Sunday, December 24, 2017

Dec. 24th: Arthur Ashe & the Style We Leave Behind

Arthur Ashe, his feet apart, his knees slightly bent, lifts a tennis ball into the air. The toss is high and forward. If the ball were allowed to drop, it would, in Ashe’s words, “make a parabola and drop to the grass three feet in front of the baseline.” He has practiced tossing a tennis ball just so thousands of times. But he is going to hit this one.

So starts John McPhee’s Levels of the Game, which the New York Times once called “perhaps the high point of American sports journalism” – and yet, I’d never heard of it until it was gifted to me by an older, ultra-cool sports editor; a man I admired, and who just this past week, died.

I never read it -- but Bud’s death finally corrected this.

Essay Daily's Advent Calendar has the theme of “Recovery” this year, and I suppose this book qualifies, since I found it fantastic and it has been forgotten. But one might ask: Why do we need extra focus right now on a book about sports from a well-known white male author? To which I’d say:

Good question! Here is why: Sports is more popular than ever, and there is more sports content than ever in our odd world (you could easily spend 24-hours a day watching sports, reading sports blogs, watching shows about sports -- and it seems many aspire to do just that). 

And yet, so much sports writing is of the moment and nothing more – each daily post, each daily game, absorbs the watcher for a moment, then recedes from the mind – the surf going in and out, leaving no meaningful trace (except for a slow, dull wearing down of the surface upon which it washes; a pacified, dulled brain).

Total Sports Saturation, alas, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – so, hey, why not actually understand something about what sport means culturally, artistically, to us?

That’s why good, classic sports writing is important -- and sometimes really relevant, too. Levels of the Game has so much to say to us right now. It chronicles a single tennis game in 1968, at an especially fraught time (this was just two months after MLK's assassination).  

It's an epic match between the black, liberal Arthur Ashe and the white, Republican Clark Graebner. It’s to the book's credit that neither comes across as a cliché, neither inspires pure hatred or admiration, both are fully human. And yet, on Arthur Ashe's desk sat the biography of Malcom X; on Graebner's desk was a personally autographed Nixon photo. There's a lot of subtext in this book, okay?

But really, the main reason this book needs to be recovered is because Bud gave it to me; Bud, the man who was 40 years older than me, yet still always seemed a step ahead (and forty steps higher in just plain, real “coolness”) – but also, the man who always treated me like a friend.

Bud died last week -- and I have to face it.


I've tried to write about Bud -- but each time, I compose thousands of words (and Bud, as a lifelong editor, would never tolerate that). So for now, I'll just say that he was truly the most sophisticated man I've ever met -- but also one of the most generous, too. And I don't think those two qualities overlap all that often. 

That's a very small subsection in humanity's Venn diagram.

Robert "Bud" Armstrong worked the night sports desk at the Minneapolis Star Tribune for over four decades, and he knew everything about the four "major" sports, but knew even more about tennis, the WNBA, yachting, fencing... and long before following European football was fashionable, he gave me a George Best shirt.

The man owned 10,000+ records and 2,500+ CD's (and as his daughter recently wrote, his tastes ranged from "Taylor Swift to Miles Davis to Brahms"). And I guarantee that every damn piece of music was purchased locally from a human he knew by name (Patrick Reusse, the famous Minneapolis columnist, recently joked that The Electric Fetus record store might now go out of business with Bud’s demise). Feasts cooked by Bud rivaled anything at local, fashionable restaurants -- but he knew all the chefs at those restaurants by name, too. And in the realm of capital-L Literature? Well, he'd already read every book you had, and then a few more -- but he only used this to help guide you somewhere (he gave me so many books).

BUT HERE'S THE THING: He wasn't this mythical man on a pedestal. He was just a nice, older guy I met one night at a bar -- after I'd finished up my shift as a box office worker at the Jungle Theatre.


Early in John McPhee’s legendary tenure with the New Yorker, he yearned to write a dual profile – something about, maybe, a choreographer and a dancer? That was an initial idea. 

Then, while watching TV one night, he saw the semi-finals match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner at the first ever U.S. Open, and knew he’d landed his subject. McPhee managed to get a tape of the game from CBS (just one day before they erased it, as per their policy). And then, McPhee sat down with Ashe and Graebner individually, and they told him what they were thinking throughout the match.

