Saturday, July 14, 2012

An Old Friend

I lost an old friend this past week. I first met Bill in 1962 when I was a college student. We were both just cutting our musical teeth at the time, learning to play bluegrass. The Down State Rebels was the first band in which I played fiddle. Bill played guitar. There was an intimacy and a bond that grew between us, but were much to young to understand. We were friends as only bandmates can be. Over the years we lost touch as our lives spun in different directions, but several years ago we reconnected at a reunion in Washington Square that has become an annual gathering of those of us that were the folkies from the '60's. By the time we became reacquainted, our musicality had diverged dramatically. Didn't matter at those reunions. We just bubbled with the joy of reconnecting with old friends and sharing a memory - as only old bandmates can. About a two weeks ago I plucked up my courage to get to the hospital to visit with Bill. While I talked to him, heavily sedated as he was, he raised an eyebrow - he knew I was there, and I knew I was getting through. Unnerved hardly describes how a felt after seeing him. And yet I felt a calm peacefulness as I travelled home.

However trivial in may sound, life and time move on, entropy is forever progressing, and all we can do is continue on to slow the process in our infinitely small way. John Donne, in Meditation 17 of his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, wrote words of which Hemmingway grew so fond.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or thine own were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 


Since I got the unfortunate news, whenever I pick up the violin to practice Bill comes to mind. I took my regular photo stroll in Manhattan today which included the area of Union Square. Students abounded there - outlandish dress, radical ideas, and songs of outrage and protest. Made me proud to be part of that initial outpouring of angst along with Bill those many years ago around the fountain in Washington Square Park.

I got this shot on West 13th Street at an outdoor cafe. Beats the hell out of me why anyone would want to sit out on the street in 90ยบ heat with all the New York soot and grit in the air. She was a beauty, and the smile she gave me after I took the shot lit me up.