As I mentioned before, I attended Chuck's funeral (I prefer homegoing, so
when it comes up again, that's what I will say).
Firstly, a small apology to the list. I called Jerry Maxwell (thanks to
Jack for posting his information!) to ask if I could attend, to which he
consented. I didn't get a chance to tell you list folks, but I didn't
really have the time, since I had to make arrangements to get down there
and back. So, I apologize for that.
Second and last apology for this post. The writer takes full
responsibility for any lapses into sentimentality and I will try not to be
inappropriate, selfish or too maudlin.
I got in town too late for the viewing/wake, so I decided to just go to the
funeral, which was held at St. Benilde Church. I stayed in Slidell, the
town just outside of New Orleans where Chuck lived. It's a nice area, so I
figured if I booked a room there, I would be OK, because New Orleans, as
nice of a place as it can be, has it's infrastructure issues and I don't
know the town that well.
I arrived at the Church and met Jerry Maxwell, who was pleasant, albeit
subdued. I spoke to various people and they introduced me as the fellow
from the Exotica Ring and we all exchanged pleasantries waiting for the
service to start. Everyone was nice as they mentioned how nice it was for
me to drive there for the funeral.
St. Benilde is a Catholic Church in the Metarie section of NO and one that
the Buschs have been members of for many years. Altar boys and other
positions have been many people in the Busch family. The service was
well-attended and it was quite an experience for me, as I am not
Catholic. There are certain rituals that are quite unfamiliar to me, so
any inaccuracies are wholly the author's. From what I gather, I
essentially attended Mass, with a funeral service integrated into the
service. Having been saved since 1986, I am used to African-American
Church experiences, which vary, but there was one constant through all that
I have been to, that was decidedly absent here: no organ! All of the music
was supplied by one lady who sang and played guitar. We were all
encouraged to sing along with the hymns, since music has always been a part
of Chuck's hyms.
On to the spoken remarks. The first woman spoke of how Chuck lived his
life and even though I spent about a day and a half with him, she made
mention of some things that even I knew before that day:
- Whatever you gave him was "the best". When he ate a dessert, it was
the best dessert, when you gave him something, it was the best present. I
made a CD for him of things out of my collection when I went to visit
him. It was a collection of Northern Soul, figuring that I would easily be
duplicating anything Exotic. When I gave it to him, he was very grateful
and what I now know is true to form for Chuck, he said, "This is the best
thing for me to hear right now, I LOVE Soul!"
- He loved his Mardi Gras group of 20 or so years, Mondo Kayo (pronounced
KYE-o, before we all go Xtabay on this). Through a lot of greased palms
and good ol' boy networking, he managed to organize a group that was
allowed to march in Mardi Gras. They don't play instruments, (Chuck
didn't), but they put on their costumes, painted their faces and had music
that blared from the loudspeakers as they went down the parade
route. Since everyone was covered in costumes, this led to the somewhat
awkward position of having some people that knew they were members of Mondo
Kayo, but didn't know each other. Of course, there were other members that
were good friends of Chuck's.
- Chuck liked his cigars and died of cancer. Up to his last day, he
thought he was going to beat it. His doctor had initially given him weeks
and he stretched that to months and all told a couple of years, really.
Here were some things that I didn't know:
- Chuck was an attorney.
- Chuck was 50 years old. Anyone who has spoken to him or had seen him
would have figured him to be somewhere in his thirties. His enthusiasm,
which was so boundless and wonderfully naive made him forever young to me.
- The Busch family has really been going through it lately. Two years
ago, Chuck's Mother died. Two MONTHS ago, he lost his sister Ann. Now the
family has lost Chuck, which leaves his Father in the tragic position of
outliving two of his children and his wife.
- His proudest achievement? His daughter, Taylor. I saw Taylor, but
didn't speak to her (what does an abject stranger say to a child who has
just lost a parent?). She's a lovely girl and she will be taken care of by
her Mother and Stepfather. I was most relieved to hear about that, more
Another man, a work colleague, got up to speak about him and mentioned his
work in the bankruptcy courts. He made very nice and heartfelt remarks,
which I cannot remember, so my short shrift here is due to memory.
Another fellow, a close friend of Chuck's, also spoke lovingly and almost
made it through without tears, but didn't quite make it. He said, among
other things, that he was the type of fellow that wanted to be the first
person on the ski lift and the last off of the mountain. When he went
skiing with him, he asked Chuck, "Let's see if we can squeeze in one last run".
Chuck replied, "Let's try to make it two!"
