Warren Zevon - Some Last Words
The last words I wrote to Warren were about The Wind. “It’s a gift. I love it. Thank you.”. I sent that yesterday afternoon at 12 PM EST. He died in his sleep that afternoon during a nap. Timing is everything.
Warren and I met for the second time on May 22, 2002. My father had died only five months earlier. My mother was battling an alcohol problem. I was pretty needy for a little attention. His first e-mail cleaned up a few factual errors on my site, and I wrote him back telling him that I’d made the corrections. He read them over and approved the changes, and then we started corresponding on a regular basis. I treated him like a master teacher; he treated me like a very curious cat. We blew up at each other a few times, too, mostly over artistic differences. Here’s a hint: Never argue with Warren over the works of Diego Rivera unless you’re sure the art in question is by Diego Rivera. Turns out I was talking about Degas instead. How I mixed up the two is anybody’s guess.
We discussed faith (KT: “How do you build a relationship with God? Through experience.” WZ: “No, that’s how you build a relationship with American Express!”), alcoholism (“it’s easier to stay sober than to lift 300 lbs. at the gym every day”), my criminally early bedtimes (“You can have the daylight. But the night is kept just for us”, referring to his age) and my total lack of pop culture (“I recommend that you drop everything and watch Austin Powers. Now.”) He’s the funniest guy I’ve ever met.
The summer of 2002 was spent in a mad rush to keep up with him. I read everything I could get my hands on – always a big reader in my own right, Warren had 30 years, three weeks and four days of additional time for books on me. I read Thomas Hardy, Boris Pasternak, F. Scott Fitzgerald and all the art manuals I could find. I rediscovered my love for Gustav Klimt that summer, and I reaffirmed my belief that John Belushi is a modern comic genius. His knowledge base was so wide I was exhausted after a conversation.
But he was well balanced as well. Warren believed that you had to balance your intellect with fun, easy activities and hobbies. Everyone knows now he loved movies, and he watched just about anything that struck his fancy. His favorites were the French Red, White and Blue series, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia – at least, that’s what he told me. He had good things to say about Bob Fosse’s Lenny (“we don’t call it Dustin Hoffman’s Lenny over here”). He didn’t seem to mind when I substituted Animal House for Austin Powers.
As our friendship grew, we started utilizing Federal Express. I sent him two leatherbound journals and a glass globe signed by the artist. He sent me some exquisite chocolate, a copy of Striving Toward Being: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz, a bootleg concert from Great Britain and a pet monkey “involved in a cologne accident”. We called each other up and talked about Ray Manzarek, the differences between Detroit and LA, Hunter S. Thompson, maneuvering through Calgary looking for a bookstore, the great restaurant just around the corner from his apartment with the insomniac waiter. My phone bills were huge.
I called him on the day of the Edmonton Folk Festival, and he sounded terrible. It was soundcheck - he was coughing badly. He’d been sick for a week, and it just seemed like a bad cold. He took some Zithromax and thought that would clear it up soon enough.
The news hit me harder than it hit him. I was extremely angry about it, and I kept feeling like I was taking it out on him. I explained it to him, that I needed to take some downtime because I knew he didn’t intend on getting cancer. He didn’t need my anger – he needed my support. I stopped writing. The phone calls stopped. I spent about a month and a half working out what exactly it was I was feeling and against whom. I felt betrayed by God. Warren e-mailed me, telling me he was going to be incredibly busy with the time he had left. He said I’d like the results. He wouldn’t have time to write anymore, either, but asked me to write every so often. I only heard from him a few more times after that, about the progress of The Wind. I wrote about once every few weeks, giving fan feedback, what I was doing, how much I missed him, and that I was thankful that we had the time we did. I told him I loved him. I made sure I said everything I wanted to tell him while he was still able to read it.
He was my friend. God bless him.
September 8, 2003
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