Thursday, March 26, 2015

For the love of lunch . . . and a friend

Chip Purchase & Jay Glerum at lunch
in Milwaukee at USITT 2013
In the past nine months, I've received many beautiful notes about Jay. I've treasured them all and have kept them, both for me and posterity. Knowing there's a pile of letters I can go back to and read is comforting. Memory blurs, but those heartfelt words written in the moment can bring everything into focus.

Today, with the permission of its originator, I'm posting a tribute written just a few days ago by a client of Jay's who became his very good friend. Chip Purchase attended the March 20 USITT Session "Remembering Jay Glerum," in Cincinnati, but didn't get a chance to share his thoughts in the time allotted. So, he jotted down what he wanted to say and sent it to me afterwards. It's a wonderful tale of how a professional relationship turns into deep friendship.

Jay Glerum

I listened to all the testimonials during the event at USITT and it struck me how many people had a professional and personal relationship with Jay and that he had a profound influence on their lives. My relationship with Jay and with Sallie seemed to revolve around food.    

I met Jay when I attended one of his rigging seminars.  I had sent a note ahead asking if we could meet to discuss his doing a rigging seminar in Houston.  A short session, it would be a rigging seminar for managers because most administrators of arts groups and certainly bureaucrats don’t understand enough about rigging, and especially the dangers involved.  He, of course, thought it was a good idea and the event was well attended.  His classroom was the stage of the old Music Hall in Houston with the rail as his backdrop.  When Jay explained how rigging worked, the managers listened where as if I said the same words, they would carry less weight.  That first meeting took place over lunch.

For the next 20 years, whenever Jay and I got together, we ate.  We ate lunch, we ate dinner.  Sometimes it was just the two of us, sometimes with Sallie or with my wife Darla and sometimes with both of them.  Those were the best meals, when both wives were with us.  We had a standing lunch date for all conferences we both attended and of course, you have to take a lunch break during inspections.  Pick Jay up at the airport, take him to the hotel and then to dinner.  Lunch break during the inspection and dinner later in the evening always followed.

When Jay inspected Jones Hall’s rigging, it usually took two days as there is a lot to look at so we got to eat often.  I would always put on a large crew for those inspections, not only to pull ropes, but to help inspect and learn and make minor repairs if needed.  Jay would put one stagehand at the head block and one on each loft block and others could watch lines and listen.  Especially listen. 

A lot of hands learned a lot about rigging from Jay as he never stopped teaching, and as I heard many people say, he never stopped sharing.  Not only would he tell someone what to look or listen for, he would explain why and share a story.  And he would wait for questions and not treat the stupid ones with anything but respect.  He never told the questioner that the question was stupid.  He didn’t seem to believe there were stupid questions.  Questions were always important, especially when deciding what to have for lunch.

Chip Purchase
March 24, 2015

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