Terry was very much a Whitman – in the tradition of the great poet and namesake Walt.
Pull up a few Walt Whitman quotes and you hear both the brilliance and the constant examination and re-examination which drove yet plagued both Terry (who passed away last Friday at his home in Bishop) and Walt.
“Re-examine all that you have been told … dismiss that which insults your soul.”
Or “I am as bad as the worst, but thank God, I am as good as the best.”
For the past eight years, Terry worked as a manager at Yamatani Restaurant in Bishop. Before that, he was a longtime right-hand man of Tim Dawson’s at Nevado’s Restaurant in Mammoth. Dawson knew him for forty years.
He was difficult alright. Damn right he was difficult. Which is seemingly, inevitably, a by-product of talent.
As Robbie Tani said in his trademark deadpan, “If he [Terry] had a thought in his head, he just had to express it … it’s a good thing sushi doesn’t get cold.”
He grew up in Indiana. The Purdue side. He was, Dawson attests, a bit of a prodigy. Skipped grades. Advised his teachers as to the best manner in which to teach their lessons (and those who knew Terry can imagine how this instruction was delivered). Read prodigiously until the day he passed. Knew how to do every job at his place of employment, and even though never pressed into action, insisted to Robbie Tani that he could handle the sushi bar if need be.
Both Tani and Dawson trusted Terry with every aspect of their businesses – even the sensitive financial aspects. At Yamatani, Terry was trusted with the office work, the safe, had started to do more of the ordering. At Nevado’s, he was a signer on checks.
As Spike Todd said this week, Terry was the kind of guy whom you could count on in the clutch. “He’d give you the shirt off his back … now, you might not want the shirt,” said Spike with a laugh, a commentary on Terry’s unselfishness, as well as his attire.
Terry was the kind of guy who had a pair of shoes for every outfit.
And the kind of guy who remembered the little details about what people needed and/or wanted. Tani said Terry would often special order wines for certain customers.
The reason Tani knew something was wrong last Friday was simply because Terry didn’t arrive to work on time. That had never happened before. “He would never not show up.”
“He was dependable as the day is long,” said Dawson, who told the following tale involving Chip White, one of Terry’s original mentors in Mammoth.
Terry had gone home to visit family in Indiana when Mammoth received early snow. White, according to Dawson, called Terry and said he had to get back home – they’d be opening right away.
I’ve got a bus ticket for next week, Terry purportedly replied.
I don’t need you next week, growled White. I need you now.
So Terry hitchhiked back to Mammoth from Indiana.
In my wife’s last conversation with Terry, he mentioned that he was rereading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k.” Which is, of course, ironic in one sense because that was not Terry – he gave a f**k, alright. He cared deeply about his community, his country, where things were headed. But in a greater sense, it was always my impression that Terry just wanted to bark less and wag more, and sure, this book was no spiritual treatise, but we take our inspiration where we find it.
Maybe this is what caused Tim Dawson to remember with a wry chuckle. “You know what Gregg Allman said after his fifth divorce? By God, maybe it’s me.”
There was one point not too long ago where I forgot to deliver the paper to Yamatani on Friday as is customary. So I walk in Saturday and Terry says, “Geez, I was really worried about you. You know, I thought maybe it was over.”
“Nah, Terry,” I said. “If it were over, I’d give you some advance notice.”
Which, I now think ruefully, he did not give to me. Probably for the better. Another week and this column would be maudlin.
Which Terry would have hated.
As Robbie Tani said, Terry was a prickly pear. And you look up a prickly pear, and find out they’re actually sweet, and that there are a ton of ways to prepare them, and sadly, the guy who could most likely tell you off the top of his head exactly how to do it isn’t here anymore.
Terry was an all-timer. He will be missed.