The sillyness of Bill Brown

Bill Brown's mischievious grin
Bill Brown's mischievious grin

When Barry and I learned last week that Bill Brown had died unexpectedly of a heart attack, it knocked the stuffing out of us. We hugged each other and cried for a while. And then I imagined Bill’s voice in my head, saying “Enough sillyness.” We got back to work on the boat.

There were a lot of people who disliked Bill Brown, but he didn’t seem to mind. His abrasiveness was a test. If someone concluded the worst, that he was obnoxious, pigheaded, or rude, then he’d plant his tongue firmly in his cheek and do his best to earn that reputation by “yanking their chain.”

Me, I liked Bill Brown a lot. Probably enough to make up for all the people in the world who didn’t like Bill Brown.

Bill was outspoken, honest, and one of the most supportive friends I’ve had in my entire life. We shared our sailboat cruising dreams with him, and he never spoke a disparaging word about how we pursued them. Bill never once teased us about the length of the FLUTTERBY refit. He was not only tolerant of our breaks from the boatyard, he reveled in our land-based travels and told me my writing was as good as William Least Heat-Moon.

Bill made me laugh when he wrote, “Tolerance is learned. Living aboard certainly teaches tolerance. Living aboard in a boatyard has gotta be the postgrad course in tolerance.” It was his way of saying that he understood what we were going through. Tongue-in-cheek, of course.

Right now, I know I should write something funny for Bill. He loved my writing and once said, “You guys have one of the widest ranges of humor of people I know.” I’m not finding the humor in his untimely kicking of the bucket, but because he was so irreverent, he would denounce anything serious as, well, sillyness.

I went through Bill’s most recent emails and decided to have the last laugh. I’m just going to publish Bill — in his own words. Now I’m off the hook, and I can go burble and cry all I want. He’s sure to make you chuckle…whether or not you’re an engineer.