This means that the reader, while getting blow-by-blow accounts of the game, also gets to dive into the minds of the dual protagonists in a way you’d only ever see in sports fiction, yielding great interior insights like:

Ashe hits a flat serve to Graebner's forehand, and Graebner drives the ball down the line for an outright winner. Fifteen-thirty... He may be winning the set right here. Ashe says to himself, "You can't relax, Arthur. Every point has a hell of a premium on it now." He lifts the ball, whips up his racquet, and cracks a serve into the deep outside corner. Graebner barely touches it. Ashe is thinking, "That was a crucial serve, a crucial serve. If I hadn't won that point right there, I could have been in deep trouble." He hits two more that Graebner can't handle -- in all, three unplayable serves. Graebner pauses and joins in the crowd's applause, clapping for Ashe, acknowledging what he has done. "He hit it so hard, so fast. There's nothing you can do about that," Graebner tells himself. 

Ultimately, though, it’s the mythological might of this faceoff – which must’ve made McPhee’s writer-mind metaphorically drool when first watching the match – that lends the text its lasting power. 

Ashe was a pioneer in his sport much the way Jackie Robinson was earlier in the century (Dr. Robert Johnson, Ashe's mentor, often "read sports columns in which the idea was advanced that Negro athletes lacked finesse -- that they might be good runners or jumpers but could never make it in a game like tennis") -- and, in fact, Jackie Robinson was Ashe’s main hero. 

The match happened right in the middle of America’s churning, emergent civil rights movement -- way back when sports wasn’t exempt from politics (much like, suddenly, right now): John Carlos and Tommie
Smith's famous Black Power protest at the Olympics would happen just a few months after this match. And Ashe himself felt torn -- he comes across as a complicated intellectual, with great long quotes where he goes back and forth, not yet comfortable with the idea of being an icon, a leader; he wants progress but is awkward, anti-militant...

And listen, I know this part is long, but understand: This is one of the first black sports stars in U.S. history, free-form speaking his own words, trying to find his way in real time:

"Anything I can do to help the cause is good. Nobody listens to a loser. If I put myself in a position where I can't compete, I am merely a martyr. We don't need any more martyrs right now. One must separate the emotional from the practical... a little bit is better than nothing... Progress and improvement do not come in big hunks, they come in little pieces... I wouldn't tell my son to content himself that things will come gradually. You've got to push... But when you know it's not going to come, don't give up... We'll advance by quiet negotiation and slow infiltration -- and by objective, well-planned education, not an education in which you're brainwashed. Education reflects a culture's values. If that culture is warped, you get a warped education, with white Janes and Dicks in the schoolbooks and white pale-faced guys who made history. There are so many insidious ways you can get brainwashed to think white equals good -- white Howdy Doody, white Captain Kangaroo. I didn't feel like a crusader once. I do now... But in the spirit of the times -- in some people's eyes -- I'm an Uncle Tom..."

Combine this charged atmosphere with McPhee’s research, and you get astounding discursions; in the middle of casually talking about how Ashe likes to travel, a paragraph seamlessly transitions this way:

Tennis is not, in any traditional sense, a game to him. "I get my kicks away from the tennis court," he will say. With accumulated leave time, he plans to go on safari in Kenya. It will be his first trip to Africa. In 1735, the Doddington, a square-rigger of eighty tons and Liverpool registry, sailed into the York River in Virginia carrying a cargo of a hundred and sixty-seven West African blacks. In or near Yorktown, the ship's captain, James Copland, traded the blacks for tobacco. One young woman, known only by a number, was acquired by Robert Blackwell, a tobacco grower from Lunenburg County. Blackwell gave her to his son as a wedding present -- in the records of the county, she was listed only as "a Negur girl." According to custom, she took the name of her owner. She married a man who, having the same owner, was also named Blackwell, and they had a daughter, Lucy, whose value is given in her owner's will at fifty dollars. Lucy Blackwell married Moses Blackwell, and their daughter Peggy Blackwell had a daughter named Peggy Blackwell, who married her cousin Tony Blackwell. Their daughter Jinney married Mike, an otherwise nameless Indian of the Sauk tribe who was a blood relative of Chief Black Hawk. The preacher who married them told Mike to call himself Mike Blackwell forevermore. Jinney and Mike had a son named Hammet, who, in this chain of beings, was the last slave. Hammett was born in 1839. In 1856, he married Julia Tucker. They had twenty-three children. When he became free, he should have been give forty acres and a mule, of course, but no one gave them to him, so he bought his forty acres, in Dundas, Virginia. On the Blackwell plantation, where Hammett had lived, the plantation house -- white frame, with columns -- still stands, vacant and moldering. The slave cabin is there, too, its roof half peeled away. Hammett's daughter Sadie married Willie Johnson, and their daughter Amelia married Pinkney Avery Ashe. His family line reached back, in analogous fashion, to the ownership of Samuel Ashe, an early governor of the State of North Carolina, whose name, until now, has been kept alive largely by the continuing existence of Asheville. Pinkney and Amelia had a son named Arthur, who, in 1938, married Mattie Cunningham, of Richmond. Their son Arthur Junior was born in 1943.

