Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


An Amazing NYT Obit
February 18, 2012 8:29 PM   Subscribe

"At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle. At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar. Afterward he was apprenticed to a pirate." John Fairfax, Who Rowed Across Oceans, Dies at 74
posted by donovan (53 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a kick ass man.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:34 PM on February 18, 2012


Good lord, what a great obituary.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:41 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I made a house in Minecraft, so I'm not sweating it in the accomplishments department either.


.
posted by kbanas at 8:42 PM on February 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


At 9, he settled a dispute with a pistol. At 13, he lit out for the Amazon jungle. At 20, he attempted suicide-by-jaguar.

He is...the most interesting man in the world.
posted by lobbyist at 8:51 PM on February 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


         o 
     ___\{}_
  ~~~\___\_/~~~~~
    ~  ~~~\   ~   

posted by honest knave at 8:56 PM on February 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I wasn't aware that pirate's apprentice was a thing

makes note, grabs cutlass
posted by ninjew at 9:00 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


He is... the most interesting man in the world.

.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:03 PM on February 18, 2012


In 1972, he and his girlfriend, Sylvia Cook, sharing a boat, became the first people to row across the Pacific, a yearlong ordeal during which their craft was thought lost. (The couple survived the voyage, and so, for quite some time, did their romance.)

That's taking the road trip relationship test to a rather extreme degree.
posted by kmz at 9:04 PM on February 18, 2012


But does he prefer Dos Equis?
posted by benk at 9:04 PM on February 18, 2012


I wasn't aware that pirate's apprentice was a thing

To be fair, it is usually the fault of deaf old nursemaids.
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 PM on February 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


That obit makes me want to learn more about Sylvia Cook!
posted by darkstar at 9:23 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wasn't aware that pirate's apprentice was a thing

makes note, grabs cutlass
posted by ninjew


Hehe.

I need to keep things like this obit around for times when "JavaScript Badass" starts actually sounding awesome.
posted by michaelh at 9:24 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wasn't aware that pirate's apprentice was a thing

he wasn't born on 2/29 on a leap year, was he?
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 9:27 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Funny, if you're a regular reader of jezebel.com this would never seem possible.

Here's to another time.
posted by four panels at 9:39 PM on February 18, 2012


Man, I can't wait until everybody forgets about those racist, sexist "most interesting man in the world" commercials so I don't have to hear about them any more.
posted by koeselitz at 10:02 PM on February 18, 2012


A nonconformist of the first water. Bet he was hell to live with, and interesting as all get out to talk with.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:04 PM on February 18, 2012


To please his mother, who did not take kindly to his being a pirate,

This is the best thing I've read in a long time.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:10 PM on February 18, 2012


he briefly managed a mink farm, one of the few truly dull entries on his otherwise crackling résumé

Spoken by someone who's never spent any time on a mink farm. They are ferocious, ornery creatures. Extremely sharp teeth. A workaday gig, sure, but I bet it was never boring.

Also, this?

Mr. Fairfax was often asked why he chose a rowboat to beard two roiling oceans.

This is a usage of beard that's completely new to me. Charmingly antiquated anglicism? Pirate slang? Who the hell describes crossing an ocean as "bearding" it?
posted by gompa at 10:12 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Videos of John Farifax [in an annoying flash player] - at least one mislabelled.
posted by unliteral at 10:14 PM on February 18, 2012


.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 10:22 PM on February 18, 2012


Funny, if you're a regular reader of jezebel.com this would never seem possible.

What does that even mean.
posted by kmz at 10:25 PM on February 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


But did he kill him a bar when he was only three?

This is a usage of beard that's completely new to me. Charmingly antiquated anglicism? Pirate slang? Who the hell describes crossing an ocean as "bearding" it?

I assume it was the "bearding the lion in its den" sense of the word. Still a little odd, but not specifically British or piratical.
posted by katemonster at 10:43 PM on February 18, 2012


