Friday, October 7, 2016

Big Star, "Nature Boy"

Bill hired me as an after school tutor, and I was desperate to leave a good first impression. I shaved and dressed business casual for my first meeting with Mr. Gerstel. Imagine being greeted at the door by a man with purple hair, dice earrings and one of the wildest rockabilly outfits I'd ever seen.

He was like a character from a great movie or record sleeve who'd dropped into life. His hospitality was unmatched (he'd have a glass of water for me every day, even when I forgot to ask for one), as was his focus and discipline as a parent (he stayed involved in Sawyer's lessons and progress in a way that was compassionate but never smothering). What a pleasure to see him bring that grace and skill to his performances with the Emily Duff Band at Rodeo Bar. He introduced me to some of the coolest people I know, Robin and Sawyer among them, and dazzled me with stories that I tell friends to this day. I think some of my friends don't believe such a cool rock dad existed. I almost can't believe it myself.

People often comment on Bill's style, which reminds me of a John Lydon quote--"People want Johnny Rotten in punk regalia, but what they've got to know is, it's all punk regalia if I'm wearing it." Bill could rock any piece of apparel just by being Bill. Much as we all enjoyed his attire, I don't know anyone who could pull it off with the warmth and class that Bill did. His outfits were colorful, primarily because he was the one in them.

The school year ended, and Bill was my reference for my next teaching job. He called me after I'd been hired to congratulate me, but added something more important. "The woman I spoke with had some concerns about you, because you didn't always look her in the eye," he told me. "I told her it was because you're a little shy and that you didn't mean any disrespect, and she understood. But not everybody's going to understand that, so just be aware of it in the future." That was Bill.

Thank you, Bill, my noble friend.

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