Remembering Chuck Sullivan

One fateful night while I was in college, I got into a fistfight with my dad. I stuffed a few clothes into a backpack, and disappeared into the night. Surely, I could have called upon a friend for a temporary place to stay, but I'm a pretty stubborn dude and didn't think I should have to ask for a place to stay. If I couldn't stay in my own home, then f### it all--I'd be homeless.

As it turned out, I'd been awarded a work-study job as a janitor at McKee Place School (an alternative school in the tradition of Summerhill, possibly comparable to democratic schools like Sudbury Valley School or The Circle School) and had been given a key to the building. So long as I entered the building after 10 PM and got my butt out of there by 7 AM, I could crash there and nobody would know the difference.

Founding member of The Little Wretches, CHARLES JOHN WAGNER, attended McKee Place School, as did later member of The Little Wretches, Rosa Colucci. Chuck Sullivan, Mark Gibson, Anne Gallagher and numerous other very creative people passed through McKee Place.

While I was crashing at the school, I heard a strange noise one night. I'm not sure who all was part of the group, but Mark Gibson and a few others were busting into the school through a window well, presumably to get high and party. They didn't expect to encounter me. I played it off as though I was cleaning the school, burning some midnight oil, so to speak, and the kids apologized and found somewhere else to party. Little did they know I was living there.

I remember Chuck Sullivan from McKee Place, but I didn't know him at that time. I got to know him a bit when he started to drum for bands in Pittsburgh's "punk" scene. I thought he was a great drummer. He played in a few really good bands, but most notably, he was part of the rhythm section of STICK AGAINST STONE. In tandem with Dick Vitale, Chuck helped to put a driving pulse behind a band that anticipated RUSTED ROOT by a solid decade. I mean, Rusted Root was a great band, but after having heard STICK AGAINST STONE, it was difficult for me to hear them without comparing the two. For me, there really was no comparison. I was and remain a STICK AGAINST STONE fan.

Anyhow, Chuck Sullivan eventually settled in Portland. He and I jousted a bit on Facebook, he being a staunch atheist and me being a Christian. Though he and I disagreed on matters of faith and eternity, we were very much aligned when it came to values. Chuck Sullivan never failed to challenge me, to force me to be consistent, to think and write clearly. Chuck became one of those people whose words I looked forward to reading and whose approval I sought.

Today is Chuck Sullivan's birthday, and I miss him.

 

8 comments

  • Brook Duer
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    Thanks for this. Chuck and I shared much in common at an intense time in our youths. We were part of that Stick Against Stone rhythm section, a project for which I still have much respect. But we also occupied very similar roles as Dick Vitale's devoted sidekick which was not a healthy thing. I saw Chuck fall into a trap I had just gotten out of. We talked about it a lot in later years. Chuck was a reliable source of thought-provoking conversation.

    Thanks for this. Chuck and I shared much in common at an intense time in our youths. We were part of that Stick Against Stone rhythm section, a project for which I still have much respect. But we also occupied very similar roles as Dick Vitale's devoted sidekick which was not a healthy thing. I saw Chuck fall into a trap I had just gotten out of. We talked about it a lot in later years.
    Chuck was a reliable source of thought-provoking conversation.

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