Yesterday I went to the memorial for Jackie McAllister: Scotsman, artist, art historian and friend. I wanted to share what I read at the chapel for anyone who knew him and couldn’t join us in the celebration/remembrance of his life. Wrote this at dawn yesterday:
When I was little, my mom, who was born in Bellshill, a little town right outside of Glasgow, which is kinda like the Gary, Indiana of Scotland, used to sing me a song that went like this:
O ye canna shove yer Granny aff a bus, O ye canna shove yer Granny aff a bus, O ye canna shove yer Granny ‘Cos she’s yer Mammy’s Mammy O ye canna shove yer Granny aff a bus. Ye can shove yer ither Granny aff a bus. Ye can shove yer ither Granny aff a bus. Ye can shove yer ither Granny ‘Cos she’s yer Daddy’s Mammy Ye can shove yer ither Granny aff a bus.
There were other versus, but you get the idea. For decades, I thought my mother made this song up.
Jump ahead more than 30 years later. Jackie had invited me to an opening at Fisher Landau so I got gussied up, hopped on the train and made my way there. Turns out, I got there on the wrong day. Jackie, who was sitting behind the desk, found this extremely amusing and instead of telling me to come back the next day, gave me a tour of the place. Somewhere in the middle of conversation, we started talking about Scotland and out of the blue, he started singing the “Ye Canne Shove Yer Granny Off a Bus” song. I was in shock. I thought my mom wrote that song. “No!” I said and he told me most Scottish people knew the song. I’d just seen Warhols I didn’t know existed but THIS was the most shocking revelation that day.
Another revelation: Jackie was nice, a good person who was willing to entertain an elf-ear-wearing burnout when he probably had a lot of work to do. And that’s something that can be said about everyone who worked at American Fine Arts where I first met him. I was working for another gallery at the time, was probably 22 and went there to pick up a Mariko Mori bio I think. I was used to being ignored or treated like a freak at most galleries but Colin de Land who ran AFA embraced my weirdness and kept inviting me back because the whole crew there embraced weirdness: the freaks, the ignored…the individuals.
When I was a teenager, I used to wish I’d been around during the ’60s, either to be part of Warhol’s Factory, a musician or even a groupie…anything cooler than the present, but at 40 I can look back and say I’m grateful to have come of age in the ’90s if only to have met someone like Jackie. Trust me: No one at the Factory had a smile like Jackie’s and I’m guessing no one there knew the ‘granny song’ or would bother to sing it to you. Jackie was genuine, funny and kind. And at the end of the day, you can do a lot in whatever field you choose, be it art, physics, sports or anything, but to be genuine, funny and kind is a great accomplishment. And I’m sure anyone who knew Jackie would agree that he was all of these things.
I wanted to end with something Scottish. I looked through my book of Robert Burns’ poems and in the end decided not to butcher the Scottish accent so instead I plagiarized myself: I know the Lord or Lady or whoever is in charge giveth and taketh away, but the takething sucks especially for the living, all of who will miss Jackie tremendously.