Al Young and Jimmy Lynn at the Berkeley Bowl, circa 2005
Late in the afternoon of July 14, 2011, the singer Dima telephoned to sadly tell me our pal Jimmy Lynn (officially James C. Lynn) had died. His landlord, Chris Martin, who lives next door to Jimmy’s West Street apartment in South Berkeley, had found Dima’s phone number on the floor next to Jimmy’s body and phoned her. Chris told me he had noticed a Whole Foods paper grocery bag, which had been sitting in front of the door for several days. It was actually a bag containing a carton of chicken soup, two squares of cornbread, a bottle of water and receipts for two parking tickets that Jimmy had asked me to take care of. Seeing that the food had spoiled, Chris disposed of the bag. When Dima’s call reached me, I was sitting in my car parked outside Venezia, a popular Italian restaurant on University Avenue. I drove right over to Jimmy’s in time to see the Alameda County Coroner’s van and a Berkeley Police car in front of my friend’s residence. I rushed up his steps and was greeted by a policewoman and the coroner’s office agent. They asked if I knew the man. I told them yes, that I was probably his only friend. For how long? For more than 50 years. Does he have any kin? No. Would you be willing, the policewoman asked, to help arrange a funeral or burial for him? I’ll do what I can, I said. He always told me he wants to be buried beside his mother. Years ago they purchased a twin crypt. Where is the cemetery? At first I thought it was Chapel of the Chimes, but it was Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland …
Seated beside jazz singer Dima, Jimmy Lynn swaps stories with his old friend Sandy Simon at the memorial service for Jim Johnson, Jimmy and Al Young’s longtime buddy | Berkeley 2007
Photo: Carl Martineau
Al Young, Bobby Theseeker (a.k.a. Jimmy Lynn), and Diane Di Pisa at the March 2009 opening of Berkeley in the Sixties, an exhibit of black and white photographs of Berkeleyâ€™s lively Telegraph Avenue denizens taken by the late Elio Di Pisa, who managed the CaffĂ¨ Mediterraneum from the 1960s through the 1990s. When Al and Jimmy met in the summer of 1960, Jimmy — encouraged by the British physicist and novelist C.P. Snow — was still writing and editing his never-published novel, a 1000-page trilogy. Set largely in Mexico, the book’s thrill- and truth-seeking narrator is Bobby Theseeker (pronounced THĂ‰H-seeker). Jimmy Lynn, who kept a low profile, asked me to not identify him directly when this photo first went up at AlYoung.org in the photo-feature Spring in This World of Poor Mutts.
Jimmy Lynn tinkering in the backyard of his previous South Berkeley home
Photo: Sandra Simon
Jimmy Lynn in 2010 about to celebrate his 86th birthday at a brunch hosted by Sandra Simon at her Buddhist home close to the Golden Gate Bridge
a Kindness of Strangers snapshot
Al Young, Sandy Simon, Jimmy Lynn, and the Golden Gate Bridge bask in the light of an affection decades deep | Spring 2010
To be continued. Because he has no apparent next of kin and, despite my continuous nagging, did not leave a will, Jimmy Lynn, a retired longshoreman and writer, may likely be classified as an indigent by the County, which will cremate then bury his remains in Napa in a kind of pauper’s grave. His belongings may be plundered and his bank account and savings confiscated by the State. This is an outrage to the many people who, for much of his life, have known, cared about and loved this eccentric, intelligent, hard-working man. And so I have decided to write at length about my friend Jimmy Lynn: Alabama-born, Utah-reared, New York-seasoned, and California-tempered. Consider this start preliminary.
— Al Young
28 July 2011
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