My old friend Maury Chaykin has died.
What people are saying about him is true -- he was a gentle soul, a modest person but also wicked funny and very kind.
He lived near me in an ordinary downtown Toronto house that he'd bought shortly before we met. He was having it renovated slowly, doing things properly. He'd invite me over for dinner, but mostly to inspect and comment on his latest project. One evening, I was sitting on a huge couch with my legs almost sticking out straight, clutching a massive glass of something. I said: 'Christ, Maury, coming here is like visiting the Friendly Giant.'
Cracked him up.
Another story. I was in a bad patch. We were talking on the phone. He said: 'I know what you need. Be out front of your place in ten minutes.'
Ten minutes later, he rolled up in a whale of a convertible. He told me what it was -- I've forgotten -- something from the 60s, beautifully restored. It was summer, the top was down. We drove and drove and drove and wound up at a Chinese restaurant in a strip mall in Mississauga where he ordered a bunch of food. I wasn't paying attention -- it was always good policy to let Maury order -- so when the waiter put down one dish, I was surprised when he said: 'There. That's what you need. Pink chicken balls.'
He told me he loved living in Toronto because while people recognized him, they didn't come up and bother him like Americans did. I saw it happen many times. People would look at him, do the double-take, and by the time they looked again, he'd be smiling at them. They'd smile back. That was it.
So, the last time I saw him, it was by chance on Spadina, in front of -- what else? -- a Chinese restaurant. He hadn't seen me, so I came up behind him and said: 'Hey, aren't you Maury Chaykin? Can I have your autograph?' He turned with a polite smile, saw it was me, and swept me up in a big hug.
A good man. The world is poorer today.