Saturday, December 31, 2011

When the End Is the End

This week I received a phone call from Detroit that Wallace Sheldon Shanbrom had passed away. I knew him as “Wolf,” his Hebrew name, and we kept a friendship going over a fifty-five year period, and at times, thousands of miles apart. We shared an apartment on Prentis in Detroit in the late 1950s, spent a short time together in California in the early 1960s, acted together and separately a few years later at the UnStabled Theatre in Detroit, drove cross country together in 1981 after my parents died, davening as we went. He house sat for me in Santa Cruz and welcomed me into his home in Detroit.

He was an intelligent, articulate and zany individual with writing to match. I can attest to the latter when I look at the hundreds of letters I have saved where the writing goes up, down, sideways and backwards, yet the thoughts were always meaningful.

Wolf firmly believed in what he was doing, regardless of how far removed it was from mainstream thinking. He was, in fact, his own man, a distinction many have failed to achieve.

He never really “published” his writing, saying he didn’t want to go through a publisher’s editing process that might diminish what he fervently believed in and wanted to say. At times, those are my thoughts, too. He would duplicate his writings and hand them to others and me when we traveled, and asked us to drop them off at libraries and universities.

The Detroit Public Library’s Burton Historical Collection contains boxes of his work that he had placed there himself, as well as artifacts of his life. I was amazed when I went through them a few years ago.

Wolf said that he was “mechanic-nisht,” and didn’t understand the electronic world, nor cared to try and do so. He was truly a Luddite, anti-computer individual, but when I went on line and checked “Wallace Wolf Shanbrom” on Google, I found some of his writings listed there at: and at

His life is not solely represented by what those boxes contain. It is impossible for anyone to select exactly what it is that they have experienced and accomplished as a true representation of their short time on this side of the earth.

It is not for a Rabbi, a Priest, an Imam or atheist to close out our time here with a eulogy, using recently garnered data from family members and friends. What we do is best remembered in the hearts and minds of those we touched along the way.

However, I plan to have a videotaped eulogy written by, edited by and delivered by myself, and let others do their own editing and revising of my life story afterwards.

People of the Book

Today is December 31, 2011, and I plan to finish writing the final pages of my book, The Oy Way. You can gib a kuk at its web site at to find out its exact publication date and how to purchase copies. I have already spent countless amounts of monies, and easily spent more than four-hundred hours working on it; researching, writing, editing, going on photo shoots, attending conferences, and the end is near. So is my patience in working on its creation.

Next comes the arduous task of selling the book and have already been inundated by people offering me sage advice as to what I should do. Some friends are upset that I am selling it through Amazon and among other reasons, because they don’t like the fact that Amazon doesn’t pay needed sales tax here in California. My bookstore owning and working friends would rather have it on their shelves, and I will bring them copies on consignment when I speak there. One person has demanded that I offer the book at “a substantial discount” if I speak to his group,

Perhaps I should have named the book oy vey.

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