For anyone who is my Facebook “friend” and has been following my Dory travels, you will know the name “Jimmy Gunn”. You also probably saw that he passed away this week. If you knew Jim at all, you are aware of the magnitude of the loss of this crazy, amazing, goofy, loving person. Even those who only knew him from my page got a sense that this was someone special. As another dear friend put it today at his funeral service: “Some people are more unique than others.” Yes, that is spot on. And yes, he not only modeled the glory of what it looks like to embrace your own uniqueness, but he encouraged, persuaded, nurtured and sometimes needled or flat out demanded the same from those he loved. He had a way of knowing exactly what scared you and went right for it, forcing you out of hiding. He was infuriating that way.
I’ll give you an example. I used to wear make up all the time through high school and college. It was more for acne cover up purposes than for any beauty enhancement, but I was sensitive about it. So we were doing one of Jim’s crazy shows and in order to develop a bond between myself and the actor playing my brother, he asked the guy to run his fingers on my face. I could have smacked him right then. (I’m not 100% sure I didn’t) He knew that would tick me off and that’s why he did it. I went and washed off all the make up and endured the exercise. I can’t honestly say it forged an intimate connection with the actor, either on or off stage. but I’ll tell you that I stopped wearing make up after that. If it was going to bug me that much to cover something up, I figured it would be much easier to just put it out there. And that has always been true.
As another friend reminisced, Jim got a bunch of us insecure teenagers to perform improv before movie showings at the Varsity Theater. He got us to perform for huge festivals. Improv. You know, where there are no lines or safety nets. He got us on TV for that. He got me to perform every female role in “Hamlet” for a production where the concept was that this was a therapeutic psychodrama set in a mental institution. But it went wrong and the inmates took over. Honestly, I think the entire production was staged for the sole purpose of giving him the opportunity to do the “To be or not to be” speech backwards. Because.
Jim was fearless. And in his own writing, he described himself as lucky. This is a person for whom life was never a given. He endured unbearable tragedy and endless medical challenges. And yet, he’s the first to point out that it’s awesome to be on dialysis because you don’t have to pee on long road trips. If that is not the ability to find a silver lining, I don’t know what is. All time to him was bonus time and he lived his time well.
So this friend of mine, who pops back into my life periodically, especially when it’s really important, started playing this game with me on Facebook during the cross country trip. I posted pictures of obscure things, like rest stops, or gas stations, and he started figuring out where I was. I got more challenging with my shots, trying to leave out clues like sign posts or business logos, and he STILL kept figuring out where I was. Others on my page began openly speculating that he was somehow tracking my car. Or pulling GPS data from the images. This became a daily activity and I could tell he looked forward to the sleuthing as much as I looked forward to being blown away that he’d found me once again.
What I heard today from his wife is that this game provided him with a much needed distraction. He knew this latest surgery was going to be serious. But rather than sit around and dwell, he created a game that not only reconnected the two of us, but entertained and fascinated a whole new network of people. He was holding my hand while I was scared and out there, and he let me hold his.
I’m posting this tribute here because this person in my life lived the “carpe dory” motto more fully and passionately than anyone I have ever known. And he was a huge part of this voyage. I will post every one of the pictures I took along the road for him below. But one final shot I snapped today. It is the last one; a final rest stop.
If I could play background music to this post, I would have you listen to “Don’t Be Shy” by Cat Stevens. That might very well send this gushing post over the top though, and this is the sort of expression I would expect to get back:
He never did tell me how he was figuring these pictures out. We were supposed to have dinner after he had recovered where he would tell all. I think I needed that future promise because I could sense this was a biggie. Perhaps it’s better not knowing actually. He was just magic. Or a secret CIA operative. In which case, he has simply gone off grid after a very long undercover operation. Neither would surprise me a bit.