STUlogy

Everybody should have a friend who brings pie.

Stuart Steinhardt (1949-2019) was that friend. He loved to bake, and he was wise enough not to consume his entire output – so he SHARED. He’d post a photo on FB and offer it up on a first-come, first-slice basis.

I’d get on my bike and ride over. Sometimes we’d eat our pie together at his kitchen table, preceded of course by a smoke; other times I’d bring home two slices, one for Rita and for for me.

And sometimes, Stu delivered.

Stu blowing bubbles 2

Early in our life together, Rita turned me into a geology buff and eventually a hiker. Stu and Sandy and Rita and I once tripped around southern Utah in a pair of rented Ford Rangers, Stu proudly introducing us to many of his favorite spots, from the Moki Dugway to Crystal Peak, and we met his friends Riley and Barry, too. Stu and I took several other trips up and down and all around the Mountain time zone, visiting with friends and seeing marvelous sights in between my gigs. I doubt I would ever have visited Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee were it not for Stu and a visit to his friend Denis. On a visit with Stu to Marble Canyon, I took a photo of a coyote turd that has been immortalized on the web site of the National Wildlife Federation.

Coyote turd

Everyone in our traveling party is a photographer. On our expeditions out there in the world, Stuart always got to the cool scene before I did – so I’d take a picture of him taking the picture! I have a nice collection of these meta-photos. I cherish them.

Stu Steinhardt in Wildflower Heaven

Stu was the very dictionary definition of a mensch, completely committed to decency and compassion. A union man all the way, he refused to use the self-checkout lanes in the grocery store. He was passionate about his compassion, and he got angry – quite appropriately, in my opinion – when he saw the social contract being violated. On Facebook, one of his favorite refrains was “Livin’ the Dream” – invariably delivered in a context of irony or despair.

As great a traveler as he was on the back roads of the USA, Stu kinda lost his shit when we went to Peru in 2013. But! by his negative example, he taught me how to be a better traveling companion to Rita, for which I have been quietly thankful.

A llama named Anthony

Severino and our group

Here at home, Stuart was the quasi-official staff photographer for Perfectible Recordings, my little musical empire. He was always happy to stop by my recording sessions to make sure we had photos of that day’s ensemble. He had a very low-key approach to the task, and he’d hang around to enjoy the music and get into the mood of the session before we’d break for the pictures. Stuart baked a perfect pot cookie – which I consider a performance-enhancing drug! – and in so doing contributed immensely to those recording sessions, and every other phase of my creative well-being.

Our lives were so intertwined. We shared news items and photos on each other’s social media; we had plans for future travels; we have a long tradition of shared holiday feasts that will now be very different without Stuart in the kitchen and at the table. We had an endless series of new restaurants to try, and a tradition of occasional meals of ill-advised foods shared when our wives weren’t watching.

A few days after Stu’s death I received a promotional box of Grateful Dead-branded cookies in the mail. This was exactly the sort of thing that would prompt a meeting with Stu and probably Marc, to have a smoke and sample the item.

Stu at Little Wild Horse

All the laughs we shared, the concerts and the radio broadcasts and the books and the photos, all the recording sessions, the hikes in the red rock country, all the pipeloads on the deck while the crabs were cooking, all the KPFA fund-raisers to which he contributed generous quantities of time, money, and carbohydrates.

All the love he brought to this world, and all the love we feel here today in his wake. Thank you, Stuart, for your steadfast friendship.

Peter and Stu

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