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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Celebrating Willie

When I met Willie in 1965

one thing led to another and he invited me to his 75th birthday party. That was yesterday.

 Norma took pictures.

We drove to Sonoma, which is nestled in a little valley near the coast. It's a pleasant trip on puzzling roads that all seem to go dreaming, like where Highway 12 West has signs that say "West" in both directions, even though it runs north and south. Highway 12 West-West (North-South)  follows clouds among vineyards. There are few traffic challenges except where fog crawls inland between hilltops. Automobiles are expected to stop for fog where it crosses the road. Fog has right-of-way.

When we arrived, we found Will had rented Burlingame Hall and hired caterers and a musician. There was champagne! I found other people Will had invited to his 75th birthday party since 1965. There were scads of  us.

What you see here is me, Will, Gimi --who I hadn't seen since maybe 1971-- and Kepley, who I met only once when he was dancing at a pow-wow in Yolo County in 1968. The very tall man in the back might be God. Behind Him, as always, is some plumbing upon which the universe depends.

The pose broke up, as poses do, and Paul --who I hadn't seen in 5 years--  greeted us in front of Norma's camera with one of his famous one-liners.
Then I made the mistake of turning my head abruptly. If you do that at a really good party the whole room spins around and all you can do is laugh. How Norma was able to capture that with her camera is beyond me:

Fortunately, it was time for lunch so I just grabbed my table as it came around and sat.

Will's best friend Ed had uploaded a wonderful reenactment of Sonoma's Bear Flag Rebellion onto YouTube, conducted entirely on an unmade bed with a chihuahua and three chickens, just like the real Bear Flag Rebellion of 1846, which started at the home of General Vallejo just a few blocks away from where we were.

After a six-course lunch I went outdoors for postprandial nicotinic meditation. Norma followed at a distance.

"How," I said. "How shall I find my way out of this spacious and beautiful place?"

To which God, or a very tall man in the background, said, "This is Sonoma Valley, my poor confused child, just turn left at every firehouse and you'll reach Interstate 80.

And so it was.


  1. If one insists on having a 75th birthday bash, there could be no better place to conduct it than the enchanting Sonoma Valley. I haven't been to Sonoma since I was in my early 20's, which - of course - was a couple of years ago
    (stand back - - I might get struck by lightning).

    Okay, it was a couple DOZEN years ago. I might return for my 75th...

  2. Looks like a fab time was had by all, including God.
    The question still remains: was there lasagna?

  3. Interesting. I'm going to a dinner tomorrow night with a bunch of the girls I went to high school left and last saw some of them in 1965. Part of me is excited and looking forward to seeing them and the other part keeps saying I can leave after an hour if need be. So fickle I am. It sounds like you all had a good time.

  4. Now if I could only remember that one-liner. I bet it was a riot. Or not.

  5. Lovely description of your Sonoma adventure. I <3 Willie. Wish I coulda been there!

  6. Younger brother Paul, please recall that one-liner! I'm sure it was great because, as I've always said, you're the brightest and the funniest of us siblings! Prove me right once again!

  7. Sorry, Will. My one-liners are spontaneous and ephemeral. Humor content sometimes questionable.

  8. That tall fellow, did he hang around for the whole party? Trust God to know the way back to the interstate.

  9. I do find that God always knows which end's up.

    I'm just surprised He answered so quickly.



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