And finally, we're back to our main subject! 

But all that info, we learn, comes from Ashe’s aunt who has oil-painted a well-researched, literal family tree upon a huge canvas. Meanwhile, the proud, Tuetonic Graebner "has no idea whatever when his forebears first came to this country" (though, again, Graebner is a fully realized human here, with great bits on his suburban background).

But seriously: When was the last time you read a profile, much less a sports profile, that just lays out the subject’s deep history like that. 

“One young woman, known only by number, was acquired by Robert Blackwell... Blackwell gave her to his son as a wedding present... She married... and they had a daughter, Lucy, whose value is given in her owner's will at fifty dollars..." 

Stated as plainly as any other fact in the book, it puts America’s Origin Sin right there on the court with Ashe and Graebner. It’s so smoothly insinuated into the text that it barely comes across as political – it just comes across as (again) exactly what it is: a fact. 

The simple, shocking fact that the all of the accumulated past moments have led to the present. To the present moment, in this case, of this match – which suddenly takes on Shakespearean importance for the reader.

Though none of that would matter if the writing itself wasn’t so strong. But it is. And I’ll get back to that (you’ll really love some of these sentences).


I can’t actually recall my first meeting Bud, but I can be confident it went something like this: I spied a casually cool-looking older dude sitting at the bar (and most likely, I was subconsciously jealous of a cool, classic hat or coat or something he was wearing; because he was pulling it off in a non-pretentious way, in a way I never could now or then). 

Andrew, JP Bistro's great bartender, would’ve introduced us – and then, Bud and I joked about matters high and low for about two hours, long after close; I’m sure I tried to buy him a drink and he refused, and I'm sure he tried to buy me a drink, and I refused, and then: Andrew probably comped us both and sat down to drink a bit himself.

This soon became a Wednesday night ritual – and the absolute highlight of my week. Bud and Andrew and I, along with my fellow box office worker (and best friend) Allan -- us youngsters languishing at the bar long after close, chatting the night away with this great guy.

All the lights off in the restaurant, just ghostlights glowing behind the bottles; and meanwhile, we’d be eating and drinking special items we’d brought for “Bud Fest” (our secret name for the evening, though Bud never knew we called it that; he would've humbly hated it): nights of endless charcuterie, cheeses, spirits. 

Bud always brought the best stuff – fine whiskey and rare Chartreuse were his special favorites. 

These meetings eventually migrated to Bud’s home turf, where we finally met Annie, his amazing wife (another one of the most singular, cool humans I’ve ever encountered, and a fellow traveler with Bud for about a half a century, seeing him through two heart attacks and lord knows what else, while she worked as a great, local television producer; if I could conjure the joie de vivre those two seemed to find, after even a five years with someone, I’d be eternally grateful).

At his house, Bud would bring out something like Cassoulet or strange, scrumptious rabbit, along with fine, free-flowing wine, and then – who knows?

One night, we sat in his study watching a favorite sports documentary (Fire & Ice), while we males all got misty, secretly, side by side, surreptitiously wiping our eyes in unison as Bud flicked the lights back on. 

Another night, he led us to an odd back cabinet filled with about 200 different colognes. Boozy and brazenly, we tried out endless varieties for laughs – and then Bud sent us all home with several bottles of signature scents; cologne seemed so olde-timey to me, but with Bud, it was elegant. He’d found most of them, of course, at a small specialty shop in France. But let’s rewind:

At first, Bud was just coming by a bar after work, after putting the paper to bed – and he didn’t give a shit about our status, Andrew or Allan or I. He was a well-respected, longtime editor, while we were: one slick bartender and two would-be writers working in a box office. 

