It’s the reliable Uncle Bill

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009

“I live in a transparent country where decisions made by government are wide open, and people are able to call people—me—to account, which many do here on a regular basis.”

— George W. Bush

Oh yeah.

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It was about this time in the summer of ‘64 that Kato Kramer and I hitchhiked out to Oregon on our way to Hawaii. I’ve written about this before. We dropped out of second summer session the last day that we could still get a refund. It was the highlight of my college career. We didn’t get to Hawaii.

I just got off the phone with Skyler, our youngest, who is traveling a similar route with college friends Eddie, Jessie and Donald. At the moment, they are watching a softball game. A female friend from school was playing. It’s a 10-day road-trip that will get them to Los Angeles and back.

I suggested they give Uncle Bill a call when they get there and possibly camp out in his backyard.

We camped out in Uncle Bill and Aunt Bessie’s backyard when we got to Los Angeles after first traveling to Montana and then onto to San Francisco. Then it was cousin Ed, Max, Keith and myself. This was a road trip not a hitchhiking trip. There’s a difference.

From there we drove to Tijuana where we spent some memorable moments not quite falling in love. Then it was on to Riverside where we camped in Uncle Averill’s front yard. We arrived late and didn’t want to wake them.

Laying there, in our sleeping bags, we saw two squad cars pull slowly around the corner and they quietly made their way to Uncle A’s place and then stopped.

One of the officers was busy knocking on the door, while we were being questioned, when Uncle Averill came to the door, in his robe, asking, “What the hell is going on?” Averill and Ruth had been on vacation and one of the neighbors had called the police, I guess thinking we were burglars.

Keith was the trip’s photographer. Now Skyler is shooting pictures with his cell-phone. That wasn’t the case for us.

When we arrived in Los Angeles, we called Uncle Bill. When he answered I said, “This is the LAPD, and we’ve got two boys down here claiming to be your nephews.” Not good.

Uncle Bill, who is now in his 90s, will soon be coming for the Vilt/Plevka reunion at the Bohemian Hall. Bill is originally from Red Wing. He met Bessie Vilt when he was working in Gambles here in Austin. Before long they were off to California.

Years later I had refused to be admitted into Brentwood VA Psych Hospital in Los Angeles. This would have been my second stay there. I refused to go in because of the way I was treated my first stay there after Vietnam. I probably needed to be there, but refused.

I was walking off the grounds, with my few possessions in a cardboard box, as I walked by this old church on the Brentwood property and I heard my name called.

It was Uncle Bill.

He was doing some phone service in the church building and just happened to see me walking by.

He came out and told me to stay right there while he went to get his car.

If Uncle Bill hadn’t been there I don’t know where I would have ended up. I probably wouldn’t be here. It helps me think that maybe there is a higher power.

Uncle Bill also likes to stop at the Tendermaid. When he is here, cousin Ed and I go with him.

I had a nice conversation with Karl and Holly Dalager the other day, while biking around. Karl introduced me to “Break the Mirror,” the poems of Nanao Sakaki.

His poem “Break the Mirror” reads: “In the morning/After taking cold shower/What a mistake/I look at the mirror. There a funny guy, /Grey hair, white beard, wrinkled skin, /What a pity/Poor, dirty, old man! /He is not me, absolutely not. Land and life/Fishing in the ocean/Sleeping in the desert with stars/Building a shelter in mountains/Farming the ancient way/Singing with coyotes/Singing against nuclear war/I’ll never be tired of life. /Now 17 years old, / Very charming young man. I sit down quietly in lotus position, / Meditating, meditating for nothing. /Suddenly a voice comes to me: ‘To stay young, /To save the world, /Break the mirror.’”