If you’ve been a member of Open Salon for a while, you’re probably familiar with the writings of Greg Correll, wordsmith extraordinaire. If you’re not, this is a pretty good place to start. (Dammit, OS, these links had better work!)
Most likely, you haven’t had the good fortune to meet him in person. I have, on a few occasions, and I can say that if there is a kinder, gentler man walking the face of the earth, I haven’t crossed paths with him.
I met Greg two summers ago when he organized a writer’s retreat at Mohonk Mountain House, a wonderful hotel on top of one of the Catskill Mountains. It was arranged with the help of his oldest daughter Molly, who worked there. I signed up to attend but had to back out of the morning session due to illness. However, I forced myself to drive up for the evening session, a public reading.
I was a little intimidated about meeting Greg; in fact, I was a little intimidated about meeting several of the OSers who attended. While I was posting silly musings about acquiring a taser and fending off angry Canada geese, Greg and the others were posting serious essays, with deep thoughts and clever wordplay – you know, the kind of thing real writers do – and I expected that I would be as out of place as Moe Howard in a restaurant full of rich swells.
Yet I liked Greg instantly. He was soft-spoken with a warm smile that made you feel welcome and attentive eyes that assured you he was listening to, and considering, everything you said. And I admit, out of personal bias, that I’m a sucker for any guy who is loved by his daughters.
I met Greg on at least two other occasions. By the last one, several weeks ago, we all knew that Greg had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. (If you want to read his remarkable essay about it, it’s here; when I mentioned in my last post about linking to great OS pieces, this was the first one I thought of.) Greg’s right hand shook noticeably all night, but while those tremors may affect his ability to write, it had no effect on his intellect or his eloquence. With his youngest daughter Rocky by his side, Greg delivered his thoughts on Salon, Internet media, literature, politics, art and whatever else in his usual gentle manner. I enjoyed being in the presence of someone who so clearly enjoyed the interchange of ideas. I don’t mind saying that, at a couple of points, I felt like I was sitting next to a swami who was about to impart the meaning of life.
If you’ve read Greg’s most recent post, you know that his situation has gotten even worse. It appears that he has an aggressive form of Parkinson’s that is resistant to the usual drugs that hold the disease at bay. His doctor told him that his window for constructive work may be measured in months, not years. If you haven’t read the post, read it to observe the grace with which he continues to handle bad news; also read the brief comment from Molly that made me cry. (I told you I was a sucker for a man loved by his daughters.)
What I didn’t know is that Greg and Molly have been working on a joint memoir, tentatively titled “Like Father, Like Daughter.” I don’t know Greg’s full bio, but I know that the ups and downs of his life contain some very serious downs. Greg and Molly expected to be able finish it over a leisurely span of years, but now time is of the essence.
Nikki Stern (another exemplary human being) has organized a fund-raising project through Indiegogo to free up Greg and Molly to write full-time – Greg runs a small business, and has serious medical expenses and tuition payments - so they can finish the memoir while Greg can still devote considerable time to it. I understand that times are tight for a lot of people, but if you can contribute, I urge you to do so at the project page that Nikki has created.
Even if you can’t contribute, go to the project page and read the excerpts posted there. Read “Redaction,” a semi-outline for the memoir; I read his humbling and brutally honest words about homelessness, poverty and marital and parental difficulties and posted the only comment I could muster, “Wow. Just … wow.” Read “The Sled Ride,” a chapter about his and Molly’s first night on an extremely tight budget in a tiny home on a snowy night in Missoula, Montana; when I read it, I wanted to throw away my keyboard and find something I’m better suited for, like unclogging sewer pipes.
From the excerpts, I’ve concluded that Greg’s gentle nature was forged from humility and an understanding of the troubles that can be thrown at even the best people.
Nikki wrote that she organized the project because she wanted some “good karma,” but I know that she loves Greg like a brother. I’m posting this today on all my blogs on various sites not just because I want to be a nice guy, but for one very selfish reason: I want to read that damn book!