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  • A Tribute to Cool Hand Burbick from The Phelps' 2011

    From John's brain:

    If Steinbeck and Hemingway were read over the ambient beats of Mogwai, you would get the vibe of Mitchell Burbick. What's going on, Mitch? “Nothing” is usually the reply, but as we all know, sometimes “nothing” is a pretty cool hand. I have known Mitch for the entire time he has been here in Surat. We have even shared half-developed chicken fetus landmine eggs in Cambodia. Nothing freaks this guy out. He has a calm that that he carries unflinchingly.

    Traveling to Chiang Mai for Songkran with Mitch was awesome. We walked the streets and talked about his broken heart and post-rock by night. By day we posted up by the canal blasted people with buckets of dirty brown amoeba water. Just as the sun was going down one day, Mitch took a smashing bucket straight to the face and his tortoise shell deluxe vintage limited edition Ray-bans flew into the canal. Did old Cool Hand sit down and cry? Nope. He just jumped into the canal and fished around between the polio, chicken bones, and syphilis until he came up with glasses in hand! I don't even think his skin changed more than two or three tints.

    I once watched Mitch sit with sentinel-style poise as a motorbike crashed into his Suzuki from behind. He went down, but certainly maintaining a Steve McQueen grasp on all things nonplussed. Most people would take the opportunity to fly into an angry fit, but not Mitch. He was gracious about it, even though his body and 'Hello Kitty!' stickers had nearly been destroyed. (For those of you that don't know, this Kitty figure adorns Mitch as well as curry on chicken.)

    When he came over here, all dark and mysterious, I have to admit I had a little bit of a man crush. No, not a bro-mance. I didn't write him any sonnets or anything like that. I just figured we could do things like talk about engines, types of barbed wire, and guns... oh yeah, and sports and stuff. Since I am already married, I asked him if he would like to be our housemate. We had a few good months together, and then he fell hard for our huntress neighbor. He would go visit her for hours at night. He would come home smelling like her. Then, he even began to talk about her everywhere we went. Then he finally took her home. Her hair was everywhere, screaming infidelities. Then she shat on my floor. That feline is a home-wrecker!

    Even though Mitch may give you sarcastic crack and a wry smile sometimes, he has got the listening capacity of a dense forest of sequoia trees. There have been several times where I needed to talk to someone to get the junk out of my head. Mitch has offered his ears freely, without feeling that he had to fill up the conversational space with extra words. The words I leave with Mitch stay there, maybe getting soaked up by his roots and sent skyward to his leaves. This is a rare thing in people, and I enjoy this very much about him.

    My heart is heavy when I think about him leaving us for his next home in Japan. He is now an equipped teacher in addition to being a wise friend and man of solitude. He has cast a broad net in Surat Thani, and pulled many friends close. At the same time, he has kept his quiet life of reflection and poetry steeping and becoming ever stronger to the taste. He will be a gift to all those that receive him.