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George Kimball, 1943-2011

Posted by Charles P. Pierce  July 8, 2011 01:22 AM

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In the winter of 1978-79, I moved to Boston and began work at The Boston Phoenix. One day, early in my tenure there, I happened by the late lamented Eliot Lounge -- This would become something of a pattern. -- and met George Kimball, the newspaper's sports columnist, for the first time. I had heard that George had been somewhat instrumental in getting me my chance at the Phoenix after I had been canned from my previous job for disagreeing with my editor's assessment of his own talents. (He didn't think he was a complete dolt. Who knew?)  I sputtered out my thanks, not noticing at first that George's head was on the bar. I continued to babble without verbs for a while until George opened up his one actual eye and said, "Hey, got any speed?"

With that, more or less, a 30-year friendship began.

He was wild and profane and an absolute old maid about the rules of golf. He loved Ireland like a native, even though his given name -- George Edward Kimball III, for the love of god! -- made him sound like the last, lost Plantagenet. He drank beer, smoked unfiltered Luckies, and was a strict vegetarian. At a newspaper full of cranks and eccentrics, which is what once made the Phoenix great (ask around, kidz), he was the undisputed king of them all. On the day he quit, I was the only person in the office. He dragooned me to the Park Plaza at nine in the morning, bribed the guy to open the bar, and we stayed there until 3, when he walked down the hall, bought a ticket to Palm Beach, and went directly to the airport without telling me he was gone.

He knew and loved boxing far more than boxing ever deserved to be known and loved. One of his final projects was to put an anthology of classic boxing writing together with the great John Schulian. It is called "At The Fights" and you should buy it today, in his memory and for your own great pleasure.

I could never reconcile all the contradictions and I'm not sure we are ever meant to do so. I am not sure I will ever figure out all of him, but I do know that I miss him already the way that you miss a summer twilight on an edged February evening. I owed him just as much when he passed on Wednesday as I did that afternoon in the Eliot.

Farewell, my friend.
As the auld ones say, we knew the two days.
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