Remembering John Entwistle on his 20th Jahrzeit

It’s hard to believe the Earth has revolved around the Sun twenty times since John Alec Entwistle, the greatest bass player in rock history, left the material world at the relatively young age of 57, on 27 June 2002. Whereas no one was shocked by George Harrison’s passing seven months earlier, John’s untimely death was a bolt from out of the blue. He seemed in perfect health.

What made it even more shocking and heartbreaking was that it was on the eve of a huge summer tour of the U.S. And though I’ve always felt very strongly that It’s Hard is The Who’s swan song, John’s death made me wish they had put out a new album, one final musical memory of him. (To date, I’ve still not listened to the recent albums Pete and Roger made, apart from a few songs coming up on auto-generated YouTube playlists.)

It was a Thursday, and I had recently, unhappily come home to Pittsfield after graduating UMass–Amherst. While reading the day’s digest of IGTC (a Who mailing list), I saw a message from someone who said he heard John had just died. We thought it was a joke or terrible false news, but confirmation quickly came in, and multiple news and music sources began reporting it.

A big debate broke out re: whether Pete and Roger should continue the tour without John or pack it in and gracefully retire. I thought it was the right decision to play the first night as planned, since they did it in John’s memory, and Pete and Roger (famous longtime frenemies) shared a very emotional hug onstage. But after that, I felt it was wrong to keep touring without John. It’s one thing to lose a single bandmember and find a solid substitute, as they did when Moonie died and Kenney Jones joined them, but it’s an entirely different story when only half of the original band remains.

Almost no one liked John’s replacement, Pino Palladino. How does one even begin to try to fill such mammoth shoes?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Dezo Hoffman/Shutterstock (155628xa)
The Who – John Entwistle
‘Various’ – 1960

And then we found out about John’s shenanigans with cocaine and a groupie stripper the night before, and we were so disappointed. But I’ve already said everything I needed to say about that matter in the pages of my journals over the years. John is no longer here to explain and defend himself, and we should let the dead rest in peace.

For at least a month following his untimely passing, I wrote about John and the ensuing events every single day in my journal Athena. The fan community’s emotions were so raw, and we needed time to process what had happened. Yes, we didn’t know him personally, but he still meant a great deal to us for so many years. It felt like losing a friend or relative. People who aren’t longtime passionate fans of a band will never understand this.

I said Kaddish for John every week during the period of shloshim (the first thirty days after death), possibly through to his first Jahrzeit (death anniversary). And during shloshim, I finally made the switch from saying mechayeh hakol (who gives life to all) to mechayeh hameytim (who gives life to the dead) in the second blessing of the Amidah. In the wake of John’s death, it felt so comforting to imagine the dead being resurrected in the Messianic Era.

Mechayeh hakol is Reform liturgy, which I just couldn’t get myself to abandon even after I began attending Conservative and Orthodox services. But ever since that summer of 2002, I’ve said it as automatically as I say anything else in the liturgy. Perhaps I would’ve eventually made the switch anyway, but John’s passing hastened that aspect of my spiritual growth and development.

May you rest in eternal peace, dear Junnykins, and may your beautiful memory be for an eternal blessing. I love your bass-playing, your quirkiness, your dark sense of humor, your skeleton suit, your deep Boris the Spider voice, your songwriting, your quiet one status within your band, your stoic state onstage while the other three were going bananas, your handsome face. The world is a better place because you were in it.

WeWriWa—A lucky discovery


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve gone back to my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors during the early postwar years. Part II tells the story of what happened to some of them while they were separated.

Mirjam Kovács, a graduate student in Budapest, fled back to her hometown of Abony immediately after the Nazi invasion in March 1944. Though this put her in considerable danger, it also enabled her to find a way to send her youngest siblings to safety. Even in the death train, she still hasn’t given up hope.

The escape she engineers is inspired by the 2006 German film The Last Train (Der Letzte Zug). Last week, she got the inspiration to turn a rock into an axe with help from other passengers.

