On John Ross (1938–2011)
June 11, 2011 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Before John Ross died this January, he asked his family and friends to do the following with his ashes: 1) Scatter them along the #14 bus route in San Francisco’s Mission District, where Ross lived on and off for much of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. 2) Sprinkle them in the ashtrays in front of the Hotel Isabel in downtown Mexico City, Ross’s home base from 1985 to 2010. 3) Mix them with marijuana and have them rolled into a spliff to be smoked at his funeral. A certain half-baked logic ran through much of Ross’s life and writing. For a few years during the Carter era, as he recounts in his (mostly true) memoir Murdered by Capitalism, he spent his afternoons drinking Gallo wine and smoking pot and PCP in the Trinidad cemetery in Humboldt County, California. It was there that he met the ghost of Edward B. Schnaubelt...
posted by jim in austin (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No disrespect meant to John Ross, but the "put my ashes in a joint and have my buddies smoke me" final will and testament is really starting to get cliche.

I'm on the fence, though. I can't figure out if it's a step in the wrong or right direction.

That said, I'm going to go read the links. Sorry for the derail.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 9:22 AM on June 11, 2011

No disrespect meant to John Ross, but the "put my ashes in a joint and have my buddies smoke me" final will and testament is really starting to get cliche.

I'm on the fence, though. I can't figure out if it's a step in the wrong or right direction.

Wrong. Most assuredly wrong.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:31 AM on June 11, 2011

The no smoking ordinance in Austin ruined my own funerary plans. There was to be a pub crawl up and down 6th Street with some portion of my ashes left in an ashtray at every stop. It was to be an endurance test, to see if me or the mourners gave out first...
posted by jim in austin at 9:36 AM on June 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Love the end of plus one piece.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:45 AM on June 11, 2011

See, that kind of thing is why I am so creeped out by cremation. The squicky shit people do with ashes... and apparently not just in Monty Python and other comedies, either. It's in REAL LIFE.

Man, just bury me somewhere all in one spot, please.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2011

jenfullmoon: "Man, just bury me somewhere all in one spot, please."
When asked about his burial arrangements, he had said, “Just throw me outside the city walls so the wild animals can feast on me.” He added, “But leave me a big stick so I can beat them off!” He was asked, “How can you use a stick, you will be dead?” “Exactly,” Diogenes smiled.
posted by idiopath at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Son to spread father's ashes from model plane
"He said to me that he'd love to go up in this plane and have his ashes spread all over Margaree which he thought was God's country," said Whitelaw. "I said we'll do it."

But it's not as simple as blowing dust in the wind. Mike Whitelaw had to come up with a creative solution. ... A homemade contraption will release his father's ashes into the air with parts purchased at the hardware store, including a toilet plunger.

"The physics of the air passing through and blowing the ashes out, that's a big of a challenge, but it seems to be working on the ground."

To test it out, he needed a substitute for ashes. "What we found was similar was actually a combination of oats and kitty litter. Not to be too morbid, but it simulates the consistency of ashes."
Interview on As It Happens here.
posted by maudlin at 10:02 AM on June 11, 2011

I just want to plug Ross's El Monstruo, which got a pretty halfhearted mention in the N+1 piece — it's a fun, shambling read and completely sui generis. The book is ostensibly a history of Mexico City from the pre-colonial days to the present, but it's told almost entirely through anecdotes, rumors, jokes, and conversations with the grizzled waiters, DF barflies, and aging poets who were Ross's circle of friends. It's hard not to love John Ross after reading it.
posted by RogerB at 10:03 AM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks for bringing Ross to my attention.

I also want to go to Trinidad. A 300 people town with dramatic coastline and the home of Captain Beefheart.
posted by Dr. Curare at 1:24 PM on June 11, 2011

Put them in a spliff? I'm pretty sure that's the fast track to mad cow disease or something.
posted by crunchland at 1:33 PM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I know what you mean, Bathtub Bobsled. The last half-dozen memorial services I've attended "featured" cremain-laced doobies. Some of us get tested for work, y'know?
posted by jtron at 1:54 PM on June 11, 2011

I keep waiting to read about a prion disease transmitted via smoked cremains.

Also, seeing someone spread ashes on the 14 muni route will be the _least_ strange thing you see there all day.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:31 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can't decide between a Sky Burial or a simple grave somewhere by the sea. But I am pretty sure my brain will have been transferred into a giant battle robot so I guess I will leave it till then to decide.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:29 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some of us get tested for work, y'know?
If my work tested me for cremation ashes I would look for other employment.
posted by jcworth at 3:35 PM on June 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, one of the world's most underrated artists - and I would include genres other than jazz here - expressed the desire for his ashes to be mixed with ganja and smoked on the jacket sleeve of one of his LPs about fifty years ago, so, no, not an avant-garde wish, just a sentiment in line with his brand of wishful lefty thinking.
posted by kozad at 4:51 PM on June 11, 2011

I just thought he was an interesting character who led an even more interesting life. I knew someone like him once, an old gentleman named Clarence Felter. He still carried around his IWW card from the 1930's and was somehow or another involved in the Spanish Civil War. For me the story resonated...
posted by jim in austin at 7:05 PM on June 11, 2011

I met him once when I was living in Mexico City. Appropriately, it was in one of those old-school Mexico City coffee shops, neither Sanborns nor Starbucks, but the kind that look like a 1960s cafeteria and serve their cafe au lait to you out of a couple of big steel pots, milk first, and then black coffee on top until you say 'enough' to the middle aged lady in the black and white uniform...

Ross was holding a court of sorts at his table, which I guess must have been his regular table for decades, with whoever wandered up. I'd read his book on the Zapatistas before I came to Mexico of course, and I had an introduction through mutual friends from his Humboldt County days.

I don't know what I was expecting--pointers on how to get around in that insane city, pointers on how to be a journalist in Mexico - something I didn't ultimately end up doing very much of - but I didn't get much of it.

He was a fascinating but weird character. He had some kind of bulging milky eye thing that was extremely distracting and made me wonder how he got things done as a journalist. Interviewing people and the like. And he obviously continued to enjoy various drugs despite his obvious physical decreptitude.

But he had a kind of magnetism and so my friend and I just kind of sat there in that beautiful relic of a coffee shop all afternoon mostly listening to him and staring at his wreck of a face. No lessons or pointers, and I actually can't remember a single specific thing he told me, but he was quite a storyteller.
posted by jackbrown at 8:41 AM on June 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

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