Lastly another work colleague came up and the first thing he said was, "I
came here to complain about Chuck Busch." He then went on to tell
something about Chuck that fit him quite nicely. Chuck and he worked in
the same building. He worked on the eighth floor and Chuck worked on the
seventh. The man said that he appreciated the long elevator ride, because
it allowed you "eight floors of sleep" before you went to work.
One day, a man got on the elevator that would simply not stop talking. He
was energetic and would laugh out loud, thoroughly unashamed of his
surroundings. When the man told one of his colleagues about this, he was
told that he just had a run-in with the "Elevator Agitator", which, of
course, was Chuck Busch.
Some weeks later, Chuck had dropped his Visa statement on the elevator
floor, which this man picked up. Determined to get even for "lost sleep",
when they next went up the elevator together, the man, in concert with
another fellow who was in on the prank, said, in a loud-enough-to-hear
voice, "Yep, we have enough evidence to convict Chuck Busch of fraud. He
seems to be trying to shield his debt through filing bankruptcy to get
around it..., etc." and at the seventh floor, Chuck tapped the man on the
shoulder excitedly to say that that was him that he was talking about.
This being Chuck, this didn't result in a fist fight, or verbal
altercation. Instead, Chuck asked him about bankruptcy law and he and the
man ended up talking about this for the next 45 minutes. Chuck then went
on to work in bankruptcy law! The man who told this story about Chuck then
said he would remember Chuck as the "Elevator Gladiator".
After the remarks and Communion, the last hymn was sung and Chuck was
wheeled up the aisle (this was a closed casket ceremony), accompanied by
his pallbearers, one of which was a man in a wheelchair.
I couldn't carry on singing at that point. It was at this point I missed
him most, I suppose. The man that allowed me to stay at his house, sight
unseen, knowing that I may have to be there by myself, the man who called
me at my work from HIS work, just because he loved my posts, the man whose
last conversation with me was truncated because I had awakened him (he was
so sick, his work allowed him to work when he could and sleep if he had
to), but was still pleasant despite what I now know must have been painful,
was now silently gliding past me in a gold-colored coffin, guided by
I just couldn't sing.
We filed out of the church and we went to the cemetery For those who have
never been to NO, let me explain something. NO is a major city which is
BELOW sea level. You cannot bury the dead in the ground, because there
isn't really enough ground to do this, so the dead are entombed in
mausoleums of various sizes. So, the graves are all small monuments, if
you will and the dead are above ground. It does rather feel that the dead
are sort of looking out at you as walk past. Chuck was not put in one of
these. He was laid to rest in the mausoleum section where the coffins are
stacked, each with a stone section on which the epitaphs are engraved.
This was done perfunctorily, but it did allow the Priest to be thanked by
Mr. Busch, Chuck's Father, who wanted to make sure that he thanked him in
full presence of all who came to the grave and said, tearfully, that he
(the Priest) had answered the family's prayers.
After the Priest left, Jerry Maxwell, yet another fellow who knows me from
ONE phone call, which is to say, not at all, invited me to his house,
which, by Grace of God and a Mother with a not-so-hot sense of direction
(which meant I had to sharpen mine), I found.
Jerry Maxwell lives in the Metarie, not too far from the St. Benilde. When
I called him originally, he graciously allowed me to attend the funeral and
somewhat apologetically said, "Thanks for doing this, but you really won't
know anyone". I didn't take offense to this. My good lady wife was dubbed
by a friend of ours, "Little Miss Conversation", which is not too
inaccurate, because she is a bright, witty and inquisitive woman, who can
talk and listen for hours while never being bored or boring.
At parties, I follow her around. It makes things fairly easy for me.
So, here I am, at a house at which I know no one and I am there because of
a fellow that I met exactly once, even though we had known of each other
for three years.
I am here to tell you that the last three sentences didn't make one blessed
bit of difference.
For those who are reading this post about our Chuck, I wish to assure you
that he had some of the nicest people that one could call friends that you
could imagine. To a person, to a single man and woman, EVERYONE was nice,
fun to talk to, glad to meet me, all of them had wonderful things to say
about Chuck and were all some of the nicest folks I have had the good
pleasure to meet. I found out that many of his friends were ones that he
had since his Archbishop Rummel High School days , so there were people
there that knew him for 30-plus years.
There are two proverbs I am going to bring up, the first is an old French
one, which is, "The friends of my friends are my friends", something that I
have remembered since I was a little boy in 1970-whoosits, when I read it
on a poster at my hometown library. All of these people, who had never met
me, treated me as if I had known Chuck for years on end.
