Ted Miller is dead. I can hardly believe it. He and I had known each other since before the cradle; his parents and mine used to go out on the town together before either of us were born.
Ted had a greater positive effect on my life and character than anyone I've ever known except my wife. He introduced me to most of the art and literature that was my greatest solace during the hell of my adolescence: R. Crumb, Boris Artzybasheff, George Herriman, Carl Barks, Arthur Rimbaud, Henry Miller, Alfred Jarry, Howlin' Wolf, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, John Lee Hooker, Wallace Stevens, Vachel Lindsay... get the picture? I shudder to think what my life would have been without his influence.
He had genius and charisma, style and grace, a good heart and an old soul. He plunged into life and explored it with intelligence and enthusiasm while I stood blinking on the shore, and he was eager to share his discoveries.
Our friendship was tumultuous and there were gaps of years when we did not talk; my fault entirely. O well. After the most recent gap of 20 years we re-established contact a year and a half ago, and our friendship was renewed. You have no idea how glad I am about that.
When we were teenagers we had a little ritual: when one of us would phone the other the caller would sing the opening line of a Buster Brown Shoes commercial jingle. The answerer would sing the next line, and in this way we would sing the entire stupid thing. For the past year I kept meaning to call him and surprise him with that opening line, but I never did.