Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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From the Vault of "Valley-Joe"

I periodically search for people I've lost touch with in my strong-herding-instinct way. When we were going to the Bay Area in July I had the idea of figuring out whether David Grumio, who was reported to have mysteriously disappeared in Europe back in the early 1990s, had returned to his old stomping grounds.

Back in the day, David would work the Solano County Fair along with his sister, a racetrack worker who lived in Vallejo. Indeed, the first time I ever went to Vallejo, months before I met Kim, was when Annalee and I took the Vallejo bus from El Cerrito Del Norte BART up to Marine World for the racetrack employees' "company picnic." That's the only time I ever went to Marine World, believe it or not, even though I drove around it so many times that I feel like I went there dozens of times. Knowing that David's sister was far more rooted than he was, I decided to see whether I could find out anything about Grumios in the Vallejo area. Sure enough, I soon came across the name of one "David Grumio" in Benicia.

It had to be him, I thought. But I didn't have enough information to confirm my suspicion. Today, however, I saw a story listed on the home page for SF Gate that fired up my hunter's instinct: "Demonstration Of Determination: When the war started, these Benicia radicals rallied. They're still at it, protesting every Thurs." I've rarely been so sure that I would find the answer I was looking for, even though there was no obvious reason to believe that a story about a town of 35,000 would mention my long-lost friend. And I was right: "'Is it 5:30 yet?'' asked David Grumio, Iraq Casualty Count's media coordinator. "Usually, the pro-war people show up about now.'" Anyone who remembers David's days hanging out on the Berkeley campus knows A) that he would be especially likely to be involved in an ongoing protest of what Kim would call an "existential" cast; and B) that he was the master of this sort of wry understatement.

I googled David and found that, though there were only six listings, one of which from this very journal, there was a new one, quoting from a Vallejo Times Herald story -- no longer available for free, alas -- on Bush's second inauguration, that fleshed out my sense of what he has been up to:
"Today was the inauguration in Washington, D.C. and we wanted to show opposition to his Iraq War policies," said David Grumio of Benicia. "We're trying to, in a peaceful manner, show opposition to his policies."

Grumio said he heard the highlights of Bush's speech and wasn't impressed.

"They were fine words, but I don't believe them," he said.

He was skeptical of Bush's performance for the next four years.

"He has a really rocky road ahead of him," Grumio said. "His nominations for the Cabinet will face increased scrutiny, but the biggest battle will be Social Security."
Then, as I was revising this, I found another news story, this one from yesterday's Fairfield paper, in which David also makes an appearance:
David Grumio sees the vigil as helping keep the thread of hope for peace alive and a sign that people can speak out.

"You are not crazy if you oppose the military policies and Iraq policies coming out of the Bush White House," Grumio said.

Grumio hopes the vigil's continued existence will help pressure the government to bring the troops home.

"I hope we won't have to be around here for the 200th vigil," Grumio said.
It's great to hear that he's stayed true to his convictions. But it's even better to realize that he's still alive and presumably well.

I wish now that I hadn't gotten rid of that blanket of his that Josh Gold entrusted to us and which we kept for almost a decade in our storage space. Not that David would necessarily have cared about a material item like that. He was always very Zen about possessions. I learned more about living simply from him than anyone, even though he never preached on that topic or, to be honest, any other. Although there is personal history between us that might make it sound odd of me to say this, he led by example and it was almost always a good one.

The question now is whether I should attempt to contact him or not. I spent a ton of time with him. But he was pretty reclusive. And our shared history is one that he might prefer not to recall at the moment. As I write this, I was surprised to realize that three people on my LJ "Friends" list actually met David: masoo, who attended the gatherings at Kip's after Mitch Breitwieser's Early American Literature course back in the fall of 1989, ones which David and I regularly joined; kdotdammit, who spent some time with David in Berkeley and had him over to dinner once at 617 Napa Street in Vallejo, where his unfailing politeness led him to help out a great deal in the kitchen during her manicotti-making madness; and cpratt, who attended that dinner with his new and destined to be short-lived partner Joe Sartelle, who was at the time close friends with Annalee and with whom Annalee, Elliott Cola, and, in a more industrial register, I conjured up Bad Subjects back in the late summer and early fall of 1992, which, incidentally, has a new and strong "Jesusland$" issue up right now for your reading pleasure.

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