Mister death

adi and boop

The day after I wrote about dancing with a handsome stranger who would take my life,  my mother woke up with a line stuck in her head that she couldn’t identify right away.

how do you like your blueeyed boy mister death.


She tracked it down.  A poem she had known by heart some 30 years earlier.


Buffalo Bill ‘s

                     who used to
                     ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat


he was a handsome man
                                                            and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death


e. e. cummings




The whole family has spent the last week getting used to the idea of non treatment.

There is no resistance.  We’re just all trying to imagine what it means.  To accept a hard reality instead of struggle against it.


I appreciate all the supportive comments.  I appreciate just as much, those of you who have written to respectfully disagree!  To encourage me to keep going with treatment.  And I imagine there are plenty of you who feel the same who simply aren’t writing in.  I WILL talk about this.  Soon.  I’m looking for the right words.


In the mean time, I’m enjoying having family gathered together for christmas.   I’m getting ready to grill a leg of lamb.  I’m riding my bike every opportunity I get.

53 Replies to “Mister death”

  1. Ezra, I’ve followed your blog for years after I found about it on your Flickr stream. I’ve even recommended reading it to a friend that got stomach cancer. He is now two years after complete remission.

    I wanted to say that I stand by whatever decision you make. And no treatment at all sounds just as logical as any other.

    What moved me to write now and not years ago is remorse.

    Last September I went to NYC and one and the few things on my to-do list was trying to stop by your home/shop and snaping a few pics of you and your bikes. Time went off flying and in the end I didn’t even try.

    I’ll be in NYC for the next fall and would really like to find you there sound and well and finally shoot that portrait. I hope that there’ll be a second chance.

    Please receive my best wishes for you and your loved ones,


  2. Ezra, been reading your texts for a long time. I think you are a deep, true soul. Whatever you may decide – non treatment included – is *your choice*, id est: freedom. I support you 100%, and my thoughts are always there with you.

  3. that photo is so intense. that poem makes my breathing go fast. my heart is so swelled up with love for you and your family, your dear mom and special ed, sweet hillary, warm putney, brothers and sisters, housemates, friends far and wide and the very special vermont house..ride that bike. do your cooking. that is exactly how i see you right now….xo

  4. I hope you can find a bit of comfort in knowing that you have touched hearts and inspired people all over the globe. You have taught us many lessons and you will continue to do so.

    And that’s a little bit of immortality there.

    Many warm regards to you and yours, Ezra.

  5. Sending much love to you and your family. Your courage, spirit, strength, grace, and warmth has inspired this stranger for such a long while now. Thank you for sharing so many of the beautiful things and the hard things with us. Have such a wonderful Christmas.

  6. Ezra, I don’t know if this will speak to you, but it has to me.

    Failing and Flying

    Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.

    It’s the same when love comes to an end, or the marriage fails and people say they knew it was a mistake, that everybody said it would never work. That she was old enough to know better. But anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

    Like being there by that summer ocean on the other side of the island while love was fading out of her, the stars burning so extravagantly those nights that anyone could tell you they would never last. Every morning she was asleep in my bed like a visitation, the gentleness in her like antelope standing in the dawn mist. Each afternoon I watched her coming back through the hot stony field after swimming, the sea light behind her and the huge sky on the other side of that. Listened to her while we ate lunch. How can they say the marriage failed? Like the people who came back from Provence (when it was Provence) and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.

    I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, but just coming to the end of his triumph.

    — Jack Gilbert.

  7. Merry Christmas Ezra…I have such fond memories of the few Christmases you spent at Faith’s…How great you were with the kids, and your cooking..Thomas still asks all of Jen’s boyfriends if he can call them Ezra…( they always say no)lol..I may be in the same boat as you…will find out in next couple of weeks..My CT scan lit up part of my sacrum…will get a PET scan soon…Only 1% of CR cancers metastasize to bone without going somewhere else first, so I’m tentatively optimistic. So I’ll be going to Disneyworld next week with friends…Christmas tomorrow at Faiths…Take care, Barb

  8. I’m sure there are a lot of us out here who are listening that don’t usually comment. I’ve been following your blog since it’s beginning and before on Flickr. I’ve been trying to imagine what it would/will be like in your position, and what decision I’d make, and I believe, from here, from not really being able to imagine, that I would make the same decision you seem to be making. It seems to be the rational one, weighing things up. Not really inclined to tell you this even, because its your decision and there are many many of us out here supporting whatever decision you make. And loving you even though we have never met you.

