On 9.24.22, or roughly 19 months ago, I tapped out a longish piece about a traumatic encounter with an old pally inside Wilton’s Village Market.

Although I’d regarded this guy as a great friend and an excellent human being for decades, he’d alarmingly turned into a wokester fanatic sometime in ’20 or ’21 or thereabouts. Goaded by his three Millennial-aged daughters, he’d decided I was suddenly allied with society’s bad guys and that I’d more or less become some kind of suppressive, anti-feminist, Harvey Weinstein-like figure.

I’ve seen red over a few things in my time, but my mind turned into molten lava when the Chance Brown condemnation came down. How fucking dare you?

I didn’t mention his name in the Village Market piece, but referred to him as “Strelnikov” as his chilly ranting reminded me of Tom Courtenay‘s communist enforcer in David Lean‘s Doctor Zhivago (’65).

His actual name was Chance Browne, a cartoonist (“Hi and Lois“) and musician and an all-around good fellow until the Great Awokening turned his head around.

I’m revealing Chance’s identity because (deep breath) he died last Friday afternoon from pancreatic cancer. His family requested radio silence at first, but Chance’s sister broke the news on Facebook a day or two later, and I’m figuring “okay, olly olly in come free.”

Here’s what I posted a day after his passing:

“The greatly talented, often joyful and widely beloved CHANCE BROWNE has left the earth and has merged with the infinite. He is now at one with legendary astronaut Dave Bowman at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, gazing down upon our blue planet with a certain childlike amazement.

“Chance passed yesterday afternoon (Friday, March 1st) around 1 pm. Taken down by pancreatic cancer, which he had only recently discovered.

“My heart is broken but what else can I or anyone else say? This is obviously a different deal than the passing of John Lennon (43 years and 2 months ago), and yet it feels emotionally similar in a certain way. To me at least. This sounds kinda silly but I thought Chance would just keep on Chance-ing forever. I really did. I thought he’d just keep going. I really thought we all had an eternal lease on life.

“I am shocked and thrown by this terrible waffle-iron…this feeling of having been clobbered on the side of my face or my head or whatever. I haven’t felt this shocked and thrown by the passing of a good and gentle soul in such a long time. But it’s happened. We may as well grim up and face it and join hands and ask ourselves who we are now and who we used to be, and where we’ve been and where we’re all going. We’re all getting there, no exceptions. Chance has simply left a bit earlier. He’ll almost certainly be waiting.”

Chance found out that he was more or less doomed a month and a half ago. On the afternoon of 1.17.24 he messaged a mutual friend, Mike Connors, as follows: “I have bad news, my brother. I just got diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer (!). I’m starting chemo tomorrow. I feel like dice must feel when they get shook up and thrown down the table. I may last another six months to a year or more with chemo. I love you and I’m sorry to leave the party too soon. I’ve got some time so we’ll talk.”

Alas, this never happened. This message was their last exchange.

Untimely passing cartoon, roughed out by Chance 11 or 12 years ago:

Answering Service Wars,” posted on 10.26.15:

Great Wilton Reservoir Binoculars Incident,” posted on 6.26.20:

Sometime in ’75 or ’76 a dispute about character and responsibility arose between myself and cartoonist-musician Chance Browne. It stemmed from an accident that happened on a wooded hilly area near the Wilton reservoir. Here’s an account that I believe to be honest and reasonably thorough:

Chance, myself and a likable, somewhat eccentric fellow named Mike Connors (currently living in Madison, Wisconsin) were hiking around the reservoir for some reason. Early fall, pleasant weather. Our nature-tripping motive may have had something to do with Chance having recently bought (or been gifted with) an expensive pair of big binoculars, or nothing to do with this — I can’t recall. But he definitely had them looped around his neck.

I distinctly recall singing Jimmy Cliff‘s “The Harder They Fall” as we strolled around, and Connors joining me at one point. A nice settled vibe.

We eventually rested on a fairly steep hillside. Surrounded by pine trees, pine needles covering the ground. Chance was lying directly in front of me, and Connors was off to my right, occupying roughly the same lattitude. Chance appeared to be napping, but I knew he was just resting his eyes.

The binoculars were resting on Chance’s chest, but the strap wasn’t around his neck. Being the perverse type, I saw an opportunity. I grabbed a longish stick (a sturdy, not overly brittle portion of a tree branch) and leaned over and very carefully hooked the binocular strap with the stick and slowly lifted the binoculars off Chance’s chest.

Connors was watching with amusement. Chance had opened his eyes and was definitely aware of this — he was intrigued with how I’d managed to hook the strap extra gently and just so, and was now about to take possession.

Snap! The stick broke and the binoculars tumbled off Chance’s person and rolled down the hill, which was angled at a good 45 degrees. They rolled and dropped out of sight so quickly we barely had time to react. “There goes $200 fucking dollars!” Chance cried out. We all got up just in time to see his prized possession crashing into a ticket of vines and leaves and fallen branches below, and for all we knew further down the hill and into the water.

Chance angrily told me to retrieve the binocs. For some reason Connors joined me. Chance was yelling at both of us. I naturally felt guilty but not entirely since Chance had gone along with my looping the binocular strap, etc. Connors and I ass-crawled down the hill (it was too steep to stand up) and searched high and low. Alas, to no avail. We looked and looked and looked, but the abyss had swallowed the binocs whole.

Chance told me a while later that he could tell Connors and I were laughing as we scrambled down the hill. I was sorry but I couldn’t help it. Chance had told us how expensive they were so how could we not? Naturally I was doing everything I could to suppress my mirth, not wanting to anger Chance further. I certainly made no sound.

“How could you tell we were laughing?”, I asked. “I could see your shoulder blades moving,” he said.

The next day Chance insisted that I replace the binoculars. I said I felt guilty but that it was half his fault because he didn’t stop me. I added that it wasn’t my intention to send the binocs down the hillside, and that the stick, which again was not dry and brittle but greenish, had snapped of its own accord.

My basic response was that the incident was “an act of God.” I told Chance I was willing to go halfsies ($100) but I didn’t feel wholly responsible. We argued about it but I held my ground, and eventually he dropped it.

Persecution Complex,” posted on 10.29.20.