I had only had the pleasure of meeting Bill one other time...before our sons took us off into the weekend world of a cub scout campout. As we approach the middle-aged, soon to be divorced, man about the world, we should take note that my experience with Billy the Moneyman Johnson was entertaining, although not quite pleasant at times.
As we pitched our tents, I came face to face with Bill, who had been at the campsite for a while already, long enough to have set up camp. He brought an ice chest cooler with Lemonade, which was thoughtful for a 20+ kid camp-out. He did an excellent job of coaching the kids about locating the right sized rocks to build a fire pit. He helped the scouts construct a right proper and safe fire pit...complete with wood separated by size, according to the scouting handbook.
As time wore on, we began to see that Bill would be played, in our movie, by a combination of Steve Carell, touting his "I really am being a dumbass right in front of you" style, or Harry Dean Stanton's younger days (Repoman, or Pretty in Pink), as the well intentioned but socially bankrupt dad in Pretty in Pink. Actually, somewhere right in the middle...if we could make Matthew Broderick socially retarded, and give him a can of copenhagen...that's Billy boy.
Really, it started to go downhill with the guitar...
Shortly after the fire pit was nicely constructed, Bill began wandering the camp site with his guitar. I'm not even sure what he was playing, or if he was playing...really just being seen with his guitar. This alone will put you in total douche-ville, but was quickly to be out-done by...the sandwiches.
I had heard, as I worked to set up camp for my cub scout boy (7) and ride along daughter ( a precocious 9), that Bill had already eaten...as we ate sandwiches, so gracefully prepared by our Den Leader. My kids were busy tearing apart the sandwiches, which had mayo on them...damn picky kids.
Bill, and his boy...had eaten something along the lines of deer and seafood, which I quickly decided was a seriously wanting meal.
Later that afternoon, I was sitting at my campsite picnic table, with our Den Leader's husband, quietly listening to the Oklahoma State Football game. He quickly glanced up, and then back at me, with a somewhat concerned look on his face. A routine 180 glance of inspection revealed...Billy Boy, jaunting down the hill with two giant handfuls of sandwiches.
Now, there are times when you can duck and dodge...this wouldn't be one of them.
"Hey guys, my boy and I dropped our first doe last week, and she was huge, big and fat. We dressed her up nicely, and I made Shrimp and Venison Pate. Here have a sandwich..."
Knowing I was in for a land-locked shrimp sandwich...I quickly jumped on the grenade..."Hey [Den Leader], don't you have a shell fish allergy?" (I knew her husband was already dead too, but I thought I'd try to save her)
"No, why?" [Sandwich nicely handed to her] "Uhm...what is this again?"
"Shrimp and Venison Pate"
I have to say they weren't bad. Although I can tell you, movie-goers, I ain't eating another one if I can drown myself first.
Later that evening....
Sitting around the campfire, we sang songs, as cub scouts do...we sang Woody Guthrie's classic "This Land is Your Land", while William played his guitar. Then we had s'mores. It was a true blue campfire shindig, and it was fun...until...
[playfully strumming guitar] William clears his throat.
Oh, shit, what's gonna happen now, I thought...
"I'd like to play a little song for you now...in my life, I've been privileged to travel around the world a bit. A few years back, I was able to visit India. You know, there are a lot of starving kids in India. I really couldn't get over their bellies sticking out with hunger. So, I came back and wrote this little song."
[Song about starving kids at India]
I'd quote some of the words for you, but honestly, I was too busy enjoying my phone buzzing away in my pocket...
"What the fuck is this?"
"Where the hell did this come from?"
"Can you stop him?"
Just some of the texts that hit my phone in a matter of seconds, after the words started about starving kids in India.
I couldn't make it stop. I'm still haunted...not by the starving kids in India...but by the Most Desperate Man in the world....wanting someone to listen to him.
Bill changed for me right then. I saw him for what he was...and unfortunately, my compassion gene kicked in [damn my mother for giving me that].
This poor guy's life was falling apart, I didn't need the details...I could hear it in his voice. He had money, he had a successful business, 'had' a nice wife (although that's another sketch in itself), and a great kid...that he and his soon-to-be ex are busy trying to fuck up as seriously as they can.
He wanted...needed us, to like him. To listen to him. He'd been around the world, and had nothing to show for it, but a crumbling family. He wanted to grab a hold of something meaningful, and chose starving kids in India, instead of his wife and child.
So, I sat there and listened to him...not hearing the words, but hearing his request for a friend. I'm not sure I can be that friend, but I tried, at least for a few minutes. We drank coffee together and talked a little later, and again the next morning.
If I had been a true friend, which I just don't know him well enough to be...I'd have said, "dude, you are interesting, your son does love you, just quit being a douche-bag and roll with it a little. Quit trying to have it all together...we all know you don't...and guess what...we don't either".
So long William...there's a spot for you, if you'll shut the fuck up and chill out.