(Slapsie Maxie enjoying a remarkable Italian repast at Ferraro’s two weeks ago.)
I’ve had the opportunity to visit with both Kerry Simon and Max Jacobson recently, so I thought a short post was in order for those of you who are always asking about them and wondering how they’re doing.
For those who don’t know the story, both suffered severe health setbacks over the past couple of years: Max by being hit by a car as he was crossing a street in broad daylight; Kerry by being afflicted with Multiple System Atrophy — a particularly virulent form of Parkinson’s Disease. It was so sad, and so bizarrely coincidental, that within a few months of each other, Max sustained his severe head trauma just as Kerry began his long slide into neuro-muscular degeneration.
Thus did Las Vegas lose two of its most prominent personalities at the exact time it was beginning to emerge from years of gastronomic purgatory brought on by the Great Recession.
Now that things are on the upswing, neither of them is in a position to enjoy the bounty our great restaurants are once again placing before us, but if there’s any good news to this story it is that one of them (Max) is making a slow, steady recovery (see above), while the other still has a twinkle in his eye:
As for Max, he isn’t who he was, but he’s a far sight better than I remember when I visited him in the hospital a month after the accident. We had a whale of a time being treated by Mimmo and Gino Ferraro to their new menu, and although his speech is measured, and his gait uncertain, he clearly still has the capacity to enjoy a great meal. (Molto grazie the Ferraros and to über-Italian chef Enzo Febbraro for arranging the entire evening.) According to Max’s wife, Setu, it may take another year, but fingers are crossed that his brain injury may yet be licked, and we can get him back to writing again.
MSA is another, more insidious condition entirely. There’s no cure when your brain, nerves and muscles decide not to work together, and Kerry is now confined to a wheelchair, cannot speak, and requires constant assistance. In spite of all that, he still seemed to have a whale of a time of his own last weekend, at a birthday party thrown for him at his home. As close friends from his culinary and rock-n-roll life streamed in, he received and recognized every one with a smile on his face and that familiar gleam in his eye.
As I stood in Simon’s kitchen, watching his well-wishers arrive, all I could think about was a message he sent me a couple of years ago. Out of nowhere, as I was driving down south Rancho, a text popped up on my phone:
Kerry Simon – How are you, John?
“Why in the world is Kerry Simon asking me how I’m doing out of the blue like that?” I remarked to the Food Gal. She had no answers and we blissfully continued down the road, unaware that he had received his diagnosis by then, and was reaching out to friends and acquaintances — while he still could — to hear a little good news for a change.
I finally did reply “Fine!” a few days later, but it was months before I heard the bad news about his disease, and realized what was really going on with that text.
Kerry Simon and I were never close friends. At most, we were colleagues who needed each other as we plied our respective crafts. But deep down, even as I ragged on him to make better use of his talents and he implored me to remove the 2×4 from my ass, we respected each other, and it was always good to see his face and chew the fat for a few minutes.
But no one cares about that anymore. All that matters now is that Kerry Simon has been dealt the cruelest poker hand of all. It’s the hand the all of us eventually draw, but most are lucky enough to postpone for another few decades of enjoying life, nature, music, great food and the wonderful people we call our friends.
About the only thing close to being stricken with a fatal disease in your youth or middle age is being run over by a car while you still have decades more of fine living to do. Both Max and Kerry show more courage getting out of bed in the morning, every morning, than the rest of us cowardly, self-obsessed, ego-driven wretches will ever know. And it is their friends and families who are making their difficult journey worth it for them, and who make the opening their eyes in the morning something they look forward to.
Think about that the next time you ignore — or take your good sweet time — responding to a text from someone you like or love…or from someone who is always telling you (with a twinkle in their eye) to take that stick out of your ass.