He just loved good conversation, regardless the source; a very witty dude who was, even more, a world class listener.

"I wanted to work on the desk, not write." When he first applied for a job at the Tribune, he was selected from a huge class of applicants because he actually wanted to edit and not write. The man had so many interesting thoughts to share, but he loved, even more, facilitating the flow of other minds. "Every other applicant wanted to write. I had no such ambitions."

He loved words – but unlike most us, he loved others' words even more than his own.


Speaking of word makers, McPhee always seemed to me like quinoa or kale: probably healthy, but obviously boring – though, maybe, you could imagine developing a taste for the stuff over time? So I avoided all of the above. But, of course, I’ve now ingested a lot of kale and quinoa, and now, after finally reading Levels of the Game, I admire McPhee, too.

He needs no extra accolades, so let me just give you some great sentences – though I should say: I now know why I thought he was boring, and I also know why he's not. 

He plays rope-a-dope with the reader. Or, to switch sports analogies, he’s like one of those seemingly-slow point guards who somehow keeps blowing past defenders when they least expect it. He builds sentences, paragraphs, slowly, competently, factually – and then makes some great, slick move that sinks in, seconds after he’s delivered it.

For example, in a few brief sentences, he factually/humorously  describes the autographs of these two famous players -- but doesn't this tell you something:

Ashe's signature -- "Arthur R. Ashe, Jr." -- is about halfway between bold and timid, and well within the sub-Hancock zone. Graebner's signature, full of sweep and dash, is pi Hancock squared. The "G" is two and a quarter inches high.

McPhee's prose is plain, but bigger words are swirled in rarely yet perfectly. How about this little description of the expensive homes in Graebner's affluent suburb:

They are faced with stratified rock, lightened with big windows, surrounded with shrubbery, and lined up in propinquous ranks like yachts at a pier.

Or here's McPhee describing Graebner's dentist father (the man is excessively polite, asking his guests endless questions -- but then, before they can answer, he answers the questions himself):

After thirty years of close contact with temporarily muted people, he has mastered the histrionisms of his craft. He winks, interviews himself, speaks always reassuringly, and couples his skeins of language with "but"s and "and"s, never stopping.

Mostly, though, it's the endless, plain, propulsive paragraphs that power a reader through this book. You feel as if you're at the match, and also, like you (suddenly!) intimately know the main men involved. At a crucial moment in the game, McPhee jarringly pauses to talk about Ashe at a party --  a man still uniquely himself, but newly dealing with celebrity:

Ace. Game to Ashe. He leads, three games to two. Coming into a room -- any room, anywhere -- the first thing Ashe says is "What's happening?" When he ends a conversation, he says, "Well, it's been nice talking to you." These are the frames of his relationships with other people -- these expressions, and a habit he has of wearing sunglasses indoors. They keep the world at one remove. The sunglasses are uneroded bits of the shield...


Bud finally retired and moved on (his retirement magnificently chronicled in his paper).

And Andrew quit JP’s, moved on to a new bar.

And Allan quit the box office, moved on to New York.

And we all tried to stay in touch, to have a “Bud Fest” whenever our stars, or travel schedules, aligned. But it happened rarely.

And when I finally quit the box office and started producing theatre shows of my own, Bud and Annie were always in the audience. And when I moved on to Arizona for grad school, it was another gift from Bud -- the complete set of Richard Pryor stand-up CD’s -- that got me through that insane, cross-country drive. And when I finally wrote a breakout sportswriting piece of my own, hearing that Bud gave his approval meant more than any of the awards.

Bud gave me a lot, obviously (booze, books, CDs, DVDs, cologne, cheese), but mostly: 

He gave me insight on a certain way to be a man. Or just a human, moving through the world. You could be super into sports and art and politics and food, etc.; these things didn’t conflict – they combined for a full life. You could be an aesthete but it could be earthy, fun – not pretentious.

BUT ALSO: You had to take responsibility for your actions. His morality wasn’t conventional, I don’t think, it was his own – but it was strict.

