Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Howard Salmon: 'My Doctors Say I'll be a Goner by Year's End'

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Former Phantom Limbs drummer and Tucson artist Howie Salmon popped up on Facebook after dropping out of the social-media time-suck for a while—something most of us can fully relate to and understand.

Salmon's recent post, for those who love art, music and Tucson, came as a sad shock—but comments back were all about love and good wishes despite the fact he shared a pretty grim prognosis:

Please drop me a line while I'm still alive. I've got an aggressive brain tumor, and my doctors say I'll be a goner by year's end (that is, in 3 months). I plan on spending my remaining days drawing, painting, and blogging. If I know you, thank you for your friendship. If you want to write me, please do so sooner rather than later, because I'm getting a little foggier everyday...

Salmon said he's not taking visitors yet, but it seems that if you still have that old Tucson spirit in your heart and a fondness for Salmon, a plan needs to be made to visit, to help and share stories.

The best way to catch-up on what Salmon has been dealing with—cancer and an aggressive brain tumor—is to go to his blog at He continues to share his work and share updates. Get there, comment and send some love right back.

Like many of us in the Moldy Pueblo, I navigate many different worlds in our city with a small-town vibe. Most of what I find interesting is when worlds collide. This happened a lot when I returned to my hometown more than five years ago after being away for too, too many years.

The first month back, I attended services with my family at Temple Emanu-El doing what Jews call shul shopping—looking for a synagogue to join that fit my unique family. During Shabbat services that Friday night, a band was on the bima, playing most of the music that goes with a typical Reform Judaism service—but with a rock twist. It was enjoyable, and my kiddo liked it. I found myself focused on the drummer in the newsboy cap, pounding away with an occasional huge smile on his face.

I recognized that face, but it wasn't until I said hello to him after services that he reminded me why he looked so familiar—that he had played with the Phantom Limbs, and Al Perry and the Cattle. Yes, yes, I remember answering. I remember you. (Salmon was also loved for his punk scene fanzine, Slit, from 1980 to 1983)

After that, my son and I always ran into Salmon at the Tucson Book Festival, where he sold The Comic Book Siddur, a Jewish prayer book he illustrated. Of course, my son insisted we buy one and that Salmon sign it. I'd see Salmon at different shows around town, but my favorite run-in was the last Club Congress anniversary reunion show that goes up every five years, bringing bands together that were an important part of Tucson music and life when Club Congress first opened more than 25 years ago.

The Phantom Limbs were about to play, and Salmon was standing next to me—we had just chatted and danced through the previous band's set. I asked him why he wasn't going up, and he reminded me he had only played with the band for two albums. That's not fair, I said. He was fine, he said, with an easy-going smile on his face. And yes, his newsboy cap still snug on his head.

And Phantom Limbs set started ... and we danced, everyone danced and it was all good.

Love to you Howie, and prayers filled with art, music and healing, no matter the prognosis.

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