I first met Paul in 1982 when I was volunteering at the library of Jarvis Elementary in Delta where my mother was the librarian and Mrs. Leahy was a teacher. Mrs. Leahy would often come into the library to pick up resource books for herself and would inevitably start telling me about her son Paul, so I had actually heard about him for many years before I actually met him. One day I walked into the library looking for my mother and found Paul sitting on the circulation desk. (Apparently he was giving guitar lessons at the school and would often sit beside my mom in the staff room chatting with her). I immediately knew who he was. I think he wore a leather jacket and jeans that day and the thing I remember the most was his unusually thick head of hair. It was below shoulder length and obscured all the features on his face except his nose and mouth. We talked exclusively about me because I did all the talking. I told him all about my involvement in the local music scene, writing for fanzines and promoting our local music. He was very soft spoken, polite and appeared to be mildly interested. It seemed like I was overwhelming him with my enthusiasm. Our conversation abruptly ended when my mother came in and said it was time to go home.
The next time I met Paul was in the fall of 2011, 29 years later. I connected with him via Facebook through a mutual friend, David Dedrick from my high school. I knew nothing of his life in between. We found out that both our mothers passed away within three years of each other and we talked at length about their illnesses and their deaths. I decided to catch up on his life by asking him an exhaustive amount of questions about anything and everything. He would always say “Corinne, I can’t possibly answer all your questions” and pause before continuing with “I will endeavor to answer your questions.”
Through this line of questioning I was able to learn countless mundane things about him such as: he loves his morning coffee and said it was one of the things in life that he would never give up. Apparently, he would savor his (cooled) coffee every morning for quite a long time on the couch by the window before he’d be ready to face the day. For breakfast he’d have buttered toast topped with cinnamon & sugar or peanut butter. He liked the peanut butter quite warm and melty, to the point where it was running down his hand. Paul kept stressing to me that he was a simple man with simple tastes. He liked cheese and crackers for lunch, apples & bananas for snacks, pizza and lasagna for dinner. His dining out choices were the cold cut sub from the Subway, donburi from the local Japanese restaurants, and omelettes from IHOP. I later learned the reason for his food choices; the oral surgery that he had in 2007 had made food less palatable and harder to move around in his mouth.
We ‘d often talk about music and he himself said that he had very pedestrian tastes in music compared to the eclectic tastes of our friends. In addition to bands you suspected he liked such as Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Queen and Alice Cooper, he also liked Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, The Pretenders, The Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain, the Bay City Rollers, Elton John and the Cocteau Twins. He described to me some of the concerts he attended in the past. At this point I can only remember his stories of Led Zeppelin at the Pacific Coliseum in 1973 and The Cramps at the Commodore in 1992. When I asked him if he could choose to have the voice of any other singer who would it be , I was quite surprised by his answer …Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I would have guessed Freddie Mercury.
Out in public Paul was pretty quiet. He was most comfortable at home and likened himself to a house cat. I think he just liked to observe and I would say that he measured and weighed his words very carefully before speaking. He avoided drama and certainly didn’t want to attract it either so he always spoke or wrote very carefully with great consideration to the possible outcomes. If he was feeling particularly energetic he’d like to talk about himself; describing the different bands he had played in, growing up in Surrey, his past jobs and what he was doing in his current job. He was quite clever and witty. When I caught on to his jokes I would often snort and he would laugh and then I would laugh. When I was slow in catching on to his jokes, he would be slightly annoyed that I made him repeat it and that I had missed his comedic timing. Paul was fond of word play. The song “Made in Japan”, the Pleasure Suit album title “Put It On” and his compilation box set “The Polly Package” are fine examples. In contrast he had no shortage of corny “dad” jokes either. He would often tell Finn to “eat over the sink like a man.”
Paul was the dearest of friends and I will miss my silly conversations with him between loads of laundry and dishes, photographing him in concert trying to capture his best side and pose, and hanging out at the back of the Grill with him and Richard.
Finn, your dad said many times over the years that you were a very smart young man, that he’s lucky to have such a nice son that doesn’t get into trouble. He’s confident that you’ll be successful in whatever career or education you choose. Kimiko, whenever Paul talked to me about you, he would tell me that you were a very strong and smart woman who is capable of achieving anything she puts her mind to. In mid October when I broached the subject of his mortality asking how you would fare, he said to me “She will be just fine and will get through this and will be able to move forward. She has a lot of support.”
Don Vito Donatiello