Sunday, August 7, 2011
GEORGE KIMBALL R.I.P.
Just heard that the writer George Kimball passed. I wasn't in touch with him, but never forgot the period when we were.
It was Iowa City in 1968 when I was running for sheriff of Johnson County on The Peace & Freedom ticket. After I spoke at an outdoor rally one late-summer/early-Fall evening, George came up and introduced himself and told me I should hire him to help me publicize the race, that newspapers would lap it up since I was a college student as well as a veteran challenging the local lawman, etc.
But I was all about the group in those days and had turned down the nomination three times, because I felt the whole party should run. Kind of "dumb" as I'm sure George felt. But we became friends, and had a lot of late 1960s kind of adventures together, which aren't appropriate to relate here.
But I will mention that he was famous at the time for a glass eye which he would drop into drinks at bars to freak people out. I never saw him do it, but others spread that story. Also, once we were feeling pretty tasty and had to drive to the local airport to pick up the poet Anselm Hollo. I had this bright idea to make a banner for when he climbed down the stairs to the runway (the way you got off planes back then) like he was The Beatles and we were fans.
I had a roll of printers paper (it literally fell off a truck the year before and me and my wife picked it up and used it to draw and paint on) that we tore a sheet off maybe ten or fifteen feet long and three feet high. We got out some of my then wife Lee's art supplies and settled down on the floor of the little Quonset ("married student housing") hut she and I and our baby daughter lived in at the time.
There wasn't enough room to spread out the entire piece of paper we were using so we decided to do a little at a time, starting from the first letters of the first word of what we planned to write. But we were so out of it, we just stared at the empty paper until my wife said we were gonna be late. That gave us the bright idea to make it a banner that said nothing, was completely blank.
So we rushed to the airport and got there just as the plane landed. We ran out onto the runway and when they pushed the portable stairway up to the plane door and it opened and people began descending the steps we unfurled the "banner" holding it high, and waited.
And continued to wait until everyone was off the plane and the portable stairway went back to where it came from. Anselm had missed the flight. George and I couldn't stop cracking up over the beautiful "happening" we had created, of meeting a plane with a huge but blank "banner" for someone who wasn't there!
George went on to, I believe, help Hunter Thompson when he ran for sheriff the following year, doing for him what he'd wanted to do for me. While I tried to remain politically pure but ended up being resentful when I read articles about how Thompson was the first "hippie" or "radical" or etc. to run for sheriff in "America." I should have listened to George. As his friends and acquaintances knew, he was worth listening to.
There are obits on the net, but the best tribute to him I've read is this one on poet Tom Raworth's blog. [And the photo above is the way I remember George most.]