Today we all got together at Heights Cigar to remember our friend, Nick Puglin. He was an original. He had flair, style, and personality in abundance. If you didn’t know him well, you might say irascible, set in his ways, and loud. But if you saw how he treated a total stranger you saw sincerity, kindness, and generosity.
Time in Time with Your Time
I met Nick Puglin at Heights Cigar when it opened some 5 years ago. Many an afternoon was spent listening to Nick bitch and moan about the unlucky picks he’d made in fantasy football, baseball, basketball, and golf, or God-forbid, a loss by the Steelers. It was epic. Nick and a couple dozen of us regulars formed a bond over the years that may come only from clouds of aromatic cigar smoke. Or the field of battle. For us, that would be chess, backgammon, poker, and arguments over bourbon about ancient astronauts. Nick was a bourbon man. He would often set a new one in front of me, going-on-and-on about it as only Nick could: “FANtastic!” “SuPERB!” “The BEST!” I can still hear him.
But what drew us together more than anything was our love for progressive rock from the 70s – especially the English group, YES. In my life I’d never met anyone named Nick who wasn’t my father and I had only one other friend who loved YES. In November 2016, Nick, his wife, and I went to San Antonio to see the now elderly members of YES perform in a beautiful Art Deco theater. Before the show, we met-up for steak and fine wine – real fine wine – at the amazing Bohanan’s Steakhouse across from the theater. They ran into Rick Wakeman of all people, on the River Walk that day – and got a selfie with him! It made Nick’s day. He didn’t need anything after that. Wakeman, the YES keyboard wizard, was Nick’s hero. The song Nick chose for his funeral mass yesterday was “Amazing Grace,” the long version performed by Wakeman and his daughter. The priest, at Nick’s request, allowed the full song to be played. Unprecedented, and perfect.
Nick knew for some time that he was dying. But he never showed it to us and wouldn’t admit it to anyone. In true Nick form, he made all the arrangements that needed to be made so his friends and family could just get together and enjoy the memories, drink bourbon, smoke cigars, and send him on his way. He was good people and good people were all around him today. We shall miss him. Vaya con Dios, old friend. Rest In Peace.
March 11, 2018
Nick and I had another thing in common – we both grew-up in Western Pennsylvania, he in Pittsburgh, me in The Allegheny Forest … it is surprising how many things we could talk about with that one commonality: the Steelers, the Pirates, the blessed Penguins, polka music, and Eastern European ethnic food, most importantly, kielbasa!
The title of this homage is in honor of Nick … it comes from a famous YES song, “I’ve Seen All Good People” … it’s a two-piece composition starting with, “Your Move,” a chess metaphor alluding to the complex mystery of interpersonal relationships … it could be the anthem for our little Paradiso on 19th Street
Nary a week went by that Nick didn’t stroll into Heights Cigar, plop an obscure YES CD in front of me and say, “Listen to THIS!”… I didn’t have the heart to tell him I had no CD player having switched to streaming 20 years ago … I truly enjoyed reading the liner notes though and always returned those CDs to him with rave reviews
I stopped listening to progressive rock long, long ago … I have Nick Puglin to thank for making me remember how much I loved that music when we were young
Wherever the hell Nick is now, I would not be surprised to find him drinking the BEST, most FANtastic bourbon, smoking a cigar, and moaning about his pathetic March Madness picks – rest in peace, my ass