In Memory of Julian Baird

In Memory of Julian Baird

Some part of me kept me from editing this (the second part of the film "A Portrait of Julian Baird" from 2 1/2 hours down to 90 minutes for the past two years. It's physically possible to do it, I just didn't want to do it. Part of me didn't want Julian to pass away either, and so maybe that's what stopped me from editing him. Apologies for the length. I remember his lectures took about two hours, so think of this as an extended lecture. In honor of his passing I've put this second part of his interview together and just let it be what it is. For those who loved Julian it will be a bit like getting a chance to sit with him once again, and for that reason I'm leaving it long. But hearing of his passing this week, I realized I no longer had to worry about whether he might like this particular part, or if he felt another part was too long.

I wouldn't be robbing him of two more hours of his life to watch my edit of his life. It is what it is. Thanks to Elaine for giving me access to him and your lovely home, and putting up with my questions. I think you'll enjoy this. I offer this portrait out of love for a man who certainly influenced my path and journey, and although Julian was a firm advocate of consciousness ending at death's door - as he put it "Why would I care if I lived before or if I'm going to live again? I'm having too much fun enjoying this lifetime" - I'm of the mind that I'll get a chance to see him again. 

We spent some hours talking about it - and I admire how his mind worked in refuting what he considered wishful thinking. To me, he embodied wishful thinking, as he taught me that what I thought mattered. He taught me to ask questions that I didn't know the answer to. And I've been doing that my whole life. So here it is - part two - the story of the young boy growing up on Texas, a million miles from Oxford and Harvard - and yet somehow he earns scholarships to both places. He lived many lives in this one lifetime - I'm only sorry I didn't get to spend more time hearing his insights - his teachings if you will, which are within this piece. So think of it as attending a lecture of Julian's, and the subject is himself - and he gives it to us in an unvarnished fashion, filled with great laughter and insight. Enjoy.

As promised:  A Portrait of Julian Baird Part 2.



My thoughts when I heard he'd passed:

What a prince! Greatest teacher I've ever known, quickest mind i ever met, his mind like a lightning bolt, to earn a laugh from him was an achievement, quite thrilling. So glad i got the chance to reconnect with him, hear his laugh once more, and am looking forward to hearing it on the flipside. Bon voyage Julian, and thank you for your friendship.

Here's the obit from the Cape Cod paper: - he talks about this in part 2 - Imagine him - a poor boy living in a small town in Texas, a million miles from Harvard and Oxford - and yet he won scholarships to both schools.  And another scholarship to get his doctorate at Harvard - the man was the most amazing mind I've ever met... well, see for yourself.

 The Cape Cod Times Obituaries
Julian Baird

Posted Aug. 26, 2015 at 2:01 AM

Julian Baird
ORLEANS - Julian T. Baird of Orleans, MA, died peacefully at home of leukemia on August 22, 2015.

Born in Harlingen, TX in 1938, Julian received his Bachelor of Arts Degree Magna cum Laude from Harvard College in 1960, his Master’s Degree from Oxford University (Wadham College), and his PhD from Harvard University in 1968.

Julian was Chairman of the Department of General Education at Boston University until 1980 when he left the academic community to pursue his growing interest in art. He purchased Tree’s Place in Orleans in 1981 and transformed it into one of the nation’s leading galleries of representational art.
After his retirement, Julian served on the Board of Trustees of the Cape Cod Symphony, and of the Cape Cod Art Association. He was a member of the St. Botolph Club in Boston and served on its Art Committee. He was a member of Artists for Humanity/Boston and served on their Advisory Board.
Julian is survived by his loving wife of thirty years, Elaine, his brother, Stephen, of New Braunfels, TX; his nephews Timothy Baird, of Richmond, VA; and Christopher Teitleman of Newton, MA; his nieces Lisa Gilbert, of Southlake, TX; and Beth Maly of San Francisco; and several grandnieces and grandnephews.

Memorial donations may be made to the Cape Cod Symphony or to the Animal Rescue League of Brewster.

 For his 75th birthday, Julian Baird sent out an unusual invitation. 

