The first time I met William was in 1998 and I'd just joined the Emergency Coalition Against War in the Gulf as a reaction to the withdrawal of weapons inspectors in Iraq and the impending Operation Desert Fox and word came down just a day after we'd organized that this guy had invited us to come speak out against the war on his radio show. I came armed with all my favorite anti-war songs and was quite proud that he played a lot of tunes from Utah Phillips' I've Got To Know. When the 1991 Gulf War started Utah walked into a studio, told the engineer to roll tape, and ranted until he was done, told the engineer to cut, and then released a CD. Anyway, that night on Eclectic Seizure I made my first audio collage, mixing in snippets of anti-war songs and PSA's about the Emergency Coalition Against War in the Gulf all over a bed of Jimi Hendrix's Star Bangled Banner. The night was playful and fun as every single show he's ever done has been. I was inspired at just how Eclectic it really was. Who knew random eclectic poets on the radio were so radical. 1997-1998 was the year that I became an active Urbana radical and William's show made sure my new role stuck. I had had no idea until that night that lurking around every corner, Urbana was full of brilliant radical artists.
And I always though "ya know I should get to know that guy, he's cool." I never really did. I always thought I'd have time. There are so many people to get to know and they all seem to already know each other and breaking into established social networks is always scary even for extraverted me.
And now he's moving away to be one of a handful of people accepted into Brown's electronic media creative writing program and he kept a room captivated, nostalgic, amused, empathetic, angry, inspired, mournful, and happy to be together for the 3 hours or so of his final reading as an Urbana resident. And I never really got to know him. I wish I had a recording of tonight (someone does, there was a microphone). I want to share the experience with everyone that I love. I don't want to let this experience drift away like a proper Zen moment, I want to hold onto it. I want to show them that this is why I love Urbana. 50 odd of the most interesting and creative and inspiring people in town gather in the super-swank totally architecturally unique home of one of Urbana's radical-progressive elite families just a few blocks from my house, share delicious vegan salads and wine and homemade pie, and listen as this man tells stories of our town and our struggle, taps into our collective consciousness, and brings us together as he's leaving us.
People keep leaving. So many more people have plans to leave and are held here only by circumstance. I used to shrug it off. I wonder how many times my heart can take the people I love and the people that I want to one day love and the people that I wish I'd had a longer conversation with leaving. Figuring out how to settle down in a Utopia where everyone wants more than anything else to settle down elsewhere will be hard. I've got time.
I can't believe I almost considered not attending this event because I was "too busy organizing".