  9. Dear Ezra,

    I can’t begin to pretend to understand the breathe of your bravado and the swag of your gate. But what I do know is there is something called respect, and respect is what you have of my heart, stranger.

    This massive decision is your own and it’s the loneliest road for sure, riding your bike through wooded giants who have your back while their limbs follow yours. I can’t pretend to know what it is like to be you, and I won’t begin to pretend.

    I am at a loss for words, and I pray that the decision which comes to you is the decision which was meant for you. My heartfelt and honest love for you and your family.

    My best to you.

  10. We as Americans have a hard time with death. We fight against this inevitability of being mortal. Even our hospitals are illequiped to deal with a person dying. My wife is a hospice nurse and works for a non-profit hospice. It is a totally different mindset. Please consult with a good hospice. Hospice is not just for the patient. It is also for the family. The end should be peaceful and dignified. I wish you and your family the best. I hate cancer.

  11. I have been following your situation for a couple years now.

    It has been a real life story that I can relate to on my own personal level.

    Your recent news is incredibly sad. My thoughts and happiness go out to you and I wish you all the luck in these trying times.

    I would love to buy you a beer. I hope some day to get that chance.

    Keep breathing sir.

  12. *hugs*

    as ever – oh, ezra. i don’t know you in real life but your blog has meant so much to me for years, and i just wanted to tell you that i care deeply about you and that i appreciate and respect your decision to go with no treatment at this point in the game.

    i am proud of you and glad of your existence.

    i wish i could just shoot comfort beams out of my eyes and have them warm you without your knowing, you know? i wish i could do something to silently make it a little bit better. i hope i am able to do that with this, somehow. i hope it helps to know that there are total strangers here who care a lot.

    i’m thinking of you.

  13. That photo – like so many of your photos lately – is stunning. I don’t like that your poetry lately – written and remebered – fits together like that. So sad and beautiful and shockingly resonant. It makes it feel this was the path all along – from the very very beginning – and only now you see puzzle pieces falling into place. Is this what you meant by letting an answer emerge vs forcing an answer? Because I didn’t get that when you said it but I get it now.
    I hate that I get it.
    I hope y’all have the most amazing Christmas. So much love in that house. There I simply nothing better in this life. Thanks for your generosity and wisdom. I don’t like it but I’m starting to get it. Merry Merry Christmas everyone:)

  14. with love ezra, to you and your family ~
    i haven’t seen your mom for many years…please give her a big hug for me (maybe she will remember me?)

  15. e. e. cummings. yes. the only book of poetry I own is by him. writes kind of how I think. anyway, great poem.

  16. I love you, stranger-friend. You impress me over and over and over, you amazing being. I’m taking instruction. Thank you.

  17. Having followed your flickr feed through a mutual interest in bikes, and then this blog through the years of treatment, like a lot of folks, I am sure I feel like I know you. I don’t really. Hard decision, but yours to make and how you live is so important, the quality of life as unpopular as it may be, is sometimes more important than the quantity. I live an active life, and would not relish looking down the road of treatment that you have had, what three, four times.

    Burt Monroe who set the land speed record on an Indian Motorcycle when asked why he did it, said, “I live more on the back of that bike in a minute and a half than most people do in a whole year.”

  18. Ezra (Dezra when you were smaller–I don’t know how much smaller before you dropped the D), I don’t know you near as much as I’d like, with that big gap between when you were very small and when I just met you again last summer. But I know I love your family (hell, I had a wicked crush on your mom when she used to babysit for me when *I* was very small) and it is hard to comprehend or accept what you write here. No argument about your decisions–not really my place to opine, and, besides, you’ve got the math on your side–just sentiments that don’t quite form into words. I wish you and Hillary days of joy and a complete absence of regrets.

  19. Ezra, I have your Snow in Central Park photo hanging in my house and I think of you every time I look at it. You’ve touched a lot of people with your writings. Please continue. I wish you and your wife and family much happiness, even through all of this.


  20. Hi Ezra, I started following your pictures on flickr to impress a guy who was into bikes, and then there were all those amazing shots of Putney (when i lost interest in the guy that i tried to impress) and after that, there was your blog. I’ve been reading it ever since and only now I need to comment. You taught cancer to cry for a while, and you do now, in some way by being such an inspiring, gifted and strong person.
    Thanks for teaching me a lot of things, like enjoying the little things through pictures!
    Sending love all the way from Belgium.

