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A Tribute to KBOO Engineer & Programmer Jim Braun


I knew Jim Braun at KBOO for twenty years,  over which time I occasionally asked him to engineer a show for me.  He was always willing, and always  modest and self-effacing.  I only got to know Jim personally in the year before he died,  and I came to feel that he had taken a very bad lot in life--  being abandoned with his sister to a bleak orphanage, then losing his beloved sister when she died at an early age-- and turned it into sweet modesty and concern for his fellow beings.


The day before Jim died, he sent me a link to a video from 1944 of  three dancing, singing sisters, the Ross sisters,  performing a song called “Solid Potato Salad,”  and doing an uncannily limber, almost otherworldly triple-jointed dance.  The Ross sisters disappeared quietly into history,   but they left behind this video.   Jim has stepped quietly into history also, leaving  behind a sense of  ineffable sweetness with everyone who knew him.  When I got home after his memorial,  I thought over some of what I had learned about Jim from his many good friends who gathered and spoke, and quickly jotted the body of this rhyming poem.  The swiftness and the rhyme are both uncharacteristic for me-- I think Jim would be happy that in writing it I avoided what Billie Collins described as tying a poem to a chair with a rope and torturing a confession out of it. Perhaps I have been fortified by a helping of Jim’s solid potato salad.



Jim Braun Eats Potato Salad



with the Ross Sisters in Heaven



Mr. Engineer

straight as a bolt--

under his plain potato coat

a wild romantic


riding a boat

of the music he loved.

It carried him off

on a different sea--


Never indifferent,

it allowed him to be

a king and a pygmy

and a friend to all


who needed help when they

passed in the hall, or exchanged a word

that showed any spark, or might

be a flashlight in the dark.


Mr. Volunteer

humble as pie

to all appearance

a lonely guy


who hid his hipness

under layers of gray.


An artist in hiding--

when he passed away


friends  got together

and it became clear

that the help he provided

year after year--


the solid potato salad he gave-

was offered with a wish

that it could magically transform into

a different kind of dish,


The world  that he would like to see:

to dance while linking arms

tumbling with more joints than this world allows

and doing no one harm.






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