Don Waller

Just heard that Don Waller died.

I met him at a party at Greg Burk’s resplendent pad in Los Feliz. I was already pretty well known in LA jazz circles by then, but this was like a coming out party with the local critic literati for me. All these intellectuals and poets and writers and music critics. Burk–my editor at the LA Weekly–introduced me to Waller. He trapped me by the table with all the Australian red and proceeded to lecture me on Thelonious Monk for what must have been two hours. Every time I drained my glass he refilled it. Even if I hadn’t drained it he refilled it. Drink up, he said. He was a font of quotes, opinions, insight, advice and wine. Things quickly got blurry, then hazy, then disappeared altogether. A couple hours later the wife and I were outside on the sidewalk waiting for a cab–brilliant move that turned out to be, taking a cab so to not worry about parking–and I realized that I was the drunkest I had been in forever. I could barely stand. The earth beneath me reeled. The red wine hangover was savage. That was the one and only time I ever hung out with the great Don Waller. I remembered wondering if all critics were like that. Sadly, they are not.

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