Copyright Chenspec

“Why didn’t we notice that before?” Zakariás asked. “There’s a small hole in the floor over there.”

Gusztáv, Oszkár, and Fábián crouched around the hole and took turns hammering away as day gave way to night. While they worked, Ráhel recited the Catholic prayers, stumbling over the long Latin words a little less this time.

“The space only needs to be wide enough for a child to fit through,” Mirjam said. “You don’t have to take out the whole floor, though I wish we could all escape en masse. Would anyone else like to give her children to escape?”

Petra clutched four-year-old Mátyás and two-year-old Veronika. “I’m not parting from my children unless I’m under pain of death, and even then I wouldn’t let them go easily.”

“I won’t give up Mórci, Lizi, or Markó either,” Mrs. Heyman said.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

Móric’s ears burnt. “I’m thirteen, Anyuka, not a little kid. I became bar mitzvah over half a year ago.”

“You’re still a boy as far as everyone is concerned. I haven’t even put you in long pants yet.”

Móric glared down at his knee-length trousers and said no more.

Radical relationship revamps

It was a blessing in disguise that I put my radical rewrite of the book formerly known as The Very Last on hiatus in mid-2015. At the time, I was frustrated because I couldn’t locate enough information about the Portuguese World Exposition of 1940, and I felt exhausted at the thought of researching and writing about the 1939–40 World’s Fair only a few years after doing it for Dark Forest. Now I realize I couldn’t have rewritten that book the way it needed to be had I continued on in 2015.

Though I wasn’t shy about cutting out garbage, adding new and improved material, and tweaking storylines by 2015, I still had a major blind spot regarding certain things. This included Kit’s relationship with a much-older boy who originally had a crush on her sister Conny.

A big part of Kit’s character is that she’s like a young Samantha Jones, but now I’m too disturbed by her dating a high school boy when she’s in elementary school. Even if she’s aged up two years, she’d still only be eleven.

Originally, Conny’s future husband, an 18-year-old violinist named Thomas McCartney from Andover, England, showed up on the Greens’ doorstep on 1 June 1940, and he and 15-year-old Conny were instantly taken with one another. Kit decided to tag along to their first date with a date of her own, Jerry Wasserstein, a Catholic boy from Ohio Avenue.

This date went so well, Conny and Tom had sex in the guesthouse while Mr. and Mrs. Green were away. Kit led Jerry into her parents’ bedroom, took down their “boring” paintings and replaced them with erotic art, and went to third base with him on the bed. They fell asleep partly-clothed.

In the morning, cops showed up (having been alerted by the stores where Conny bought sexy clothes and condoms) and made all four of them parade naked through the city as punishment for illicit sexual activity (Conny and Tom) and shocking, disreputable conduct (Kit and Jerry).


Beyond the obvious creepiness (to say the very least!) of a 15-year-old dating and getting physical with a preteen, Conny and Tom’s meeting, and his immediate move into the guesthouse, is so unrealistic. I was starting to rewrite that chapter with the changed detail of him showing up at the Greens’ doorstep because Kit’s lifelong rival Violet gave the address as a flophouse, but even that felt silly. Don’t even ask about the evil twin storyline which results in Tom leaving town and being presumed dead until 1957!

The storylines about Kit and Conny’s dating drama were somewhat better-incorporated in the first and second drafts of 1997 and 1999, but since I cut out a lot of cluttery chapters and seriously toned down Kit and Jerry’s relationship, they feel more like a tacked-on afterthought. Their beaux also aren’t even developed very well.

Many people, regardless of religion, are familiar with I Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I reasoned as a child; but when I became an adult, I put away childish things.” This is a sentiment everyone can relate to, and it’s particularly relevant to how my writing changed as my cognitive development reached its final stage.

However, probably not so many people are as familiar with the line following it, “For we now see obscurely through a mirror, and then face to face; now I know in part, and then I will fully know, as I was also known.” Becoming an adult isn’t just about putting away childish things, but attaining the kind of wisdom and hindsight that only come from years of life experience.