  21. Hello Ezra,
    not that it is of any importance, but I think you’ve made the right choice. I can only hope you can end it all comfortably and at the moment of your choosing. Like it should be.
    I hope you, your family and friends can make the most of what’s left.
    It’s 100% unfair. But that’s something nature doesn’t bother about.

  22. big, huge, real love for you, and such respect!

    you have taught me so very much.

    happiest holidays, ezra, and showers of blessings. always and ever.

  23. i went to your etsy shop to buy myself a print or two but none were there. sigh. would be willing to barter for some of my porcelain open salts. (yeah, i know, you know know me. but i’m a putney person, as are you, and we are therefore siblings in some way.)

    your courage leaves me wide eyed. may this new year bring unexpected gifts.

  24. it’s you and your lady now, ezra. but i am (so) with you. i am thinking not only of you, man. but of hillary as well. all i got is with you, dude. ALL I GOT.

  25. Passed near Putney VT the day before yesterday, visiting with my sister and her husband and daughters for Christmas. My sister keeps her horse at a barn in Newfane and we were all there with my dogs, enjoying the sun and snow and company, and as I saw the sign for Putney I started telling them about you, your dog Putney Sue, your wife, friends, mom, stepdad, real dad, brothers, cooking, photography, bikes, frames, blog, ideas, faster-fast cooking videos, wood shop, metal shop, house in Harlem, runs in NYC, bike rides in NYC and up in the woods accessible from Metro North, and everyone was rapt for 30 minutes. Finally I mentioned that you had cancer and were thinking of finally just letting it run its course. A carful of people who don’t know you and will never meet you sat quietly, thinking of you, wishing you the very best of the possibly many days that remain. You are living a blessed life and have touched so many.

  26. Ezra…very sorry to hear this latest. Of course I hear some for the Putney crew, but your words are more honest than theirs…I am sad to hear it, but I know that you and your close team (Hillary, Sherry, Ed, Zach…maybe Shams?) have given your situation maximum thought – which means you can’t come up with a better answer than you have. And I am just guessing that you have envisioned all along that there might a come a day like this…when the answer was “no more of that shit for 20%”. It’s sad, it’s rough, it’s lousy…and it’s where you are and I wish you all the strength, dignity, love, courage to do what feels right. And I respect that this is not a fight, I like your words on that. Besides, by every important measure you won a long time ago. As you say, all our ships sail…if yours is scheduled a little sooner than originally planned, I hope the destination is warm, the drinks full of rum, the fish tacos delightful, and the biking superb. Come to think of it, write a post card and I’ll meet you there. Love, M (H&G too, though they don’t know I’m writing)

  27. Your blog and your story have been very important to me over the last couple of years. I’m in awe of your writing, your adventures in bike building, and your awesome cooking videos. Thank you for sharing it all with this stranger on the West Coast.

  28. Hi Ezra, I’m a long-time reader and admirer. I find your writing and photography very moving, and this brought me to tears. If I could chime in here, I for one think that as young as you are, there is an argument yet for treatment. If you were as old as the people in the photo, then perhaps not. You, however, have so much to lose, so many potential years to live with the richness and fullness you always seem to demand from life. You have a seemingly wonderful wife and many friends. Maybe you are too tired, but are these things perhaps worth trying to cling to? Perhaps this is just a situation with no good solution. I wish you peace and comfort.


  29. Such strength and beauty in the way you live — inspiring and humbling.

    As I read the last few posts, your calm and resolve reminded me of a favorite quote: “The opposite of fear,” Dienekes said, “is love.” (Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire)

    Whatever decisions you and your family make, I join all the other well wishers standing right behind you in support.

    Best wishes and warmest regards to you and your family, Ezra. Thank you for continuing to inspire us the way you do.


  30. Oh Ezra. I don’t read your blog for a couple months because of life-n-stuff and come back to this news. You brave, inspirational man. Nothing but strength and love to you and yours. Have an awesome New Year. I will raise a glass to you.

  31. It’s an odd feeling writing to a dead man. I spent the past year and a half rebuilding a dead man’s kitchen and other odd bits of work around his house. I spoke to him every morning just as sure as I am writing to you now. Some days were better than others and some days he appeared to be every bit of the ghost he would soon become.

