While hanging out in Boulder over the weekend, I was saddened to learn that one of my favorite Boulder characters is moving on. Meet William, a beautiful and joyful man who has been a fixture on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall for the last four years. His upright piano, a fat book of song lyrics and a tireless love of music have brightened many a day.
Evidently, William is leaving town in a few weeks and headed to Tibet, where he will study Buddhism. He'll be leaving behind an entire community of fans who constantly approach him with hugs and kisses and stay to sing along. While I am happy for this opportunity in his life, I am selfishly hoping the monks help him realize that he'd already found his true destiny behind a piano under a Boulder sky and he should go back to reclaim it.
I asked him how long he'd be gone. "I have no idea," he said. "For the first time in my life, I don't have any plans beyond this study. I could be gone 10 years."
"But can't you study Buddhism here?" I asked hopefully, knowing full well that it was a lame effort. It's like asking an aspiring actor to skip thoughts of New York to remain in Lisbon, Ohio.
The first time I saw William do his thing, it was a weekend at dusk. There he was, banging away, surrounded by drunken hippies, all singing with great fervor to Billy Joel's "The Piano Man." I heard them long before I saw them and thought it was the most genuine thing I'd ever seen in a city center.
When I saw him again, he was being adored by a throng of children, who were eagerly singing along to "Jingle Bells." On my third William encounter, he had just begun singing "Imagine" and no one had yet joined him. I immediately jumped in and soon, others did too. So lovely. William enables wonderful moments like that whenever he appears.
Evidently, William came to Boulder when Hurricane Katrina destroyed his New Orleans home. From a post on his blog: "Boulder was so very kind to me, I arrived with a exhausted car, two suitcases and didn’t know a soul. That changed quickly, so many people offered me help and a year later I was back on my feet with a successful teaching business and playing piano for families, kids and boulders masses on it’s Pearl Street Mall."
Last Sunday, I joined several other folks to sing, "Country Roads" by Colorado's unofficial state songbird, John Denver. As we all belted out our best notes, I watched shoppers walking by and singing (or at least mouthing) the words, in spite of their shy smiles. They couldn't help themselves.
Godspeed, William! I'm going to keep tabs on you!
(Trying to update Curious Hobo whenever I post here.)