When I edited the third draft of How Kätchen Became Sparky in 2011–12, in my early thirties, I knew enough to significantly tone down a lot of the wildly age-inappropriate content. It was toned down even further during the fourth draft of 2014–15, and more still during the fifth and final version of 2017–18. I also deliberately made the characters’ age ambiguous.

Things I thought were funny or hard-hitting satire as a teen and in my early twenties horrified me once I was in my thirties. Germane to this post, Kit and Jerry’s relationship screams child abuse and taking advantage of a minor. Even if Kit were to lie about her age or Jerry were to assume she were 13 (the age she looks and acts) and never be corrected, that still wouldn’t make it right.

At 42, I understand so much more about child safeguarding, and don’t want to give any impression I approve of such a massively inappropriate situation. I kid you not, in the first two drafts, Kit and Jerry frequently drew and photographed one another naked and in sexual situations. One of these “artworks” was inspired by a scene in a Victorian erotic novella, Kit urinating into Jerry’s mouth.

Unfortunately, this does mean losing a lot of great dialogue and scenes with the Greens, esp. Kit’s unhappily married parents (who are also third-cousins), but maybe I can recycle them in other books. I’m also planning to reuse some of them in the chapter “The Wrath of Conny,” which will take a much different track than originally written. (I just had to keep that chapter title!)

Conny and Tom will still start dating in this book, but under much different circumstances, and with the twist that she’s lying to him about her age. In place of Jerry, Kit may start dating her original first boyfriend Haakon much earlier.

The one time Kit does date an older boy, Robert Valli, they run into serious irreconcilable differences immediately, largely because they’re at such different places in life. Why would Jerry be any different?

WeWriWa—Mirjam’s great idea


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m going back to my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors (almost all of them Hungarian) during the early postwar years. Part II tells the story of what happened to the friends of Eszter Kovács while they were separated.

Eszter’s older sister Mirjam, a master’s degree student in Budapest, fled back to her hometown of Abony immediately after the Nazi invasion in March, under the false impression she’d be safer in a small town. Though this put her in a considerably greater amount of danger, it also enabled her to find a way to send her youngest siblings to safety. Even in the death train, she still hasn’t given up hope.

The last-minute escape she engineers is based on the escape in the 2006 German film The Last Train (Der Letzte Zug).

Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-027-1477-07 / Vennemann, Wolfgang / CC-BY-SA 3.0

A young man with a gash across his face picked up a rock and lobbed it through the window. It found its mark grazing across Oszkár’s face, and Oszkár tripped backwards.

“Is this train ride almost over?” Ráhel asked. “I’m getting tired of standing.”

“We’re all getting tired of standing!” an old man snapped. “You’re not the most important person in this car!”

Mirjam grabbed the rock. “Does anyone have twine and a stick? We can fashion this into an axe, and cut through the door. This is just the right shape and size for a homemade axe, though there’s no time to sharpen it.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

Gusztáv picked up the rock. “We might have some supplies to fashion an axe. Dr. Rozental, may we borrow your flashlight?”

With the light of the small flashlight, Fábián pulled out his boot laces and Oszkár fished around in his bundles.

“You can use this,” Móric’s older sister Petra said, extending a long wooden rod with flares on either end. “This was Veruska’s teething stick, and was still in the bag of children’s supplies when we left Újszász.”

Using Dr. Rozental’s sharpest scalpel, Gusztáv sawed off one of the flares and split the top of what remained. Gusztáv then took a deep breath and submerged the stick in the waste bucket. He gagged as he bent the wood around the rock and lashed it in place with Fábián’s boot laces. While this was going on, Mirjam used another scalpel to remove the star from Ráhel’s blouse.

