Mark, Tom, and Bill, in the Lewis Basement, Minneapolis, 1968
Went to a memorial celebration honoring one of the old "neighborhood kids" yesterday. Of the twenty or so boys that used to hang out together, Bill was the first to go, unless you counted his brother, who had died just the month before (and wasn't really involved with the rest of us that much.) It was a group whose members all came from an extremely small geographic area- literally a stone's throw separated us. I was the outlier, a little older and living across the street, but I spent untold hours with these guys, playing games & cards, making 8mm movies and radio dramas, doing darkroom experiments and just killing time.
But those days and nights weren't wasted. We were each learning how to become ourselves, and we did all right. Bill was the contrarian, but he had a sense of humor, and had no sense of malice. We were living in the present, without irony or pretense. The vices of adulthood, excepting a few "incidents", were years away. The idea of an actual "fight" between any of us never entered our minds. We had our own words (in a dictionary!) our own cinema (where we would fight), and, ultimately, our own little world.
I left home first, the siren call of romance can be like an on/off switch when leaving childhood. The world I left behind kept going, indeed, it never stopped- they still field a softball team which has played together for nearly 40 years. Bill was the team's videographer and play by play announcer, each year he would compile a highlight show, which was the highlight of the team banquet.
Looking back at that time, I can honestly say that I don't regret a minute of it. Bill was a big part of that scene- he was the guy in the middle, he was a guy who took his own path, he was a guy who took the youngest kid (who had lost his father) under his wing, and he was a guy who gave me a copy of the Walt Disney comic with the "Flip Decision" story.
That was the story about "Flipism" which introduced me to "Professor Batty."