    When it finally ended and death was beyond placating, I felt relief. It wasn’t joy or happiness, but just a general sense that a burden had been removed. I had the opportunity to speak at great lengths to someone who had the time and ability to prepare for the end. It was in a true sense a unique and very thought maturing engagement.

    This may sound odd, but in a way I am terribly jealous. Not many people ever have the chance to know when things will be ending, know when the world will close in about them. Without a doubt those closest to you will never be the same. They will mourn until the strength have left them utterly wasted. Even those of us who who have touched through your photos, your zest for life, and that little shack on the rocky coast will feel in some part a great loss.

    Enjoy what time you have now. Embrace those who you love dearly. Do those things you have always longed to do in the time you have to do them. I would say “be well” right about now but that is not going to happen. Instead I shall say this for I think you have already dome this.

    Live Well,


  32. When my mother had breast cancer that spread to her brain and liver, up until that point and until she passed away, I spent every day with her, and took her to chemo, shopping, cleaned her apartment, etc. I was just with her so she would not be alone.

    While we would spend hours in the hospital, many patients saw me come and go and for some reason or another I am still unsure of, many of them chose to talk to me, to tell me very personal things about themselves they were unable to say to their own loved ones.

    Something that I came to understand later on was that many of them seemed to need permission from someone, even myself, an anonymous stranger to stop taking any further medication. I believed i was the person they chose to first tell as if it were a practise run, a lesson in how to tell their families that they just wanted to spend the remainder of their lives as well and as happy as possible, rather than sick from chemo but it was important for them to also hear me tell them that I thought they were making the right decision for themselves and that they did have to do what they felt was right for them.

    There was something else that I noticed.

    When someone is going though the different stages of cancer and all the while attacking it with various meds, after a while, a false sense of security seems to overtake those closest. There comes a time where they almost step back into a stage of denial.

    Although they know intellectually that your time will be shorter than it would have been if cancer had not struck, it seems to go on for so long when you are so close to it, longer than you thought it would. You begin to feel that the person you love may not go after all.

    But then, one day out of nowhere, after perhaps months of very little change you begin the actual process of dying and this same loved one almost enters as second phase of having to accept your passing all over again.

    Personally, there is something beautiful about the person that decides not to continue with his or her treatment and chooses LIFE instead.

    Yes Life, thats what I said.
    By foregoing chemo and or other life saving or death delaying treatments you choose to live the remainder of you life not counting the time left but by the quality of time you will have while alive…..

    With the people I spoke to that chose Life, i think that some loved ones might have at first shown resistance but after acceptance, none seemed to experience this false sense of security I saw the others experience. There wasn’t any illusion about what was taking place but they were in a happier, less stressful place for the person they loved was happier. They weren’t sick but were able to enjoy themselves for a lot longer, as they weren’t being made sick by the treatment given and overall were also in a healthier spot mentally.

    Whatever you choose to do, do whats right for you!

    I mentioned in another thread 1 or 2 days ago, about the story of Stella, whose 2 mommies chose life for their daughter and I mentioned how it was both one of the most beautiful, albeit saddest stories I had read but I am sure you would love the story about her.
    In case you missed that post here is the URL once again!
    ( on the left hand side of the page )


  33. Sometimes there are no right words, or need for them. Some things are just meant to be close to your heart.
    Much love to you, dear friend.

  34. Every once in a while there are moments that remind me of….I don´t know….what it´s all about or what is really important. And remind me to better ignore all that irrelevant stuff that always tries to bother me.
    One of that moments happened right now, as I visited your blog after a few weeks of absence. I´m speechless, awstruck and unable to find words.
    (I read your blog for nearly two years now and you always leave me speechles.)
    I´m so full of sadness and at the same time admiration for your way. Thank you for sharing so much of your life with us, and thank you for inspiring us.
    All my love and best wishes are with you and yours.

  35. like “Alicia” wrote: “You have taught us many lessons and you will continue to do so.” –

    when i read your whole blog last summer from the start till the recent stuff, i hoped for days with/for you. and i won’t stop now although it sounds awful.

    please don’t bother explaining your decision. you don’t need to – except you want to. whatever you’ll decide is right.

    sending love and light from the northern part of germany and the sound of seagulls –

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