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2022-02-02

Remembering Mark Grandy

Mark Grandy
Mark

I grew up on Walnut Street in Berkeley, about a block and a half up a hill from the flatlands where Live Oak Park was located.

Halfway up the hill, where Eunice crossed Walnut, there was a large white house on the NE corner where a teenage JD lived. He had a black 50 Ford hotrod that he worked on and drove around, scaring us littler kids with his leather jacket, red face, blond duck’s ass haircut and disdainful look. It’s important to remember that Berkeley was not completely filled with gentile, academic families.

Mark’s family moved into the JDs house probably in 1955. One day, probably in the summer, Mark stopped me and asked if I could show him how to get to Garfield Junior High School, where I was starting the 8th grade. Mark was starting the 7th. Of course I agreed and soon we were walking to school together and usually back home as well.

We spent most days after school together, either outdoors playing, hiking, biking or at his house. My mother had died a few years earlier and I spent a lot of time away from my evil Danish stepmother, as did my sister Mary Hugh and my brothers, Rich and Don.

One day, Mark greeted me by saying, Hello, Georgeous!”. I responded by saying, Hello, Gruesome!” and those remained our nicknames for each other ever since.

Mark’s mother Anita welcomed me into her home and heart.

Anita
Anita Grandy

Mark was so lucky. I didn’t feel comfortable around his father who we called Old Wrinkle Head” because his scalp, visible under his Marine flattop, was indeed wrinkled. In one of our last conversations by phone, Mark filled me in on his family’s history and I was amazed to discover that his father’s life had been upended by WWII. I wish I’d understood him better and had talked to him as an adult.

Mark and I wandered around Berkeley together, visiting Tilden Park, UC Berkeley, Treasure Island (Mark had a military ID that would get us through security) and the Berkeley Pier, where we caught sharks:

Sharks
 Sharks

My family was more academically oriented and my world was the Ivory Tower; I loved going to the UC-Berkeley campus to see the lab animals and special engineering museums. Mark was more interested than me in popular culture, introducing me to the Kingston Trio, Elvis, etc. It was through him that I started listening to non-classical music. It couldn’t have been hard for him to get me interested in cars. We both loved their family’s 57 Chevy, which we drove around in. I remember once, driving down from Tilden park at the top of the Berkeley hills on Euclid. Mark saw a kid walking in the street and aimed the car at him, terrifying him into moving spasmodically. I felt a little ashamed but of course laughed along with Mark. (He wasn’t usually like that.)

During my time at college (1960-64), I saw Mark during breaks. We spent one summer driving around the Sierras, looking for jobs fighting fires.

We spent another summer picking peaches on a farm owned by a friend of his father’s. We lived in our own bunkhouse separate from the Braçeros, Mexicans on temporary work visas, and from the American alcoholics picked up on a street corner in Marysville by Boss Tweed in his Edsel station wagon. We wandered up over the levee of the Russian River and found an actual hermit living in a tiny house” with a garden and rabbit traps. The Mexicans taught us how to steal table grapes that were allowed to ripen on the vine for making wine. We all ate together in a mess hall right out of the Grapes of Wrath.

One summer, Mark took me down to a garage on Grove St, where he was working on the second fastest VW Beetle in California: I’ll never forget that experience. We rebuilt the engine on my Beetle twice (when I went to Tunisia after graduating, my brother Rich destroyed the car by flying over a railroad crossing and landing so hard, the wheels were flattened outwards!)

After I graduated in 1964 and moved back to Berkeley, my evil stepmother got my father to tell me that I couldn’t live at home over the summer, so I moved into an apartment with Mark in downtown Berkeley while working in a VW garage.

Mark solarized
Mark

At the end of the summer I left for the Peace Corps, graduate school, etc., and never lived near Mark again.

The wonderful thing about a childhood friendship such as ours was how easily we understood each other when we did meet or talk with each other by phone or email.

Over the many years since I moved away from California, I was able to visit Mark as he and Xandra moved to the country and thrived. I so admired Mark for planting a beautiful vineyard near Healdsburg. That felt so exotic, especially their beautiful house that they had to move away from sometime later. Mark’s stories - he always told stories - stories of driving fire trucks, of being such a good friend to a woman in Geyserberg that he was able to buy her house after she passed away; the friends he made at the Cloverdale Senior Center.

Mark told stories because his life was filled with drama. There was his wonderful marriage to Xandra. I was able to visit his mother with him on one trip to the Bay Area. I never managed to see his sisters again but Mark’s stories about them were always amazing. I’ll never forget our visit to see his daughter, Rebecca, while she was still in school in San Francisco: what a wonderful young woman she had become!

Iris and I visited Mark and Xandra in 2014

Gruesome and Georgeous
Gruesome and Georgeous
West Coast Trip
West Coast Trip
West Coast Trip
West Coast Trip

Mark and Xandra visited NC a few years later.

We went to the top of Mt Mitchell.

Mt Mitchell
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Mt Mitchell
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Mt Mitchell
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Mt Mitchell
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