Did you ever meet a guy who is just so damn good-looking, so suave and elegant, and (even worse) so frustratingly intelligent and (here’s the worst part) so friendly and genuinely kind that you just want to turn yourself inside-out and BE this guy? That was my friend John Powers.
I met him about 4 years ago at Trivia Night. He, David Pillinger and I formed a top-flight team called The Triumvirats. We laid Roman siege to trivia questions. We won some, lost more and had a great time. I got to know this John Powers guy pretty well.
While most people struggle through life doing what they must to get by, John decided to chuck that attitude and dive headlong into something meaningful. Like most people sick of the rat race, John thought about what mattered most to him in life. What comprised his most cherished moments? What really fucking mattered?
The answer for him was “good times spent with those you love”. Some of his most satisfying moments in life were: sharing wine with a beautiful woman, listening to really great music and meeting cool, interesting people. Oh, and playing golf. Most everything else was just a burden.
Now all he needed was a business plan. He took up winemaking and set up shop at the bitter end of Chuckanut Drive, one of the most scenic spots in the United States, if not the world. As clouds rolled over the glittering waves of the Puget Sound, John set to work improving his skills at converting Washington State grapes into something worth sharing with a beautiful woman. It wasn’t easy to go from novice to expert in this very daring field, but brains and persistence are two things John had in spades.
After a few years and some success, he moved his tasting room into downtown Bellingham. Now that his wines were not just serviceable and saleable but pretty goddamn good, it was time to leave the empty islands in the shadow of the Chuckanuts and bring his smile and his wares directly to the people.
He’d drive to eastern Washington to buy grapes, deliver them back to his humble winery in Ferndale, perfect them, then vend them at his humble little joint downtown. But wine is hardly the same without song, so John scratched out a corner of the tasting room to accommodate live music. Being a jazz fanatic, he tilted the names in that direction, but wasn’t afraid to host some of the more eclectic acts as he saw fit. If it worked with clinking glasses and happy faces, it was OK at Chuckanut Ridge Winery.
When you’re tall, handsome, smart, friendly and affable, it isn’t too hard to make friends and attract women. Friends he had in abundance, and his artist gal Jennifer is about as beautiful and kind and talented as any man could hope for. John wasn’t rich, or even successful in American business terms, but he finally had it all. His plan had come to fruition: freedom from the rat race, a respectful living that offered people the cherished moments he so enjoyed, and a beautiful woman on his arm.
That’s all any man needs, really. What’s really crazy is that I wasn’t envious of him. The man simply didn’t engender such a dark spirit from anybody. He earned only admiration. One would think this requires skill, with the tendency to be haughty too tempting for any man. But for John, it was effortless. He operated well beyond the simple tools of smiling and being accommodating. His charm and congeniality were sincere aspects of his personality. The man was preternaturally engaging and lovable.
Last week, at a charity golf tournament, John slipped and cracked his head on some pavement. It was just a freak misstep, but he landed hard. Obviously injured, he was rushed to the hospital where he remained in a coma for about a week. Today, John Powers died.
I can’t burn clichéd words of sorrow. It just isn’t in me, and John is worth more than that. Instead, I’d like to let everyone know that John Powers was one of those rare birds. Not only did he defy convention and carve out something that was meaningful for him and delightful in this blighted old town, he was also patron of the arts, as well as everything in life that makes it worth living.
See ya, Johnny. You will be missed.