuts.

I wish you could have all known Harry, you would have loved him and would have all had new names. Here's to you Harry... wherever you are. I am sure the flowers are fabulous and the wine is flowing.

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