Whoa, he was one of those guys from the cover of a men's adventure magazine, except totally real.


!
posted by louche mustachio at 10:51 PM on February 18, 2012


A 9 year old who settles a dispute with a pistol and then apprentices to a pirate (who tend to be murderous rapists) sounds like a dangerous sociopath to me.
posted by Justinian at 11:01 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A 9 year old who settles a dispute with a pistol and then apprentices to a pirate (who tend to be murderous rapists) sounds like a dangerous sociopath to me.

And yet strangely he made it to 74 and died with the apparent love and admiration of lovers and ex-lovers and no murder or fraud investigations pending or anything like that. Still, his corpse probably deserves at least a little sanctimonious kneejerk judgment. So thanks for that.
posted by gompa at 11:17 PM on February 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


This is a usage of beard that's completely new to me

The verb form of beard means "Boldly confront or challenge." Great use of the word. It's from Middle English, which had phrases like rennen in berd and reproven in the berd, which both, basically, meant "get is somebody's face."
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:23 PM on February 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


in, rather
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:23 PM on February 18, 2012


I guess what I'm saying is that I don't actually believe the obituary, not that I think he wasn't a good guy.
posted by Justinian at 11:31 PM on February 18, 2012


.
posted by flippant at 11:57 PM on February 18, 2012


It reads like a Telegraph obituary, the perusal of which my son recommends as choice entertainment.
posted by Anitanola at 11:58 PM on February 18, 2012


Oh, and the Telegraph's includes a picture.
posted by Anitanola at 12:01 AM on February 19, 2012


Justinian, you're not the first to have doubted him.

Some doubted his tales. When a local reporter was unable to believe that Fairfax could kill a shark, Fairfax rented a boat, poured fish blood into the water and did for a “decent-sized” specimen. He proceeded to dump its body on the doorstep of the newspaper’s office. Some doubted his tales. When a local reporter was unable to believe that Fairfax could kill a shark, Fairfax rented a boat, poured fish blood into the water and did for a “decent-sized” specimen. He proceeded to dump its body on the doorstep of the newspaper’s office.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:23 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A 9 year old who settles a dispute with a pistol and then apprentices to a pirate (who tend to be murderous rapists) sounds like a dangerous sociopath to me.

Yeah, my first thoughts when I read that weren't ones of adulation of such an adventurous, precocious scamp. They were more like: jeez, this kid is a menace with impulse control issues.

Glad he survived as long and had as much fun as he did and didn't manage to kill anyone in the process, though.
posted by darkstar at 2:31 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Spam, oatmeal, brandy

Food of the gods.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:50 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I came away from this with one question: Why did Italian Scountmasters need to carry a pistol?
posted by HuronBob at 3:21 AM on February 19, 2012


Yeah, my first thoughts when I read that weren't ones of adulation of such an adventurous, precocious scamp. They were more like: jeez, this kid is a menace with impulse control issues.

“We had money,” Fairfax later recalled of his childhood, “and I got everything I wanted. What I lacked was a father for an authority figure. It made me an opinionated little brat.

He agreed. Apparently he managed to channel the brattish attitude of feeling like you can do anything you want into rowing across two oceans.

This is what he had to say about those crossings: “This is bloody stupid,” after crossing the Atlantic and “It was a miserable journey. I don’t care if I never touch another oar.” after crossing the Pacific.
posted by Authorized User at 3:58 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


That obit makes me want to learn more about Sylvia Cook!
posted by darkstar at 5:23 AM
One thing we do learn about her from the Telegraph's obituary (emphasis added):
Two years after his Atlantic triumph, Fairfax made another epic journey, rowing with Sylvia Cook (who couldn’t swim) from San Francisco to Hayman Island in Australia; it took 361 days, and it was first time anyone had rowed across the Pacific.
She may or may not get an obituary in the NYT or the Telegraph come the day, but she's clearly a woman to be reckoned with.
posted by thebeard at 4:51 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I liked the picture of Britannia - from the days when sponsorship of expeditions such as this did not amount to very much. Today the vessel would be covered in logos - back then he had what looks like a union jack flag made from sticky tape.

