It makes the most beautiful cosmic sense that the World’s Most Dangerous Poet would be found moonlighting as the serene and unflappable doorman at the most unlikely of idiosyncratic cafés. I say “moonlighting” because Bill’s real job, his every day and night job, his reason for existence job, was to be a poet. Not just to write or declaim poetry – those are just the oracular effusions of his warrior spirit. He was a living manifestation of the essential foolish brilliance of poetry – to live life in unmediated contact with the ineffable – that which, by definition, cannot be expressed in words. And then to find ways to express it in words. Stoopid and innocent, indeed.Five years, the early 90s, I was a Venice regular and Uncle Bill was the lodestar. I spent a couple of years in the original instantiation of Liquid Prairie. We’d play Saturday happy hour, then hustle our gear out while the evening’s band moved their stuff in. But before that band played, it was Bill’s time. I loved watching the Venice virgins who’d passed him their cash to gain entry look askance when he came up to perform. “Oh, just wait...” we’d tell ‘em. Then they looked on, open mouthed.
He was sweet and kind, but suffering no fools. Lynn was visiting from Birmingham one weekend and came with us to Happy Hour. After we’d finished playing, she’d gone out to the car for something. By the time she came back, Bill was on duty, taking the cover charge. “It’s okay,” says Lynn, “I’m with the band.” You can imagine the look he gave her. She hadn’t yet been introduced. I think Ranger Dave rescued her.
We grieve because that’s what humans do, mourning the loss of touch and smile and voice. The twinkle in the eye, the big laugh, the outrage at injustice, the everlasting belief and insistence on love. But then there’s gratitude, overwhelming gratitude that we got to share some of that mystical space for as many years as any of us did. Yes, we feel loss. But Bill’s not lost. He’s right here.
Imagine you’re looking down from a great height, miles above. There’s the Venice Café, a beautiful gleaming, glowing multi-colored dot, the brightest light in the landscape. Swirling around it you see streamers of gossamer mist. That’s poetry, being drawn in from all over the city, the county, beyond. As a black hole uses its gravitational pull to draw in comets and planets and stars, the Venice draws in poetry of all forms, shapes, sizes, colors, and constructions. Look into the center of that galaxy and there you’ll see him, arms outstretched, eyes closed, beard transcendent, words pouring forth, the Pope of Pestalozzi, the World’s Most Dangerous Poet, the unimaginable, unconquerable, incandescent, inextinguishable, everlastingly ecstatic Uncle Bill Green.