The B was for Brunello, reputed to be his favorite wine. He was an odd, particular and sometimes annoying man, but, when I heard of his death this week, it hit me hard. I didn’t realize how much I had grown to appreciate Jim and his unique weirdness. I’m going to miss him.
It isn’t that Jim and I were really more than acquaintances. I didn’t know him as well as others surely did, but we became familiar with one another through years of shared restaurant dining rooms and barrooms where jazz trios appeared and played two sets on Fridays.
Jim’s enthusiasm for a well prepared meal, some good red wine and quality live music was a genuine joy to witness. We first met nearly 20 years ago when I worked at McGuire’s on Lark. He tended to come in late, always solo, and ate with the chopsticks he brought with him.
My interactions with Jim were initially awkward. Often I couldn’t discern what he was trying to say because his voice was so soft and muffled. After a time I figured out his tempo and was able to hear and understand him better. I was always happy to see him and chat.
In recent years I’ve encountered him most frequently at the bar at Cafe Caprricio or on walking on Delaware Avenue. I’m pretty sure I saw him less than a month ago walking in the neighborhood, somewhere near Emack & Bolio.
It feels that recently, at least. Who knows? Covid time is weird.
I didn’t sleep well last night. When I woke up at 1:29 and 3:40 and 5:25, I immediately thought of Jim and felt sad. Rest In Peace, Jim Ullum. Your seat will be hard to fill.