I’ll never forget one ghostlit night in JP’s: 

Bud told us a complicated story from his past – something he still felt guilty about (I won’t reveal it here, but if I could, it wouldn’t seem nefarious; it’d seem like a tough, classic choice from great literature, such was his life). And Andrew kindly said, “Bud, that was decades ago. You don’t have to carry around that guilt anymore.” But Bud hadn’t told the story to unburden himself; he looked at Andrew squarely, and at Allan and I, too – then said something I’ll never shake:

“No. Some things you do carry. Some things you should carry around. I'll always carry this.”

Until now, I guess.

I tried to stay in touch, but I really wasn’t the greatest correspondent while in Arizona. And so, when Annie kindly emailed me about Bud being in the hospital, and then when I found out he died soon afterward… I felt lucky to get back to Minnesota in time for the memorial.

But then, there, I learned something troubling. 

Bud always made me feel so special – but I wasn’t that special.


Ashe’s special style of playing, his unique flair forced upon opponents – that’s the true star of Levels of the Game. His flourish animates the text; and maybe the best description comes from his opponent, Graebner, who (I think) was trying to be disparaging:

"He plays the game with the lacksadaisical, haphazard mannerisms of a liberal. He's an underprivileged type who worked his way up. His family are fine people, but.... There's something about him that is swashbuckling, loose. He plays the way he thinks.... He comes on the court and he's tight for a while, then he hits a few good shots and he feels the power to surge ahead. He gets looser and more liberal with the shots he tries, and pretty soon he is hitting shots everywhere. He does not play percentage tennis. Nobody in his right mind, really, would try those little dink shots he tries as often as he does... He plays to shoot his wad. He hits the ball so hard that it's an outright winner or he misses the shot." 

This is one of the book’s main dramas: Ashe is so good, he could just play it safe—but just he can’t; that's not his nature. 

He's always attempting harder shots than necessary, sometimes to his own detriment; but the man just can’t help himself; or rather, he has to be himself, trying for special shots (forget the percentages!) as the moment hits him.

Ashe, yes, comes across like an artist. He has to go with the flow -- impossible shot or no -- right to the end. To the end of the match, and the end of the book:

"Match point," Ashe tells himself. "Now I'll definitely play it safe." But Graebner hits the big serve into the net, then hits his second serve to Ashe's backhand. The game and the match are spinning into perfect range. Ashe's racquet is back. The temptation is just too great, and caution fades. He hits it for all. Game, set, match to Lieutenant Ashe. When the stroke is finished, he is standing on his toes, his arms flung open, wide, and high.


Bud would (quite rightly) be mad if I compared him to Arthur Ashe here; Bud loved bold pioneers like Ashe, and never would’ve tolerated (on an editorial, literary level, just to start) a comparison between a white, night desk editor and a black, boundary-breaking sports star.

So I won’t do Ashe, nor Bud, the disservice of suggesting such a thing.

But I will say: McPhee might be right when he writes, “A person’s tennis game begins with his nature and background and comes out through his motor mechanisms and characteristics of play. If he is deliberate, he is a deliberate tennis player; and if he is flamboyant, his game probably is, too.” Going further, a person’s expression of themselves in their job, in public in general, even just around friends – perhaps it expresses something about that person’s deeper nature.

And, it seems, Bud was expressing this interior nature all the damn time.

This is how I learned I wasn’t special.

At the memorial, so many other people had stories about Bud just like my own -- only they only they knew him much, much longer that I. 

An editor talked of how Bud took her under his wing at the paper, and was soon invited to he and Annie’s house, and then (as always) a ritual arose: They’d hunt forests for morel mushrooms at a specific time every year – and one year, they found the precious specimens at a graveyard. So there and then, after gathering the precious fungi, a blanket was spread on the ground – and the requisite ritual cheese and wine were brought forth from the picnic basket. She asked if it was okay to do this here, in a graveyard… but Bud just gestured expansively, saying, “They like it!” 

Who’s to say he was wrong? I’m sure Bud -- if there is still a “Bud” -- would appreciate the same at his grave site, right now.

So many stories of him making things special, making little thing into rituals. I met chefs to whom he brought special ingredients (which the chefs used to prepare Bud and his companions’ dinner, but the remaining ingredients were just generally given to the restaurant, to benefit future patrons). 

One woman said, “He was only guy I could talk to about the WNBA.” Or then, there was another prominent Twin Cities sports writer who simply stated, “He was my newspaper dad.”

No, I wasn’t that special. Whenever Bud listened to me, I felt uniquely important. But, it turns out, he made a lot of people feel this way. I wasn't special.

