George Slaboch is dead.

About ten years ago I did a “direct mail” campaign for my piano teaching business where I made a few hundred photocopies of a hilarious “flyer” and put them in mail boxes by hand. Well, one of those flyers ended up in the hands of an ivory tower snob who handed it over to a friend of his in his morning cardiac rehab class. The recipient of that flyer was a cantankerous, self-proclaimed-Bohemian tool and die maker with the thickest, most classic Chicago accent I’ve ever heard in all of my life. 

A few weeks later, George Slaboch called me up and asked if I was still taking students. I told him yes. A year later, he left, and by that time, I had taught him how to read, how to count, how to work alone and effectively, and helped him find for himself a context in which his musical progress could be ascertained because he was always hung up on knowing where he was “at”. (Those Chicago proposition-ending sentences.) 

He and I would talk and do the occasional lesson every once and again when he would ask for it, and I’d oblige him. He was a troublesome student–ornery, I daresay–but lots of fun. 

He was about 5’9” and had a crescent shaped indentation in his skull from an anyeurism he recovered from. He had troublesome hearts in his family, and had had congestive heart failure a couple of times, but he had a bulletproof will, and none of it kept him down. For me, probably the most fun thing about him was his down-to-brass-tacks attitude as a tool and die maker coupled with  his having endured many legitimate hardships and struggles, it enabled him to sling bullshit artfully. 

Being a serious person while being dull, or being a prolific bullshitter with no real skills, is facile and unimpressive, but when you can talk the talk, walk the walk, make ‘em laugh and make it count all at the same time, I think you’ve got something, and George had it. 

A few years later, I gave him a call because I wanted to make a writing tool I couldn’t buy, and I needed his help picking a machine on which to make it. He helped me choose it, get a good deal, clean it up, get it running, and taught me how to use it. He taught me how to make my own tools for it, coached me through the basics of effective operation, and was the guy I called to tout my successes all the way up until the last time I talked to him. He was the only person I could call who I knew would understand when I had a [seemingly] insoluble problem and he was the first guy I’d call when I wanted somebody to be proud of what I figured out how to make. 

He and I had a good time.