Sunday, December 20, 2015

Arnie Karr: A man I loved

Arnie Karr and I were set up to have a contentious relationship.

Arnie was a journalist, focusing on financial performance of apparel companies.  I was the mouthpiece for several companies that he followed.

Arnie was a brilliant, proudly Jewish, proudly liberal, proud New Yorker.  I am a white-bread, slightly redneck, thankful to be Christian, moderate to conservative Southern kid.

Arnie and I first met face-to face at a DNR event in New York about 20 years ago to discuss the future of retail.  I was on a panel with two consultants.

Arnie was the moderator.  The consultants blabbed on and on with their sketchy insights.  I spoke as a guy responsible for sales and profits of a $500 million public company with retailers pulling at our every coin pocket.  Arnie told me he appreciated my candor and that I made him laugh.

That was the beginning of a long-distance relationship of love and respect.

We've discussed politics, religion, the rag business, retail, family and a thousand other things via email, phone, social media and the all-to-rare in person meetings.  

The last time I saw Arnie was at P.J. Clarke's a few years ago, just before he left on a vacation to Hawaii with his beloved family.

I wrote a post on this blog about man love years ago.

I sent the link as a reminder to a number of men that I love in 2013.

Here's Arnie's response.

Alan – Amazing that you shared that this week. I'd just been reminded how true it is.

My mother still lives in the house where I grew up and, until this week, Mrs. Lippe, the mother of my closest childhood friend, Ken, and his sister, who had the same role in my sister's life, remained there as well. Mrs. Lippe — aka Lenny — had hip replacement surgery a few months ago and has been just a little bit less sharp since the surgery. And four stories is a lot for a widow in an empty nest to cover.

Lenny moved into an assisted living facility — yuck, euphemism! -- this week. As her daughter was getting ready to leave, who should show up at her door but my Mom, in her traditional role as someone who easily gives lots of love on an unconditional basis. Her daughter sent me a little note on Facebook telling me how good my Mom had made her and her mom both feel.

But when I got home that night and checked my personal email, there was a 1,000-word note from Ken. I haven't seen him since the day of his father's funeral last year. But, just like you wrote, it didn't matter. We weren't keeping tabs on each other. No one was watching the clock or the calendar.  He just felt he needed to put down in writing a remembrance about the day in 1957 he moved onto our "block" and, before he could even finish his first lunch in his new home, some dark-, curly-haired kid from down the block (you can probably guess who) knocked on and then opened the front door asking if the new people had anyone he could play with. It was just an incredibly touching note that produced a lump in my throat, tears in my eyes and several other physical abnormalities.

Ken and I were inseparable during our childhoods but drifted a bit in the later years of high school — I was more of a musician/writer and he more of an athlete — but we picked up exactly where we left off in 1976, when I arrived in California as DNR's new West Coast editor. He was going to school in Santa Barbara and I was in L.A., but we visited as often as possible. 

But Ken and me?  Exactly as you described. We can talk about anything and, even with 46 years of memories to draw on, it's still the man-love thing you described so well.

Glad you shared that, and really glad we had a chance to hoist a few last month.  Hawaii was, as you would expect, fantastic.


Arnie died a few weeks ago.  At 62.  I had no idea he was sick.  I woke up one day and he was gone.

Arnie, I love you.  I miss you.  

Ken, I'd love to meet you.

Mrs. Karr, I'd love to have coffee with you in your kitchen where you raised a great man.

Rhea and Daniel, I can somewhat imagine the hole in your world.  May God's peace be with you.

To all of us who loved Arnie Karr, let us soon stop grieving and start living as Arnie would have us do.  Honest, happy, dancing, singing, respectful of one another, learning everyday.

1 comment:

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