Paul Moishe Kohl, OD

My dear friend died after 11 years plus of dying and reminding everyone that he had cancer for each and every one day he lived. That was his introductory statement to all newcomers. But the lives he touched and helped is a very incredible long list. Period. Exclamation Point. Below are three items. An article I wrote about 'us' in 1994. An image I made of him the last year of his life. This image is also on the site for the 2012 card. It is my impression of him in fetal position near the River Lethe. And lastly is the unspoken eulogy written for his Pacific University memorial service. Perhaps it is trying too hard to say all those things one doesn't really want to acknowledge & yet that was always the basis of our coffee talk.

Plant's Review of Books, 1994

Paul by the River Lethe  Summer 2012

March 21, 2013


Oh Paul, you have left us. You have no idea how I missed you and I have

thought about you everyday the past two years. I am still very sorry

that you and I had not talked for such along time. I met you in 1981 and

we were both bearded and not quite the cloth cut of white belted - white

shoed optometrists across America. Both from easterly directions we

somehow ended up in the west hoping for some Lewis and Clark

independence of the past holdings. He, always the seeker of fellow people

who knew who was the President of Freedonia or who was Rufus T Firefly.

I knew him as a scared grade school boy who hunkered down under the

apartment bathroom sink in fear of duck and cover politics of our atomic

childhood era. I knew him for his insight into the foibles of humans

and his ability to skewer people with that razor sharp decapitating

humor. I saw him humbled by the thought of bringing children into the

world and the atlas holding responsibility of teaching them how to live

when he was still validating how to live with his own good intellect and

fortune under the low ceiling skies of insecurity. He surrounded himself

with incredible good soulful people and was always so genuinely

surprised at how people loved him. I don't think 'love' was quite most

frequent vocabulary word that Paul uttered often and it certainly was

dwarfed by the past 11 years by the phrase, "I have cancer." That was

Paul. I have cancer. It could have been, I am a Jew. It could have been

I'm from New York. But in the last decade, it was I have cancer.


He was so stuck, in all the decades I knew him. He and I traveled to

Oakland in the middle 80s to see his climbing buddy. We listened to

Berlioz at Larry's house. We listened to Patrick Sky, to Doc Watson,

Lauro Nyro, Bob and Joan Baez and talked about Rory Block's father who

made sandals in Greenwich Village where I lived above Mamoun's falafel

shop. He gathered me up one night in March to photograph Cathy's first

born being delivered some 29 years ago. (tomorrow?)


So flash forward through all the accomplishments that you all know

about him. When I think about death and I see it and hear about it every

week in my work in geriatrics, -I see that people die like they live if

their mind is mostly intact. There is a sadness in Alzheimer's in that

vacancy. They really don't get an illusion of choice.  In Paul's 'I have

cancer' identity, my sense was that it was comforting that he wasn't

vaporized by a Hiroshima or turned into a lampshade at Bergen Belsen. It

was that bathroom refuge that he hid in refusing to go to school for

fear of an atomic attack. It was some armband badge that he made it

along a natural arc of life to approaching death. Maybe a little too

early. But no different than Meatball his dear cat. He really wanted

Maja happy and married. He really wanted Jess to face his demons with

some grace. He wanted to see his redwoods survive the hillside of his 12

acres. He wanted Cathy to be provided for. He wanted to follow the

changing foliage on the east coast from mid-America to the north. He did

not. I asked him 20 times to come on a hike in the Gorge with me; I

asked him to try a new place instead of Produce Row. But cautious

control was a rule of Kohl. And like Meatball the cat with its

attachment disorder personality, the cat and Paul could easily walk away

needing you. He wouldn't hike as it was not the same as rock climbing

that he and Larry had done upon their arrival in the west of the 1980s.

And it seemed that all I could give him was that sense of control in the

last score of months. I sent him some music despite no talking. And

years ago, we had talked about the play-list of tunes he was going to

have at his memorial and I am hoping that is here. As he and I both knew

that we humans have such deep veins of conceit, evil, humor, honor,

selfishness, stubbornness, brilliance and failure, yet we also knew that

music has such a deep archival voice of nature in recording human

insight in eloquence and so we always agreed that music can better

articulate the real 'us' should let the music speak about & to us.

And for both of us I think Carmen McRae is dead correct in interpreting

Thelonius Monk's tune 'Looking Back': "we just peek through the crack of

what is real and what is false." And perhaps this is the crux of my dear

brotherly friend Paul, he worked hard at knowing what was good.bad,

true.false, those dualities and his trying to find

where is the needle pointing today on the compass path? He was such a

good hearted tender person without his really needing to put on some

critical evaluation scale. I have cancer. Yes you did; but get over it.

 ~ A. J. Zelada