Except, of course, I was. Whenever Bud listened, and even more, whenever Bud JOKED with you, you really were special.

That’s the most inadequate part of this reminiscence – it’s not funny! And Bud was funny! He'd be so peeved at the lack of humor here!


Yet, despite my misstep, you really should read Levels of the Game.

We’re in a new era of athlete protests, a new era of the sports world expressing the racial problems inherent in every vein of our society, and Levels of the Game is a great place to start – to just dip one’s toes into the topic of the very odd fact that most of our sports involve a mostly white audience watching a sport populated mostly by “minorities.” Levels of the Game is a good starting point; it doesn’t shove much in your face. It’s enjoyable all on its own – but the parts of modern sports one might rather not acknowledge? They’re there, too, plain as day.

The new ESPN podcast about the Heatles Hoodie photo, following Trayvon Martin's death -- that  might be an even better place to start; or you could just read Wesley Morris, in general (starting here); or you could try out David Shields' Black Planet, another personal favorite (and soon to be a major motion picture). 

Of course, no one (thank god!) comes to me for a reading list on black politics in sports. 

Again, just to be clear, Colin Kaepernick has never contacted me for book club suggestions (though you should know this fun fact: one of the main academics that advised John Carlos and Tommie Smith, before their famous Black Power protest, also advised Kaepernick about his much more recent protests; yes, all this stuff connects!)

Regardless: Levels of the Game could be your jumping off point for politics in American sports, or it could just be a one-off fun read. It works well either way – and for me, I think it’s both.


Arthur Ashe, the ultimate hero of the book, died in 1993 from AIDS-related complications. A cerebral, complicated hero to the very end, his body laid in state at the New York Governor’s mansion as over 5000 other humans filed past his casket.

Now, he’s usually eulogized with his most inspirational, meme-ready quotes: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

And it’s not that those statement aren’t true – it’s just that Ashe wasn’t a walking Successories poster. In Levels of the Game, and then in Ashe’s own autobiography Days of Grace, and in later profiles, he's a much more complicated man. A man in full, full of quirks and faults and all the more inspiring for it.

Maybe that last McPhee line wouldn’t be a bad tombstone inscription for the elegant, forceful man:  

He is standing on his toes, his arms flung open, wide, and high.

If there were an afterlife, wouldn’t that be a great way to ascend? I’d certainly like to think of Bud exiting upward that way. That does seem to be how he lived:

His arms flung open, wide, and high.

But now, I know I've really gone too far.


That’s the strangest part: I can’t joke with Bud about any of this!

He’d have some kind – but hilariously cutting – things to say about this eulogy. He’d correct me on some facts, and maybe suggest I probably shouldn’t be penning this late at night. Hell, he'd find a lot to cut out of this (and it'd be edited for the better).

But then, we’d laugh about it and share a glass of wine. 

Undoubtedly, he’d have bought the wine, and undoubtedly, it’d be great. And I’d probably just say something like: Thanks. 


Dave Mondy's work has been honored in many genres (most recently as "Notable" in Best American Essays 2017 and 2015): His literary sportswriting was selected as part of the 2014 Iowa Review Prize and recently appeared in the Cincinnati Review and Slate; his food writing appears in Best Food Writing 2015; his travel writing garnered four national Solas Awards; his memoir and humor writing, in addition to appearing in many literary magazines, can also be heard on various public radio programs, including Prairie Home Companion, as well live onstage as part of nationally toured solo shows. Currently, he is a Lecturer in Creative Writing and Composition and the University of Arizona, where he received his MFA in Creative Nonfiction in 2013. He is currently working on a book about the stories behind famous sports photos.

You can read about about another sports book Dave loves, which appears in the recent Essay Daily collection published by Coffee House Press here.

You can read more about Allan and Andrew and Dave in a recent Best American Essays 2017 notable selection here.

You can read about the first essay he hoped Bud liked (a Best American 2015 notable and an Iowa Review contest winner) here.

And you can read his Christmas Eve entry from last year's Advent Calendar here, or from New Year's Eve here.


  1. Love the essay, Dave, though it felt a little odd to have to click through to the Star-Tribune's article to get Bud's last name. Maybe to be added in here, since this is—to its credit—a tribute to him?

  2. Good call! I've updated it with his full name (and yet another link)