I spoke to a young lady while we were looking at a collection of
photographs taken from stages of his life and documenting his travels (for
example, he had driven to Belize in a VW bus, several times and when he
visited, he didn't stay at a resort, he befriended a family and slept on
the ground inside the hut, just like the children). She was 14 and quite
articulate. She told me that her Father was the "ugly guy" next to Chuck
in some of the photos. I told her of some of the things that I had done
(some of which met with a "REeeeally?" that tickled me) and she told me
about her aspirations and her school, which is NOCA an Arts school. I get
a big charge talking to anyone, but I really (REEeally) get Jazzed talking
to younger people. They don't judge you and I find it quite fascinating.
After we were done talking, her mother (who is from Guatemala), spoke to me
afterwards. We had spoken previously, so I knew quite well this was her
daughter I had been talking to and she said something rather nice. She was
very pleased to see her daughter speaking so well and being so friendly
with someone, because before going to NOCA, she was rather withdrawn. I
then went on to have a wonderful conversation with HER, so I knew where the
daughter inherited some of her charm. Her father (the "ugly guy") was just
as much fun to talk to.
I won't go into much greater detail about that night, save the fact that I
stayed there until almost midnight and I had started from not knowing
anyone to several people asking if I wanted to stay at their house for the
remainder of my stay. I got a good deal of e-mail addresses, addresses,
phone numbers and hugs.
It was marvelous. Not only for me, but to know that a man had engendered
such love and camaraderie in so many people, it was just amazing to
see. At every chance I got, I mentioned us to the people who asked me how
I knew Chuck. I told them about how the list had pretty much shut down
while we reminisced and shared what we knew of him and it all very neatly
dovetailed with everything that I heard that night.
The second proverb comes at the end of this boiled-down African Folk Tale:
A man had three grown sons and his wife was carrying what turned out to be
his fourth son when he went to hunt a lion. Months passed, the child was
born, but there was no sign of the father. As soon as the baby could talk,
he asked, "Where is my father?". The three grown sons went to look for
their father at that point.
Their search confirmed their worst fears. The lion was dead, but so was
their father. He was disfigured by the lion and one of his hands held the
lion's tail, which is highly-prized. The three sons, knowing the ways of
incantation and witchcraft set about bringing the father back to life,
which they did successfully. When the father was brought back to life, he
made a switch of the lion's tail.
When the four men returned to the village, he embraced his wife and greeted
the villagers. He said to his sons, "I have a lion's tail switch and I
will give it to the son that is most responsible for bringing me back to life!"
The first son said, "I deserve the switch! I reconnected your broken bones
and skin. Your body would have been shapeless were it not for me."
The second son said, "That is true, but I made the muscles and sinews work,
so that you could move your body and hunt once again. Father, I ask that
you give me the switch."
The third son said, "I reanimated your brain and reintroduced your memories
to you. Had you none of these, your body would have been worthless. You
would have been little more than an animal, but I made you human. I should
have the lion's tail switch."
The man looked at his grown sons and then asked his wife, "Who asked where
I was?". His wife replied, "Your youngest son, as soon as he learned to
speak asked, 'Where is my father?'"
The man then handed the switch to his youngest son, who was still a babe in
arms. He turned to his family and said, "My youngest son is the one who
deserves this switch. It is his, because, no man is dead until he is
Ladies and Gentlemen of Exotica, it has been and continues to be my great
pleasure to know all of you, even in our squabbling and silly fights. For
anyone who is still beating themselves up about not seeing Chuck, or not
having spoken to Chuck, as hard as it is to do, it is time to do our best
to stop. I had the ability to go to the homegoing and I thank the Lord for
my understanding wife, the fact that I am on Sabbatical and all the other
blessings that made this possible. If I hadn't met all of you, how would I
have met Chuck? Thanks to all of you for that wonderful gift, but a
special thank you must go to Laura who suggested that I join this list in
the first place.
We have so much of him and we were even able to help him, whether we knew
it or not, through some of his last days, in our way. I didn't make it to
his homegoing, WE ALL DID, in our way. We all lost a friend, but just
think; now, he can see every post, laugh his unforgettable laugh and smile
down at all of us and as one person says, wonder why HE engenders so much
of fuss and attention. The world is a brighter place because of guys like
Chuck, let's work to keep it that way. My Christian beliefs have helped me
through quite a year (I lost my Mother). They have also helped me to
appreciate what I have in my family and my friends that I have made through
So, for this on time, please indulge me and I will sign off the way that he
"Easy Listening in the Big Easy,
IN LOVING MEMORY OF Harvey Charles Busch, Jr.
September 18, 1952 - October 30, 2002