***
“Life is much easier if one doesn’t have to make sense all the time.”
***
“When in a Wal-Mart out of dire necessity, I feel like the Starship Enterprise at the edge of known space in one of those scenes where Romulan and Klingon vessels are all loitering about waiting for the other guy to do something stupid first. I do not belong in a Wal-Mart. But I could enjoy being a tour guide in them. Just keep your phazer on stun. Or perhaps a can of whipped cream would be adequate protection but only if you were wearing your clown suit. ”
***
“There is no such thing as ‘too much sex’. Technically, it is considered self regulating.”
***
“Burning Man has franchises? Imagine that. How are you sure you are at a Georgia Burning Man and not at a KKK event?”
***
“…a cookbook is essentially a survival manual. Look in any Bible. Right after Revelations, the last book, you will find the Book of Betty Crocker stapled right in there.”
***
“Across most of America until, oh, roughly Ohio, a proper tavern is defined by a jukebox that has two songs: anything by Buddy Holly and ‘Party Doll’ by Buddy Parks. Surely somebody has sought to map this? Maybe it’s my calling.”
***
“These are people who believe ‘published’ means print on paper as in a page you can dogear. No way on this planet do I want my computer students dogearing a flat panel display. I am the one they will bring it to to fix. I don’t want to even think about dogearing a CRT monitor.”
***
“Aren’t you glad epoxy isn’t toothpaste!”
***
“My spell checker … does not yet recognize the term ‘Obama’. It does recognize ‘Barrack’… It recognizes ‘Lincoln’, ‘Eisenhower’, and ‘Johnson’. Interesting is that it will recognize ‘Abraham’ and ‘Dwight’, but not ‘Lyndon’… It doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum you stand. You can neither praise nor condemn without having to deal with this in your spell checker.”
***
“The crap we fill our brains with amazes me.”
***
“Only an engineer type can spell ‘equilibrium’ without rum as a spellchecker.”
***
“I had cause to see if our tax dollars were being well spent so I called 911 as little else civic was going on on a Sunday. Sure enough, they hurried right out and hauled me to the ER where I got to see all of the neat new toys we just bought for our hospital expansion demonstrated to (on actually) me. No problem says they … The toys were actually fun as well as good to have handy…”
***
Regarding a Mac G3 laptop: “There is a story here. How did you come into this toilet seat?”
***
“You are looking way too serious. Rum will fix that. Always has. Always will.”
***
“Mainliners, heroine users, know that cutting pure heroine with talc and all those other contaminants is bad form. Same with rum. You cut it with Coke and other contaminants and, well, you have a contaminated experience. Proper rum has no commas or conjunctions following it with a list of contaminants like soda pop. At least not unless you want the headaches and barfing that come with contaminants. This is not to be confused with solid nutrition being used to supplement rum such as oatmeal, chocolate, coffee, or stimulants such asĀ otherĀ medicinal alcohols or sex.”
***
“I am well aware that hitting the forward button is the only social skill, the only social life some people have.”
***
“I’ve always said I go to my high school reunions to see what I’ve overcome.”
***
“Puny Anacortes? We are talking the gateway to the San Juans here, western portal to the fabled Northwest Passage, western terminus of all the great roads west, and all you have to do to get here is hitch-hike the last sixteen miles. We don’t want a great thing to be too accessible.”
***
“From memory of my travels in that area (southeastern Ohio), if you had just gone down the road a coupla more blocks and turned left, you’d have found the Bates Motel – quite quaint and quiet for a forties era clapboard motel as i recall. You’d have wanted to avoid the shower though.”
***
“The title of this book, or chapter, will be ‘How I spent my winter in the Great Pacific Northwest living in a storage locker sorting crap I really didn’t need but couldn’t let go'”
***
Killer Oatmeal washed down by a Coffee Herbie. Food of the GAWDS!”
***
“‘…squidwaggin’ ” as a verb sort of sounds naughty as if it has something to do with fallopian tubes. But we know it is just exquisite transportation.”
***
“Becoming single, Christmas became fun. BIGTIME! Single people have get togethers. Lots of get togethers. Go to interesting if cheap places. Gather our kids together in a big bunch. Do all sorts of things that we learn about might in some way be a Christmas sort of thing for someone. Theater, movies, tavern hopping, sailing someplace, sing our heads off, helping others as a group, the list goes on and on … I wondered why it wasn’t this way before. I guess it is because suburbia frowns on this sort of thing … Married again for some years now, this is still what we do… sort of.”
***
“Why can’t I make even a passable meatloaf? One of life’s great mysteries.”
***
“What (your boat’s name) looks like is not half so important as what it sounds like when hollering it on channel 16 as part of a mayday call.”
***
In response to my quip, “I should have just gotten into my birthday suit and stood on the foredeck with a bottle of shampoo,” Bill said, “Done this a few times in marinas. Only once, at Westview (Powell River) did anyone care. I had announced my intentions prior to doing so. When nearing the end of my disrobe, the genteel couple simply picked up their afternoon tea, stood, turned, and quietly walked to the the other end of their yacht. It was a very hot day, Sunday, which is the one day of the week in Westview that everything must be closed by local ordinance. That included the marina services including showers. Why else do cockpits have scuppers?”
***
Bill’s response to a limerick about toe amputation: “Hang 9?”
***
“To shinny is the only way to get a tetherball attached to the top of the tetherball pole. Free-climb does not even approximate the task. Free-climb is what you do on a walk to the top of Mt. Everest. You shinny a mast.”
***
“I really don’t have many good feelings about Wyoming. Being Dick Cheney hails from Wyoming, I’m not expecting any.”
***
Regarding a recent colonoscopy: “Frankly, I’ve had … many a drinking bout that ended far more dramatically. These passings, gas and otherwise, didn’t even earn bragging rights among those of a scatological bent … I’d had the fear that I was going to swamp the fifth wheel’s holding tank … Once again, we learn the awful truth. That the legend of The Great Hunt is really nothing more than a long walk on an empty stomach. So much for legends.”
***
“It’s not my place to whine and I’m not very good at it anyway.”
***
“My greatest reward is learning I caused an engineer to chuckle.”
***
“I’m not twisted. But I do think in ironious ways. The world about me, not being flat, is what is twisted.”

(After reading what Bill wrote to us all these years, I might add: And funny as hell.)