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Demystifying Medicine One Month at a Time

RIP: HP (1939-2010)

Talk about kicking a city when it’s down.

You can take the boy out of Cleveland, but you can probably never squeeze all of the burning Cuyahoga out of me.

After watching the media frenzy surrounding basketballer LeBron James and his utter betrayal/stabbing us in the back exercising his economic options, now this:

Harvey Pekar has died.

Who was Harvey Pekar?

Look up the word curmudgeon. Close your eyes. He’s who you should be picturing.

You can read the real obits to learn about his talents as a raconteur du everyday-ness. He definitely will go down as a pioneer in helping re-invent and propagate the comic book as art form, beyond kids and super heroes.

Yet Pekar’s heroism has other facets: his spent his career working as a file clerk at the Louis Stokes VA in Cleveland (where I did rotations as a med student).

He was an avid jazz fan and collected 78s (whatever those are). He stood up for the little guy against the corporations, going so far as to call David Letterman a “shill” for NBC, back when his show was on Late Night on that network. In other words, back when his show was good. And edgy. And had guests like Pekar.

Those were my high school years. Pekar probably never would have appeared on television if not for the influence of Steve O’Donnell, then Letterman’s head writer who also hailed from off the streets of Cleveland.

The notoriety that Pekar obtained no doubt led to the greenlighting of American Splendor, the 2003 film in which Paul Giamiatti (look in that same dictionary under “dyspeptic”) starred as Pekar.

I once met Pekar at a book signing. He was the same way in person as he was on TV. The same way he was in his comics. And now he’s gone. Another little piece of Cleveland torn asunder.

1 Comment

  1. I met him at a book signing too. He was kinda of dick. That said, the news of his death left me much sadder than LeBron’s departure. Of the many things I love about the guy’s work is that Cleveland was a front-and-center character.

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