When I met Willie in 1965
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.