"As you now know, I have been diagnosed with Leukemia with an indeterminate life expectancy. HOWEVER, I shall certainly live to see my 75th Birthday and perhaps another beyond that. But I have decided that 75 is a big deal. It is a very respectable age to have lived the very full life that I have had to date. I have decided that I do not wish to be toasted after I am gone, but rather be roasted at a wonderful party that I can personally enjoy and attend while I am still with us all. So you are invited to a helluva big event on the Sunday when you and many others that I am inviting can come. Chamber music by members of the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra (piano and musical programming by our Cape Cod Conservatory Director Stephanie Weaver.) Jazz group by CCSO members. And for a special treat, some music by James Montgomery and his lead guitarist of the James Montgomery Blues Band (Jimmy is a much beloved former student of mine in my old B.U. teaching days.) A delicious New England themed buffet dinner, and after everyone is seated with this and has been suitably satiated, a little roasting of Julian (hopefully reasonably benign) by persons representing important times and favored activities of my life so far. There is a dance floor, and music, dancing and libations will be available until the Cape Codder Resort will close us down. I suspect that none of us will last that long, but it will be there for anyone who wishes. I am expecting well over 100 friends at this, so you never know. So I am delighted that you can join me for my 75th Birthday Bash!!! No gifts -- just your presence. Julian"

I met the one and only Julian Baird my freshman year at Boston University. He was teaching Humanities at DGE. Coming from a small town in Texas, Julian had gone to Harvard on a scholarship, then to Oxford and finally returned to Harvard for his graduate work - all on scholarships. To say he was bright, a genius, is to not really encompass the concept. Then after the politics of John Silber, the new BU President, Julian left academia and decided to buy an art gallery/knickknack store in Orleans MA. Based on his gift for understanding art, and understanding how to communicate it - he became one of the most successful dealers on the Cape, and as you'll hear in this loving testament, changed the lives of those who came into his orbit.

When I got the invite, I asked if he had anyone recording the event for posterity. Apologies for sound and lighting, this was done on the fly, and is labeled "Part One" because I got an extended interview with him the following day that covers everything, from Greek History to Beowulf, from his journey from Texas to the hallowed halls of Harvard, from his coin flip to decide whether to go to Yale or Harvard to becoming one of the most beloved people on Cape Cod. So this is just a taste of Julian Baird...

And in case you missed it:  Part One


One final note.  And it's a personal one.  

After he was my teacher, I used to write Julian postcards from various places I went. I went to school in Rome, traveled Europe, and I'd always send him a funny postcard. This kept on until the mid-1980's, until one day I got a postcard from his ex-wife, who wrote "Sorry. Julian died of brain cancer. Please stop writing."

I was devastated.  I called some friends who knew him and told them - Julian had died.  We all mourned him, the greatest professor we ever had.  But he wasn't dead.  It was just that NASTY SOB EX WIFE OF HIS who shall remain nameless, who had the insane idea to WRITE ME THAT TRAGIC POSTCARD.  

Honestly if I could do something to let her know how cruel and stupid and inhuman that was - I would.  But about four years ago, I was still thinking of Julian - some 30 years after I'd been told he was dead - and I wondered if anyone had made a memorial page for him on Facebook.  And there he was, smiling, playing with his dog.  And I wrote whoever had created this page - and asked - who are you?  And he said "Hi Richard, how are you, it's Julian!"

I could not get over it - this ex wife robbed me of 30 years of his wit and knowledge and humor.  For no reason other than cruel spite - she was in the midst of a nasty divorce with him - but allowed her cruelty to spill over and onto me.  

Like a cesspool overflowing, and dumping some of its detritus onto an innocent person who happened to be walking by. I bite my thumb at her, I flick my thumb at her from the bottom of my tooth, I give her a fisted salute, and as many middle fingers as I can muster. (Last time I looked, I only have two.)

My travels to Tibet and India - I learned how people stew in their own juices - and as the Dalai Lama said "Anger would be useful if it made the other person sick that you're angry at.  It only serves to make you sick."  And "You can't control how other people behave but you can control how you react to them."

So, I'll react by saying, if I hadn't been so royally dissed by this anonymous woman, I never would have made these two portraits of Julian.  Combined, they're four hours of his wit and wisdom - either folks talking about him, or Julian talking about his life.  He's candid, funny, and completely open. I'm only sorry I lost 30 years of this lifetime of learning from him. Like losing the greatest Lama in the world, only to find out he went into a cave for 30 years.

The other night, after hearing of his death, about 3 in the morning, I was awoken by a dog's squeaky toy.  I don't own a squeaky toy. (It's a unique sound, and if you've heard it before, you know what I'm talking about.) We don't have a dog, and we have no dogs in our building.  I'm up on the top floor of a building with 7 floors, so the likelihood of having a dog's squeaky toy chirp in the middle of the night to wake me up is... well pretty remote.  I then thought "Hmm, I wonder if Julian had a dog and this is his sense of humor from the Flipside..." and then remembered that he did have one, and has a number of pictures alongside that dog.

I can't say that the squeaky toy was Julian waking me up with a laugh, but I wouldn't put it past him.  As he used to say "I'd agree with you, but then both of us would be wrong."

RIP Julian!

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