Monday, May 26, 2008
Pasq Wilson, 1960-2008
It is with great sadness that I interrupt the book-deadline-imposed Radio Silence here at Neddie Jingo to observe the passing this week of a great friend from many years ago.
Pasq Wilson (he would have loathed being remembered by me under his "real" name William Waldo) was my very good friend at Kenyon College from 1978 to 1982. We went through many adventures together, did Pasq and I. We were bandmates; we were present at the founding of both the Conscious Bugs (a thoroughly ridiculous improvisational musical troupe) and the Kenyon Peace Coalition (a rather more serious endeavor, which still survives today).
I recall with particular vividness a moment when Pasq rose to my rescue at an occasion where I failed. A long time ago, I posted in these pages a story about a visit to the Kenyon campus of the loathsome Gen. William Westmoreland. As history would have it, the visit coincided with the announcement of the resurrection of draft registration by the Carter Administration, in reaction to the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets. (Does history ever stop presenting us with hideous ironies? Apparently not.)
The events described in the post referred to happened exactly as I recounted them. At my side, as they did, stood Pasq Wilson.
But later that same day, as we picketed the Alumni House where the good general was staying, I was approached by a local radio reporter.He stuck a microphone in my face and demanded to know what we thought we were accomplishing with our silly picketing, our idealistic college-student posturing. This was Rush Limbaugh Radio, before that Big Fat Idiot began his odious career. The hostility dripped from his voice, the contempt, the disdain.
I was utterly speechless. I was unable to articulate. Wasn't prepared for this one. A hostile reporter. Yikes. My eyes beseeched Pasq. He rose to the occasion -- all 20 years old of him.
He leaped in front of me, protecting me. Demanded the reporter repeat his question. Absorbed it. Cogitated. Elucidated. Replied.
His answer was perfect. Utterly perfect. Absorbed the hostility, shot back with pugnacity. A rock-n-roll patriot, defending his soil. Nobody could have done it better.
Somewhere along this time, we were having dinner at the local Ponderosa Steakhouse -- paid for by Pasq; no one was more generous with found money. As we dissolved into general hilarity -- who knows if Dame Sativa or Dean Lysergos might not have been lurking somewhere nearby? -- Pasq rose to drive home his essential debating point, "Gabba-gabba-HEY!" He crashed into the hardworking busboy, sending about $200 worth of flatware and cutlery shattering across the restaurant floor.
Several Kenyon undergrads durst not show their faces in that Ponderosa for many moons after that.
Yet the point was made, and made full well: Gabba-gabba-hey!
I lost track of Pasq after Kenyon. Occasional reports might make it back to me, reports of poetical publishing ventures in New York, of tenures at the Naropa Institute under Allen Ginsburg. At each report, the inevitable conclusion would suggest itself: This is the life you were supposed to be leading. This is what, when asked your career path in junior-year high-school tests, you promised yourself you'd be doing.
Instead, I played it safe. I got the nine-to-five. I got the family path. I got the workadaddy world, where your friends don't die after "short illnesses."
Pasq lived it, everything that I enthusiastically endorsed and then avoided like a coward. The Life on the Edge.
My hat's off to you, my old friend. Thank you for rescuing me from that awful conservative-talk-radio goon. Thank you for knocking over that busboy. Thank you for everything else, too, from talking me through panic to letting me talk you though your own panic. From protector to needful supplicant, sometimes in the space of a day.
That's what friends do.
Goodbye, my friend.