I learned today that Mitzi died on Friday, three days ago. I last saw her three years ago, at Dick Clement’s memorial and the time before that was another eight years earlier, at Warren Tallman’s memorial. Why have the spaces in time become so huge? And why these reunions only at the times of the death of friends? Just yesterday I read somewhere – how can I have already forgotten where? – “At a certain time of life when you answer the phone and hear a voice you haven’t heard in a long time you know right away someone died.”
I met Mitzi on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Vine in Kitsilano, Vancouver in the summer of 1964 or 65. Introduced to me by the same Dick Clements at whose memorial I last saw her in the summer of 2003. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen and within minutes I knew her beauty was more than the surface kind. Over the following years I’d gradually learn of some of the pain of her life but only by word of mouth because, at least to me, she never showed anything but joy, humour, and passion. She loved music, art, and people and was generous beyond belief . . . encouraging, inspiring, and supportive in every way despite having very little herself in the way of money or material comfort. She’d give you the shirt off her back, a place to stay . . . anything you needed.
These last years – I don’t for how long – she lived not so far away. Twenty minutes by bus, tops. Yet this is what happens, again, like I say, at a certain time of life: a few blocks might as well be a thousand miles. She had no phone so to visit meant just going by and hoping she was home. That was how we always did it anyway but now it seemed crazy. I thought many times of just going by but never did and now, of course, it’s too late. A lesson I keep failing to learn.
There are some comments on the Vancouver Jazz Forum and there will be notice there, also, of her memorial for those of you that need to know.