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The Last Quixote - In Memory of Brother Blue - An Appreciation

"Be a butterfly break dancing on the sky."

"How many want to climb the mountain?...The mountain is inside of you. Climb to that place where the higher self is!"

"May I call you God?"

The Last Quixote - In Memory of Brother Blue - An Appreciation
By Seth J. Itzkan, November 5, 2009

An appreciation of Brother Blue, by definition, can not be written.  It is simply, in his own words, "ahhhh" - the sound of the inner smile, the sound of the butterfly discovering flight, the sound of tears forming in a new mother's eye. How can anyone express in words the gratitude for a man who's sole purpose in life was to help transport us to the place where words dissolve?  And, of course, he took us there through story.  Being, in his own self mocking terms, a "fool" and "jester", his Pied Piper sermon was intended for your own discovery of the inexplicable, and delivered, as he his motto clearly stated, "from the middle of the middle of me, to the middle of the middle of you."

For decades beyond which few can remember, the street performer extraordinaire, Brother Blue, graced the Boston scene with his colorful storytelling antics, unflappable optimism, and kaleidoscopic charisma.  How are those for words?  He's inspired them.  Bother Blue was both a holdout from a by-gone era, and, we hope, a gateway for a future one.  In his years as a performer, mentor, host, and mascot, he won every honor, award, and citation a man of his ilk could garner, and many that were no doubt created just for him.  I won't even bother to try to sort them all out, and you can look them up yourself, but the list seems endless.  Both Boston and Cambridge claimed him as their official storyteller, and countless other communities around the world counted him as an honorary member.  He was the original First Night parade mascot, leading the pageantry with his magic wand and flowing wardrobe.  He continued to be the mascot for the next 33 years, ushering in New Years Eve for generations of Bostonians.  Legions of mayors and other dignitaries walked behind him.  No one walked in front.  The parade began with Brother Blue.

Everyone who ever met Brother Blue, or, as he was affectionately called, simply, Blue, remembers him as their friend and mentor.  Everyone has a story about how they met Blue, or what they did with him.  You could never just have a conversation with Blue.  That was impossible.  If you simply said, "Blue, I'd like to introduce you to my friend so and so", you would be embarking a journey in which you both became noble lords and laddies, enshrined with the duty of discovering your inner sun for lighting the world.  This adventure would continue without end until Blue's lovely wife Ruth, who, with the patience of Job, would wait for the right moment, and then gently intervene so that others could get their chance to be the sorcerer's apprentice.

Once while walking down the street with Blue and Ruth, Blue stopped to talk to a neighbor - a small elderly woman.  Blue showered her with compliments about how charming and beautiful she was, and I'll be darned if she didn't become more so with each word Blue uttered, soaking it in like water to a thirsty plant.  Ruth would attempt to politely get Blue to continue on their course, but the more force she put into the effort, the more emphatic Blue got in his adulation of this lady.  Eventually Ruth yanked him by the arm, at which point Blue turned to the lady and, while being pulled away, and in the vein of Don Quixote, shouted, "Your spirit is so high, you lift the street!"

Often, at his weekly seminars, Blue implores the crowd, "How many people does it take to form a critical mass?"  He urgently asks as if it is the most important question you will ever hear.  "How many?!", he demands.  "Umm", you think to yourself, a bit nervous, and wondering if this is a math question you should have learned in high school.  "One!", Blue exclaims like a tremor from Vesuvius. "One!...You!"


I first met Brother Blue almost thirty years ago and am honored to have known him, and, like so many others, considered him a friend.  About nine years ago I setup his website in cooperation with his wife and it's remained practically untouched since, The most important thing I did was secure the domain name.  Only weeks after I secured it, some cult in California lamented that they hadn't gotten it for their own "Brother Blue".  I read about it on their message board, now long gone.

On July 12, 1995, Brother Blue and his wife joined me and a few others in honoring the 100th birthday of Buckminister Fuller, by visiting Bucky's grave site in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.  Standing around the grave, we each took turns telling stories about Buckminister Fuller.  Of course, when it was Blue's turn, he went into song and dance, and eventually tears, as he wailed on his harmonica and wept on the flat stone that simple reads, "Call me Trim Tab".  Blue and Bucky were great admirers of each other.

In 2000, or there about, Brother Blue and I performed a duet for mutual friends who were being married.  Blue did the "Ooohh Aaahh" story, and I provided accompaniment on a wooden flute.

And for hundreds of evenings at Blue and Ruth's storytelling sessions, I listened to innumerable stories and video taped hours of Blue, always thinking that someday I would tell a story.  I never did, perhaps, until just now.

Goodbye Blue.  God's in good company.

- Seth

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