Dormition Church of Lviv (церква Успіння Львіва)

I originally intended this post to be part of my 2022 April A to Z series on Ukrainian history and culture, but I stuffed it into the drafts folder because I couldn’t find enough information about the church’s history, artwork, and architecture for a substantial, detailed post. Yet again, I didn’t allow myself any time to work on a post about my radical rewrite of The Very Last, so here’s that bonus A to Z post.

New additions are in bold.

Copyright Konstantin Brizhnichenko

Throughout history, Lviv’s Dormition Church has had four incarnations. The first, probably constructed during the High Middle Ages, was burnt in 1340 when Polish feudal lords attacked the city. Church #2, built of bricks and first mentioned in 1421, was destroyed in 1527 when a great fire swept through Lviv. Peter the Italian, an architect from Lugano who became a citizen of Lviv, rebuilt the church from 1547–59. Alas, the third church fell victim to another fire in 1571.

The Chapel of the Three Saints was built nearby from 1578–91, and the Italian architect Pietro of Barbona rebuilt the Kornyakt Tower, which had collapsed in 1570. Both of these structures were joined by a fourth church which was constructed from 1591–1629 by Paolo Dominici Romanus, Wojciech Kapinos, and Ambrosiy Prykhylnyy. The ikons were painted by Mykola Petrakhnovych-Morakhovskyy and Fedir Senkovych.

Copyright xiquinhosilva

Many people financed the construction, primarily Moldovan rulers (both male and female). It was originally built of brick, but midway through construction of the walls, the Assumption Brotherhood replaced it with hewn stone. The church was consecrated on 26 January 1631 by Lviv Bishop Yeremiya Tissarovskyy and Kyiv Archimandrite Petro Mohyla.

On 3 January 1584, prior to the start of construction on the fourth church, the Catholic Archbishop of Lviv, Jan Dymitr Solikowski, attacked the existing church. He expelled congregants, scorned the priest and ignored his authority, and sealed the church.

And what was the unspeakable crime committed by the Orthodox faithful? Not adopting the Gregorian calendar and continuing to use the Julian calendar, which was ten days behind by the 16th century, on account of a never-corrected error from the Council of Nicaea.

This intolerant archbishop also forbade Ukrainians from ringing church bells on their own holiday dates and attacked the Church of the Epiphany that same year of 1584.

Copyright xiquinhosilva

In the 18th century, noblewoman Feodosiya Strilbytska, wife of parish priest Oleksiy Strilbytskyy, donated 6,000 złotych to the church. Out of gratitude, a painting of her was put on display. It’s now in the Lviv National Gallery of Arts.

Yet another fire damaged the church in 1779, and it was rebuilt in 1796 with a few changes. Perhaps surprisingly, given the era, it was beautified with stained glass windows designed by Petro Ivanovych Kholodnyy in 1926–27. Though Soviet rule was atheist, Stalin hadn’t yet risen to full, unquestioned power and begun cracking down on the use of non-Russian national languages and cultures. During the 1920s, national expression flourished in republics which had long been under the heel of enforced Russification.

Copyright Швітланьо (Shvitlano)

Copyright Aeou

Lviv artists Kostyantyn and Yakiv Kulchytskyy carved the coats of arms of donors Simeon and Iyeremiya Mohyla above the northern and southern doors.

Some of the ikons in the ikonostasis have been with the church since the fourth iteration opened in the 1630s. The most valuable are from the Passion Cycle, made by Fedir Senkovych and Mykola Petrakhnovych-Morakhovskyy.

Copyright Alexander Skrypnyk

The church was restored and repaired from 1965–73.

The Lviv Assumption Brotherhood, the non-clerical Ukrainian Orthodoxy fraternity who founded the church, remains active to this day. Members patronize the Sunday school, care for the building’s upkeep, and organize the cultural and spiritual life of the church.

Copyright Kugel at WikiCommons

Copyright Oleksandr Kaktus

On 29 November 1989, the church came under jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Sunday school began in 2008, with three age groups, and a children’s choir was formed in 2012.

Copyright Ivan Sedlovskyi

Copyright Ivan Sedlovskyi

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