It is with great sadness that I must announce that Paulie Family
co-founder/co-conspirator and fellow Skypilot, Paul (Refuses To Have A
Nickname) Zimmon, passed away at 10:50 a.m. on May 27th, 2009 at
Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, WA. He was 54 years old. Paul
had been fighting liver cancer for over two years, and he fought it
valiantly, but in the end complications from the cancer won.
At this time I have no word on any type of funeral services.
I was hoping Paul and I would be able to make it to the
barbecue this year, but Paul is now attending the big barbecue in the
sky. I remember last year we had everything planned to come to the
barbecue, and then at the last minute the doctor in Seattle called him
and that was the end of that plan.
I had never seen a volcano but I had always wanted to since I knew about them as a child. Looking out the jet's window on a July afternoon I thought the miniature scene below was like seeing the flag flying in a wind that had no air on the moon in the video that proved the Apollo landings were faked. How could those little anthills down there have snow on them in July?
I arrived in Portland from Orlando and was watching for the old RV Paul had described. Just outside the airport he looked down at me suspiciously as I looked up at him, wondering if this was the big fat guy in the picture I had seen on Capn Skyp's site. We were about to pass each other when he demanded, "Are you Tim?"
"Come on. I'm only here because Babbs told me to pick you up. I've been driving my RV past here like eight times and was about to give up but I decided to park it and look for you. We have to get back before they tow it away."
"Blah delays blah blah," I explained.
Paul Zimmon was a crystal clear enigma from the start. He was the whole shebang from good to evil from yin to yang and stupid to genius and ugly to beautiful. We were not sure about each other yet we dug each other right off.
"You're going to stay with me and my mom. Tracy McCall, you know, the guy who won the Skypilot writing contest, we're going to show you around. Don't worry about expenses. I'm not getting anything for this..." suddenly I was walking a shaded corridor into those dark eyes; "...except, maybe, a friend?"
I had to stop and grok a second. He was genuine and I was touched.
"Yeah," I said. "I think so."
Yeah man, the snow is real and the volcanoes are really that tall.
I had come for Ken Babb's Fourth of July party and had no idea what to expect, yet I had a great feeling that I was going with a flow that was not going down the drain. What happened in the next few days was one of the finest times in my life. I began to realize that there was good reason that Paul was the central figure in Tracy's comedic writing. I would become one of the three actually real members of the "Paulie Family" and one of Tracy's characters, pretty much writing my own parts.
After passing over the long high bridge spanning the Willamette River that flows never-ending lakes of water, drinking skag beer and puffing occasionally on the never-ending smoke, Paul told Tracy that I hated him for winning the writing contest and thought that I should have won. Well, sure I thought I had written the best "Tagger" story but I had not said shit about it nor cared. Tracy looked from the front seat at me in the back and I rolled my eyes. He knew Paul's bullshit and I was catching on.
We were on our way to my first Dead concert at Mt. St. Helen. I had only dug the Grateful Dead since listening to Shakedown Street continuously on a trip to Key West in the 90's. I was a Zappa fan if anything, but I realized the GD simply made you feel good. Now Jerry was gone.
I got a look at the colorfully huge new Further parked in the back lot. Zane Kesey was somewhere among the VIPs backstage.
Just before the concert, parked in the peasant lot, a young Deadhead came to the RV door asking if he could wash his hands.
"What," Paul asked the kid, "filthy thing have you been doing with your hands that is so vile you feel the need to cleanse them in my sink?"
Tracy and I were splitting a gut laughing. The kid was grinning too.
"I was putting up my tent and they got dirty."
Paul seemed amused. "Yeah, go ahead."
There was more more more, so much more. Never has a week been filled with so much of someone's personality without me wanting to run away and scream, but Paul, though sometimes grating, was never boring. He was consistently astonishing. He was W.C. Fields on acid.
Late into the night of the fourth, by the fire in Babbs' backyard, he disappeared and popped back with a perfect black Groucho mustache. He asked the small group of picnic leftovers, "Don't you hate it when some asshole does damn near anything just to get attention?"
Paul loved and hated with equal passion. He seemed to me an old rich kid gone psychedelically goofy. He might have been a CEO in another life. But he was actual snow and a real volcano in this one.
