Jim strode towards me the first time we met, holding a creased sheet of paper bearing my picture. I’d sent him the image by email, so we’d recognize one another, and he’d printed it out. I stood at the head of the train in the Cologne station, where I said I would, and he came right on, and held the sheet up next to my head to compare. Then he extended a hand. We’d been exchanging emails for some time.
Jim—chiefly through Coyote Books—had been one of Philip Whalen’s principle publishers, and I was at work on Philip’s biography. Jim had also served as one of Philip’s editors, especially on the large compilation On Bear’s Head. Philip was grateful for all of Jim’s efforts, but beyond that, he also admired Jim’s poetry a great deal, and he enjoyed Jim’s company. He said this repeated. Philip also often leaned on Jim for transport—of himself and of many assorted belongings—because Jim usually had a truck, and Philip usually needed a ride.
On the day we met, Jim had taken a slightly longer route to Germany, kindly coming through Cologne, so I could interview him. We had lunch first, at a brewery close to the station. After I translated pretty much all the menu items, he said, “If they really have a liver-dumpling soup…well, I haven’t had that in a while.” As a source, Jim was precise, and when he couldn’t be, he restrained himself from speculation. He was surprisingly talkative about what he knew, and he knew an awful lot.
As I worked at writing the book, Jim would graciously look over chapters, query some things, point out others I hadn’t seen. He and Maggie Brown published one long chapter about Philip and Gary Snyder in the online Coyote’s Journal. Jim was a tremendous help and friendly, generous, guiding spirit.
I attach two pictures:
— one the day we spoke, at a cafe near the Cologne main station;
— one of Jim’s name, copied out in a formal hand.
Partly because Philip Whalen was a buddhist, because I am, and because Jim seemed at least respectful of buddhism, the card will sit on my shrine until the traditional seven weeks have elapsed since his passing.