By Randall Szott,
I hate baseball. To be a fan of it requires patience, an appreciation for subtlety, and an abundance of attention that I simply can’t muster. Not valuing baseball is just one of many of my character flaws that Ted Purves characteristically saw past to find my redeeming qualities. Magnanimity is an awkward, moderately obscure word, but it always comes to mind when thinking of him. Ted appreciated many awkward, moderately obscure things – like baseball, fantasy role-playing, and even some of my blog writings from a decade ago.
That is how we met. He had found his way to some things I had to say about social practice and its critics and took the time to comment. It took me a while to believe that it was actually him commenting – After all, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Even harder to believe was that he was taking me seriously, so seriously that he invited me out to California to give a talk and lead a field trip to Reno, NV. Other opportunities and invitations followed as they did with so many others. Ted’s curiosity rivaled his generosity and both overshadowed his skepticism. That, in itself, is a gift to all of us in this hyper-cynical (art) world.
We once had a conversation using the title Let’s Talk About Love: How to Succeed in Art Without Really Trying. Of course, even though I added that lame snarky subtitle, Ted was able to rise above it and in his wise way, push me away from such “more heat than light” kinds of gestures. I am still struggling with this, his death has me struggling with much more.
I heard the news while on a cruise ship off the coast of Poland. I went out to the balcony to sit down and the wooden railing perfectly concealed the horizon dividing sea from sky. I wrote in my notebook, “I can peer over the rail to break the illusion, but I would have no appreciation were it not for you. What we want is free. What we want is free.” This was a reference to the last conversation we had where he wrote to me from the hospital in reference to his struggle, “…like everything, there sometimes are layered moments of bigger vision. Every now and then you feel like you’re seeing over the top of the wall.” I sat and stared at this symbolic wall, marvelling at Ted’s bigger vision. My tears. The ocean. A friend’s last words.
I would love to talk about love with Ted again, but at least I was able to tell him directly that I was jealous of his grace and warmth and deeply thankful to have had the good fortune of having him in my life. In the conversation about peering over the wall I tried my best to say something worthy of the moment. Ted’s last words to me were: “Well said my friend.” His approval was another gift. My tears. The ocean. A friend’s last words.
Ted Purves Bad at Sports Interview:
Editors Note: We love you Ted, all of us are different thanks to you. We will never forget. What we want is here, together, if only we have the sense to see it.