I agreed to go out west from my hometown of Kalamazoo and be his caretaker after he got his new liver.
"I love you like a brother" is one of the last things he said to me.
"I love you, Paulie," I said.
He said he'd call me again in a few days.
Paul and I first became friends in late '96. I was working as a
Chef/Manager in Vancouver and I had to call a temp service to send
somebody to help out because we were short-handed. They sent Paul. We
became friends because I needed a ride home, and he needed to get
If I had to sum up Paul in one sentence it would be a very long sentence
with lots of commas and semicolons, so instead I'll sum up Paul this
way... Paul was the most detestable bastard I ever met, and that's why
we became such good friends and got along so well for so long.
Tracy and Paul
I could tell endless stories about Paul, rarely was he ever
uninteresting, and that's why it was so easy to make him the central
character in The Paulie Family. Oh sure, I could make him hilarious on
paper, but it was no match to what he was like in person. A road trip
with Paul was an exhausting experience. This is because for the first
10 years I knew him he couldn't drive a car unless he had a beer tucked
between his legs, a pipe in one hand, a lighter in the other hand, and
only his pinky fingers or his knees on the steering wheel to keep us
away from certain death. And God help anyone in another car that made
him have to juggle the beer, the pipe, and the lighter long enough for
him to lean on the horn and flip off whoever it was that had
inadvertently crossed over into our reality. With that sort of thing
going on in a motor home at 50 mph down I-205 in real life, making up
fictional comedy adventures of The Paulie Family was pretty easy.
Some time around 1999 or 2000 Paul began sending Paulie Family
adventures to Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs. I was pretty reluctant about the
idea because let's face it, Radio Free Urine isn't for everybody, and
our often over-the-top bathroom humor could easily offend and alienate
most of the world's population from us. However, both Kesey and Babbs
seemed to see the humor in what we were doing, and they never wrote back
to us calling us un-American or telling us to stop sending them such
childish trash. Eventually, I even won the Tagger Writing Contest that
Babbs put on and for the first time in my life, thanks to Paul taking
the chance and sending episodes of RFU to Kesey and Babbs, I felt
accepted as a legitimate writer.
Paul, George, Tracy
It was also the Tagger Writing Contest that eventually brought me, Paul,
and Tim Gallagher together for the now legendary road trip to Babbs' 4th
of July barbecue. Many stories were spawned by this road trip, and as
near as I can tell and remember they're all true. From the Dead show to
the trip down to the barbecue to the late night campfire impromptu
routine (during which I uttered the words "And now comes the part of our
show where Paul sets himself on fire... This is one of our most
requested routines!") to the stop at the winery on the way back - Paul
was in rare form, covering both ends of the weirdness spectrum and
everything in between from simple drunken buffoonery to rip roaring
laughter to absolute screaming uncontrolled anger, and it was this rare
form of Paul that most people will remember him for.
-- Tracy McCall
Here are links to both the kidtomfoolery message board and The Paulie Family blog, just in case
anyone wants to relive the magic days...
The Paulie Family Blog:
Kidtomfoolery Message Board:
Paul Zimmon at Fourth of July, 2006 (photo by M. Maguire)
paul was once telling me how he could play some strings even with all the radio waves pounding the earth and such. so I say ok then he starts to show me some cords even when I couldn't hear what he was calling. talking while playing, yeah with that fender, huh? guess I can go with that for a bit. and he says if we are goint to play together we need to call out the cords to each other, huh? ok. we were joking up until the point we were listening.
at an woodknot gig slabtown, we were lining up the songs all night out front of the gig in his motorhause, it was Ian from the UK in visiting flying out the next morning, we took him to my place in the RrrrV to wait it out til the a.m. flight. paul didn't know where and sure didn't need directions and we almost missed the time but Ian got on his flight.
said our pup casscass was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen.. so I'm wondering about his eyesight in general but he was sincere.
he sure played a pretty good gig at bob's birthday party couple years back and and in the camp. paul sure could do some drivin with the uh... grip on the handle in any case, wow. R.I.P. illustrious friend Paul.
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