Here is more information about the boat and his voyage in it - including extracts from his diary.
posted by rongorongo at 5:19 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And from the previous link I cannot resist quoting this:
When John was twenty, he fell hopelessly in love with a girl. When the affair ended, he was so devastated he couldn't imagine going on. In a manner fitting a professional adventurer, he decided to go into the jungle and commit suicide. "I was going to let a jaguar attack and kill me. I had a spear and a gun with me, and my plan was to use the spear when the jaguar attacked. Since I was not good with a spear, I would be killed. But when the jaguar came at me, instinct took over and I grabbed the gun and killed it." He laughs. "That was the end of my suicide attempts and the start of my pipe smoking."
Yup. A man's man.
posted by rongorongo at 5:24 AM on February 19, 2012


That obituary was an altarpiece to phrase and fable.
posted by 3.2.3 at 5:38 AM on February 19, 2012


Nowadays, to be that manly, you'd absolutely have to be gay.
posted by Goofyy at 6:06 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A Speck on the Sea: Epic Voyages in the Most Improbable Vessels mentions Fairfax briefly. It's not clear whether he or boat designer Uffa Fox came up with the idea of using a sliding seat, but doing so was critical to his success:
However, the key to the whole design as a sliding seat like the ones found on sculling shells. Fairfax would be the first transoceanic rower to his arms and legs into the effort, and this is the feature that would make his voyage a success.
posted by djb at 6:15 AM on February 19, 2012


Just don't call him Sue.
posted by Fizz at 7:02 AM on February 19, 2012


The apparent cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Tiffany. A professional astrologer, she is his only immediate survivor.

Why would you pay a fortune teller if they can't even predict their own husband's forthcoming heart attack?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:44 AM on February 19, 2012


Pffft. I though all 9-yr olds did that.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:53 AM on February 19, 2012


"Baccarat is equal parts skill and chance. It lets the player wield consummate mastery while consigning him simultaneously to the caprices of fate." Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
posted by Jibuzaemon at 8:51 AM on February 19, 2012


In Panama, he met a pirate, applied for a job as a pirate’s apprentice and was taken on.

They take applications? Do you think they check your references?
posted by cmoj at 12:17 PM on February 19, 2012


I wasn't aware that pirate's apprentice was a thing

makes note, grabs cutlass


A lot of people are dissuaded by the part where they're told "Good night, [name]. Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:18 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of that episode of Friends that doesn't exist because it would have woken the viewers up.
posted by srboisvert at 2:27 PM on February 19, 2012


The long, empty days spawned a temporary madness. Desperate for female company, he talked ardently to the planet Venus.
This alone makes me want to travel back in time, don a siren's tail, swim out to his rescue, and drop my chimerical pants in female distress.

.........what? I'd read that romance novel so hard.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:31 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


In all the bits I have read on the mysterious circumstances around the death of Bas Jan Ader, never have I come across a reference to Fairfax. I wonder if Ader was channeling Fairfax in his ultimate demise?
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 8:50 AM on February 20, 2012


"“I have something really fun for you,” New York Times deputy obituaries editor Jack Kadden told Margalit Fox last Monday"

THE STORY BEHIND ‘THE MOST BAD-ASS OBIT EVER’
posted by donovan at 3:56 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


A 9 year old who settles a dispute with a pistol and then apprentices to a pirate (who tend to be murderous rapists) sounds like a dangerous sociopath to me.

Yeah, my first thoughts when I read that weren't ones of adulation of such an adventurous, precocious scamp. They were more like: jeez, this kid is a menace with impulse control issues.


Golly, what wet blankets. You don't know if he settled a dispute by wielding, or threatening somebody with, a pistol. For all you know, there could have been a dispute that involved a pistol, and he settled it without the pistol being fired.

...Although it turns out that as a child he was expelled from the Italian Boy Scouts for opening fire, with a revolver, on a hut containing other Scouts, which as a means of dispute-settling is considered relatively undramatic by Italians.
posted by entropone at 5:36 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older In March 2010, a pair of health inspectors respond...  |  "What we are talking about her... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments