A Gift of the Angels

Of our first meeting, I have no recollection- although this is not to say that it was not a significant one. I have only a scattered collection of pictures to remember those first moments I spent with him- as he and my cousin, Cathy, held me at my Baptism. Over and over again, I hear how he was “Taken by the Angels,” and it makes me think: well, then, he must have been given by the angels as well. How blessed am I to have had Bill as my Godfather for these past 20 years? How appropriate that a man so loving, so generous, so committed to the human beings around him, should be chosen to nurture my spirituality? God works in mysterious ways, and now there can be no doubt in my mind that Bill is indeed one of those treasured gifts from above.

Much of my memories of Bill are from my childhood- and perhaps offer a different yet nonetheless relevant perspective on the beautiful reflections that have been posted here. As a child, I was perhaps not as aware of the day-to-day kindness that Bill showed towards his friends, his coworkers, his family, and, truly, anyone he met. He was smart, this I knew; but of his extraordinary skill in languages, his eloquent writing, his professional success, I was unaware. Yet, somehow Bill has held a certain warmth, a special place in my heart.

When I think about Bill, the first two things that come to mind are his smile, and his strength. As a little girl, I remember running to greet him, and jumping into his arms; he would hold me above his head and shake me around playfully. I never had to worry I would fall; his arms were so strong, so safe. Then he would smile at me in his particular way. I remember often thinking or, rather, feeling that his smile was saying I know who you are…and guess what? I love you for it. He gave me an incredible sense of unconditional acceptance, of comfort that I sense with only a select few people in my life. I think it is this that drew me to him, that has drawn so many who feel he has impacted their lives.

Of course, you cannot speak of Bill without remembering his sense of humor. For me, this was the entertainment of having a 35-year-old man play beanie babies, re-enact scenes from the Lion King, and participate in elaborate, filmed advertising skits for high-tech energy drinks. He certainly knew how to endear himself to children. Yet, he never failed to impress me with his eloquent, witty comebacks- and I spent many-a-time laughing along with the adults not having the faintest clue as to what I was laughing at.

I guess you could say Bill came to be invincible in my mind- he was the generous spirit I could count on for Birthday gifts and Giants games’ outings, he was the smiling face I looked forward to seeing at Easter and Christmas, he was the symbol of goodness and faith in the world I was just beginning to discover. How do you say good-bye then, to someone who should have such a permanent presence in your life? He was taken by the angels. Yes, and he was also given by the angels. I thank God for the blessing Bill has been in my life, for what he has taught me, for his love that endures.

A most blessed and thankful God-daughter,

Meghan Elizabeth Casey

Aufwiedersehen

Dear Bill (I never knew you as Billy),

Along with everyone else, I was shocked to hear that you had left us so suddenly. You didn’t even have time to say good-bye. The first question I asked myself was when did I see you last. Then I remembered that it was at the Colm Toibin event. It was very crowded there but you made your way to me to say “hello”. I never knew you well, but a few things will stand out about you in my mind. To me, you cut such an impressive figure. You were tall, well-built and always impeccably groomed. You also possessed a kind of quiet dignity. Such things impress women like me. Finally, you were always gracious toward me (I expect that the children of my friends will be polite, but I don’t expect more). You always gave more. You seemed genuinely interested in talking to me. The other thing that I won’t forget is that you kissed my hand! Who taught you to do that? That is a practice that has, unfortunately, long since disappeared from social life. In a phrase, you were a gentleman in every sense of the word.

What did we talk about that night? A few fragments come to mind. I asked about you and your siblings, since I don’t see any of you that often. You told me that you had left WIRED and, I believe, were doing free-lance journalism. I am sorry that I don’t think that I ever read one of your pieces. Maybe your parents will give me one.

I mentioned that your parents had told me the story of how they met in Stuttgart on a Sunday afternoon while your father was a soldier stationed there and your mother was “ein junges Madchen”. Your father told me how his mother-in-law-to-be plied him with “Kuchen mit Schlag” and he was won over.

Then you said that your mother spoke English with a British accent. I told you that I had been living in Germany at about that time (1960) and had considered teaching English to earn a few extra dollars only to find out that they would only consider hiring teachers with a British accent. American English was considered totally unacceptable. Of course, all of that has changed now.

About this time, we drifted apart to talk to other friends who had attended the event. In retrospect, ours seemed like such a simple conversation – an exchange of pleasantries – the kind of talk we all have with many people. It was only after you left us that I realized that it would be our last. I think that the Germans and the French have it right when they wish their friends “Aufwiedersehen” and “Au Revoir” – until we see each other again. That idea gives me more comfort.

Claudia O’Callaghan

Bill’s Day of the Dead Altar

Please join Bill’s family and friends at San Rafael’s

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead

where we will be creating an Altar in Bill’s memory.

Information about the Day of the Dead celebration at:

http://www.cityofsanrafael.org/Special_Events_Calendar/Dia_de_los_Muertos__Day_of_the_Dead_.htm

http://www.cityofsanrafael.org/Assets/Redevelopment/Photos/Dia+de+los+Muertos+Flyer.pdf

For more information email me at: spprendiville@comcast.net or call me at 415-479-7523.

Sean Prendiville

Beale

I met Bill at the Avenue Grill in Mill Valley. At the time I was 25 (he was 23) and shared an apartment with my sister, Julie. Several times a week we would go to the Grill for meals – it was a necessity for that feeling of family when so far from home. Bill tended bar while my sister and I talked with him for hours. I thought he was an absolute hunk, with his curly blond hair and dazzling blue eyes. I was mesmerized by our conversations and his quick iconoclastic mannerisms. Every time we went there I thought he had eyes for my sister. So I was surprised and delighted when he softly took my hands one evening as we were leaving the Grill, and with that penetrating gaze said, “Mary Jo can’t leave here until she agrees to go out with me.”

Our first date was spent at the top of Mt. Tam sipping a bottle of champagne while we watched the sunset. It was the beginning of our five year relationship. In the evenings after work he would stop by my house, always whistling a distinctive little tune to let me know he was approaching our house. That tune is so ingrained in me that I whistle it frequently today to signal my own approach (I didn’t realize it was his until after his death). That tune drove my sister crazy, but I loved it. Bill became a regular at 19 Laurelwood – we hung with an old gang of Michigan friends and began a tradition of dinner parties. Our famous was the big yearly Thanksgiving feast. Although Julie and I left California, Bill still hung with those same friends from Michigan after we departed. He was family.

Eventually Bill moved to the city and got a little apartment over the Stockton Street Tunnel. I was amazed that it was always neat as a pin – nothing out of place. He always kept a “clean, well- lighted place” while internally his mind was a churning machine that never rested. The image of Bill sitting at his Danish style desk, thoughtfully writing or reading is imprinted on my mind – as are his dragging us around to some seedy bar, new play, or restaurant bumping into his network of countless folks. Life was so simple, yet filled with endless possibilities. I remember those carefree days with immeasurable fondness and gratitude.

For the next three years we lived together in a sweet utilitarian flat in North Beach with a stellar view. At times it felt like we were an old married couple with our crotchety workaday routines. We would slipper around the apartment with our ratty old newspapers and candy bars, reading or watching television, laughing at ourselves all the way. We created our own melodious language that no one else appreciated. Some teased us for it, but in fact it was the essence of our connection. I was always hopeful we would marry – and in fact Bill asked me. For a time we were engaged, but some have said that Bill probably thought he couldn’t give me what I needed and like a gentleman stepped aside. It is one of my most painful memories, going our separate ways. Bill was my best friend.

Looking back now I see that Bill and I became grown-ups together. We learned how to fight fair, play hard, and be responsible and accountable. As the years slipped away we continued our relationship through writing, at first with letters and then by email. I continued to feel connected to Bill. I will always think of him as family. He became part of my heart and never left my life. I confess I didn’t believe in heaven until his death. Now I am hopeful that someday I will see him again – if only for one more fascinating conversation, heady laugh and a hug.

I miss you Bill.
Mary Jo Hrisca Bochner

Missing Bill’s Voice


I am another one of the “group of girls” referenced in this earlier blog post that knew Bill from his Georgetown days. Anne Marie said she doesn’t remember how we all met Bill initially, but I do! He and his friend Dan Dubrowski made their way through the freshman girls’ dorm soon after the start of the school year and systematically knocked on every door! And on that auspicious day in 1982, when I responded to that knock, the seeds of an enduring friendship were sown. Bill used to call me on my birthday every year, no matter where in the world I happened to be – a testament to his loyalty to friends and his amazing capacity for maintaining ties. October 10th was a quiet day this year… .

A birthday, October ten
The phone rings, rings again
On the line
An old friend of mine
His voice, wry and warm
His gently mocking tone
As if he swallowed a smile
And let it linger a while
The smile now a laugh
Needs room, finds a path
Once free, a full-bodied sound
Envelopes, embraces all those around
October ten ends, in the corner the phone
No rings all day, quiet, forlorn
The echoes of Bill
In my heart still.

Lisa Mason

Note: The image above is from a home-made card from Bill, sent to me in June 1989.

Que vayas con Dios

I remember Billy when he was a 10-year old blond haired little boy with a great deal of energy, eagerness and inquisitiveness about him and at the same time a shy and gentle little guy. Bill and his two sisters, Cathy and Aimee were the cutest, sweetest and most adventuresome kids I had ever met and so-well mannered and thoughtful. They came into my life when I was in my late 20’s and had finally escaped the Fresno, CA scene to make a life in San Francisco. I was working with my husband, John (Jackie Babe) Ortega, at the time and hadn’t yet found a place to live. Pat and Ute who traveled to Montana during the summer, or maybe Germany, Mexico or Ireland, offered me their home. It was beautiful, nestled in Mill Valley across from the Golden Gate Bridge. They’re the kindest, most generous people I have ever met and so passionate about life. Nothing ever stops them from living life it to its fullest. It’s no wonder that Bill grew into the gregarious, intelligent, thoughtful and sensitive man that he was. He was the son of Pat and Ute.

I remember one of their visits when we lived on the Mexican border back in the 70’s. Pat, Ute and the kids arrived and presented me with a beautiful tumbleweed that they had found as they drove through the desert. I’d never thought of tumbleweed as beautiful until then. Ute was on her way to the tip of Baja California in search of the mission trail and wanted to know if I’d go with her and act as a translator. It would just be her and the kids and Pat was to join us later. I jumped at the chance as I had never been to Mexico, my country of origin, and Ute and Pat were offering to pay all the expenses, including the flight back and all I had to do was help Ute with Spanish. It was a dream come true and I’ll be forever be grateful to them for giving me this opportunity.

At 8 years of age Billy, with an enthusiastic look on his face, told his Mother he wanted to learn to speak Spanish, already showing his love of being able to communicate with everyone and not missing out on anything. So, we took off, two women, four kids, luggage, and Ute’s paint brushes and sketch board to capture the local scenery, artist that she is. What a country, Mexico. Every time we came to an Aduana (Customs) checkpoint, Ute pulled out the mandatory written permission that the father had given to the mother allowing her permission to travel with her own kids, Machismo at it finest. After reaching the southern demarcation line of Baja California we got to experience the natural features of the area and drove through forests of huge Saguaro cactus, elephant trees and along miles and miles of white sanded beaches of blue green water that seemed to go on forever until we came upon an oasis in the middle of the desert, a small town called Mulege. To me it was like coming upon a jungle and imagined alligators in the water, like something out of all those western movies I love to watch that were filmed in Mexico. We drove into a town with no phones, a plaza with a church built in the 1700’s that was still being used by local residents, the plaza canopied by a large tree that provided shade on the old wrought iron and wood benches where people sat and freshly peeled purple-red cactus pears all neatly packed in a wooden crate ready to eat. We stayed there for the night and it was heaven. All of this because of Pat & Ute’s generosity.

This was part of Bill’s childhood and what a wonderful one it was. I won’t say good-bye as Bill’s spirit lives on in his family in the words he wrote. I feel so very lucky to have known him and to still be able to share memories of Bill’s life with his family and friends.

You’ll forever remain in my heart, Bill. I close with a beautiful poem I found when I heard about your death that symbolizes for me the beauty of who you were. Que vayas con Dios, Billy.

Maria Rodriguez & Jackie Babe

Egret

Three times I’ve seen the
Egret—no, four times
if I count that once
when, turning past rocks
hot and bare in May,
I saw one in the
burned-off field—stark
white against ash black.

But three times (at least)
I’ve seen him/her not
two miles from my dry
suburban home. I’ve
seen him/her glide hot
air above golden weeds on the freeway
offramp, glide past oaks

centuries old, past
poppies that would die
in July’s heat, past
concrete rivers that
will outlast them all.
Three times I’ve seen the
egret wing—white, calm,
silent memory.

Insert for Bill in the U.S. Congressional Record

Extension of Remarks
Representative Lynn Woolsey

September 13, 2006

Mr.Speaker, I rise today to honor William Oskar Goggins for the kindness and influence he showed the world during his 43 years here.

Billy was born at St Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco, CA on Sunday, May 10, 1963 – on Mother’s Day. He was the first child of Patrick & Ute Goggins, both very well-known and respected individuals in the Bay Area and beyond.

From the hospital he was carried right into a civil rights demonstration in Golden Gate Park. Billy took his first trip to Ireland at 4 years old to meet his family relatives in the west of Ireland in County Mayo. Annual family trips by car to Montana & Dakota included reunions in the Bear’s Paw Mountains, hi-balling on the Iron Road, the old Great Northern Railway and running brave with Chippewa, Cree, Blackfoot and Sioux Indian friends. The Goggins’ adventured on two-month road trips to Baja and the Pacific Coast of Mexico where mother Ute painted, and sisters Cathy & Aimee followed in Bill’s energetic footsteps. Billy toiled in family vineyards in Germany with equally embracing relatives. These things were the soul of his education.

Over the years Bill played soccer, drew cartoons, tutored younger students from Mill Valley and Marin City, played volleyball at Stinson Beach, surfed in Bolinas, and much much more. He graduated from Tamalpais High School as a National Merit Scholar and Salutatorian.

Summer jobs were at Bancroft-Whitney legal publishers, San Francisco and Wausau Paper Mill, Wisconsin. He worked at numerous restaurants including the Book Depot Café and Avenue Grill in Mill Valley, and Embarko in San Francisco. He also volunteered at St Anthony Dining Room in the Tenderloin, providing free meals for the homeless.

Bill attended Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and San Francisco State University, Departments of Communication and Philosophy. He began his vital journalism career with Frisko Kids, KALW radio, and then moved on to the old SF Weekly.

Former SF Weekly editor and colleague Andrew O’Hehir remembers, “Of course he worked harder than anyone and became essential, and in three years moved from all-purpose intern to copy editor to running the Arts & Entertainment section. I can’t remember exactly when he became the go-to guy for headline copy, but I’d say that by the time he’d been there a year, he was writing half the heads in the paper.”

Bill thrived at Wired for 10 years. He started as a freelance copy editor and rose to become deputy editor. Bill served as a special link between the digital industry’s pace-setting magazine in the center of San Francisco’s media gulch and an eager, educated national and international readership. His colleagues admired him tremendously.

“Bill was that rarest of things: a true original,” says Chris Anderson, the magazine’s editor in chief. “He was brilliant, witty and culturally omnivorous, all of which combined in his signature headlines. They usually worked on at least three levels of meaning, from some remixed cultural reference to at least one pun. In many ways his winking style and clever turns of phrase became Wired house style for nearly a decade, and to look at our covers and headlines over those years is to hear Bill’s voice again.”

Bill’s voice also made its mark through the alternative dot-com generation’s website Suck.com where he wrote under the name ‘Bartelby’. Bill recently enjoyed writing and editing with the new magazine Todo, and they remember him not just as a logophile, a wordsmith, a gifted editor, a true friend; but also as “one who tirelessly pursues perfection, fraternity and goodness.”

A real linguist (German, Spanish & Bill-English) and traveler – Bill visited Tunisia, the Philippines, Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, and all over the United States and Europe. He was a dual citizen of the US and Ireland. Bill was a citizen of the world.

Bill was a San Franciscan through and through. He openly embraced and explored all of the city’s neighborhoods. He was an avid supporter of the arts, with active memberships to many museums and regular attendance at the symphony, opera, ballet, varied theatres and clubs.

Bill participated with his family and compatriots in the antiwar demonstrations from the Vietnam era to Iraq of today.

My daughter, Amy Critchett, had the good fortune to be a friend with and to work with Bill at Wired for many years. “Bill Goggins made work seem like work – because it was and he was so incredibly good at what he did – but with him around there was always a twist of irony and a splash of curly-haired, smiling-cheeked sunshine not far away,” according to Amy. “Get ready to laugh all you up there.”

Bill inexplicably collapsed and passed away suddenly during mile 24 of the San Francisco Marathon Benefit for Cancer on Sunday, July 30, 2006. He was in fit condition and many knew him as a wonderful, companionable runner, reconciled, strong and happy.

An outpouring of hundreds from around the globe, representing family, friends, colleagues, public officials on local, state and national levels, ambassadors, the Irish & British governments, the Democratic party, and diverse cultural non-profit organizations attended a memorial mass held at our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and a life celebration at the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley on August 4, 2006.

Billy was a deeply loved member of a very close family. He supported all of them individually and together – helping hang his mother Ute’s art shows, assisting his father Pat with community outreach via organizations such as the Irish Forum, Irish Mexican Association, and Irish Literary & Historical Society to name a few, being the proud uncle to sister Cathy’s two children, Lina Rose & Dominic Chester, and showing up for sister Aimee’s various work events or helping edit her writing.

Bill believed in justice, peace and humanity. He connected with people everywhere he went. No one and nothing escaped his keen eye and warm words. His sense of community was broad and all-encompassing. Bill was a man of grace. He chipped in for everyone.

He had old-fashioned manners, was a staunch listener and he gave of himself enormously. His roughish grin, sparkle in his eye and love of discussion and opinion will live on with us forever.

Mr. Speaker, Bill had enormous integrity and loyalty, and taught us all how to be total human beings. To be fearless, to be bold, to be true to yourself. To be both gracious and outspoken. To pursue what matters in life and cherish each other. Bill knew all of these things and helped us be them too. Bill lived his life and made all of us proud. He will be deeply missed by many.

To view the online version of the official Congressional Record go to: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?position=all&page=E1657&dbname=2006_record

Note: Since the entry spans two pages, you need to click ‘Next Page’ at the bottom of the screen to see the entire thing.

Cousin Billy

My mother, Bridget Goggins Tierney, was a 1st cousin of Billy’s grandfather Goggins. That makes Billy my cousin too!

I have very fond memories of Billy. I will never forget a visit from Billy when he first arrived at Georgetown University. He was already missing his family and phoned me to say that he was taking the train from D.C. to Wilmington DE to visit me. Needless to say, I was elated. I’ll always remember that infectious smile and those blonde curls — incredible. We had a wonderful long visit. He just talked and talked about Georgetown and the good time he was having, albeit at the same time missing his Dad and Mum and Aimee and Cathy. I still remember a similar visit my sister Maureen and I received from Billy’s dad, Pat and his friend Glenn in 1961, when he (Dad) worked in D.C. My sister and I had only recently come to the US from Ireland and it was wonderful to see Pat, as he had just visited with my mother in Ireland on his way back from Germany. I remember Pat and Glenn stopping their rental car along scenic Route 52 in Greenville DE and scooping up cherry blossoms and literally filing the back seat of the car with the petals — all the while my sister and I trying to fit in. Now we know where Billy got his adventure and zest for life.

Billy often visited with my mother in Ireland. She really enjoyed these visits. She lived in the same house in a village named Carnalecka in the town of Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo where her father, also named Patrick Goggins, was born. This was across the field from where Billy’s great grandfather was born. There are just ruins left, however, Billy always went to see the ruins. Sadly on January 9, 2006, my mother passed away. Then in February 2006, another cousin of Billy’s, who lived next door to my mother passed away. Her name was Bernadette Caulfield. And in July 2006, Billy went to join them in Heaven.” It is now comforting to know that the three of them are together now.

Cousin Eileen Tierney Ruby
Hockessin Delaware

To be seen

Bill and I met at Georgetown almost 25 years ago. I don’t remember exactly when or how we met, but my group of girls and I were freshmen and he was a sophomore, and he was usually around and he was part of us. Back then, he and I had not so much a love/hate relationship as a love/man, you annoy me more than anyone has ever annoyed me relationship. Well, at least on my part. Sometimes he provoked me on purpose, like a third-grader pulling my pigtails one too many times. Most of the time, I was too immature and childish to grasp his odd intensity, and I often pushed him away.

We saw each other on and off over the next few years, usually at the wedding of a friend. At one of these weddings, he told our group of girls that he had found another girl, one he wanted to marry. By now, I finally got what it was about Bill. It wasn’t just his singular intelligence or charisma, it was that he had the ability to see you, to see what was most valuable about you, or maybe even more important, to see what you valued most in yourself, and to let you know that he valued it too, that he valued your very you-ness.

After that, I hoped we could be real friends, without our old push-pull. And we saw each other a couple times when I passed through town, and I emailed. But, he was busy with work and life and marriage, and when my emails went unanswered, I let it go.

About five years ago, we crossed into each others’ spheres one more time, and had a wonderful time together over the summer of 2001. And he was kind and warm and honest with me, like always. By this time, I know he knew that he was oh-so-close to my heart. I hope he knew that he always had been. But again, life happened, and this time I was the one who had to pull away.

And so, we bounced together and then apart over so many years. For us, that’s just the way it was, and I grieve that it won’t happen one more time. But, oh! How lucky I was, how lucky we all were, to have been seen by Bill.

Anne Marie Yale (formerly Rice)

Wired and ReadyMade remembrances

There is a story remembering Bill’s time at Wired in this month’s issue of the magazine, also available online here. It’s in the Post section, headlined “Gone Fishing.”

The editor’s note in the current issue of ReadyMade, from Shoshana Berger, is also a tribute to Bill — and a wonderful one. The issue is out now, not yet online but I’ll try to post it here soon.

-Evan

UPDATE: Here’s Shoshana’s tribute in ReadyMade, in slightly longer form than it appears in the magazine

Editor’s Letter
Requiem for a Dreamer
A few words about ReadyMade pal William O. Goggins

A few months ago, in late July, we lost Bill, a close friend and founding father of this magazine. With just two miles left to finish in the San Francisco Marathon, Bill collapsed and could not be revived. He was 43. The cause of death, I was told that night, may have been an enlarged heart. Nothing sounded truer.

I met Bill in 1995. I was 25 years old, fresh out of graduate school and interning at Wired. The Wired office, like the magazine, was a telegram from the future—nonhierarchical, open source, and full of pink-haired cyberpunks. Bill was brought in as a copy editor and plunked down at the desk facing mine, our hulking computer monitors back-to-back. From the moment he arrived, I knew I was out of my depths. He’d peek around the screen, and with a dazzling, impish grin, initiate a match of brain tennis that involved such a regress of cultural references and puns, it would leave me baffled. But I’d always pretend to get it, lobbing back a weak return to his serve. I could tell he really wanted me to get it, and that was enough for me to keep trying.

Flash forward five years. After lunch with Wired founders Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe (who skewered the original name for this magazine, WallText, then sketched out on a paper tablecloth scenarios for how the magazine might work), I bumped into Bill, who had been steadily promoted at Wired to senior editor. He recognized me, not in a faint way, but in a manner that makes you feel like you’re the only person on the planet. From that moment on, every time I saw him it was the same—rapt, atom-splitting attention, softened by deeply creased smile lines around his eyes.

I’ll tell this story only because he can’t get into trouble for it now: Months after I’d bumped into Bill again and he’d become a constant fixture in my life, Bill and I and our first two designers produced a 20-page prototype of ReadyMade to send out to early subscribers and potential investors as a teaser. The magazine had no money, and Bill knew that, so one night he let us commandeer the Wired office to print, fold, and staple together the first copies of this magazine. As we worked, he brought us shots of Odwalla and goodies from the vending machines. For Bill, that night summoned the early Wired spirit that he sorely missed—fire-in-the-belly journalism where bucking the system is not just part of the fun but the whole point.

In those first years of publishing, we really had no idea what we were doing. Before shipping the magazine off to press—when I was biting my fingernails down to nubs—Bill, who never owned a car, would ride the BART train from San Francisco to Berkeley after hours and show up at our office—then located in the dank recesses of a used-furniture warehouse—to help get the final pages into shape. I’ll never forget the image of him approaching my desk on those nights, jacket slick with rain, wearing that irrepressible smile. He’d give us his usual, unstinting attention along with the crypto-prattle for which he was famous, and somehow he’d break through and make me laugh. He was the only one who could chisel away at my everything-is-falling-apart moods. And though I hated him a little for his spot-on comments about a story (“This is well written, but all the pieces are jumbled,” or “This is a bunch of run-at-the-mouth with no punchline”), he never failed to get out his red pen and spackle the rough spots that I was too green of an editor to see.

Beyond the many small ways in which he helped this magazine get out of its nappies, Bill was a peerless supporter and friend. He showed up at every ReadyMade party, stayed until last call, bought us all too many drinks, and spun me dizzy on the dance floor. Many nights when I’d meet up with him and other ReadyMade contributors for a pub crawl, we’d end up on the streets of San Francisco, with Bill the battering ram at the lead, yanking left-at-the-curb baby clothes over his arms to make us laugh and getting us kicked out of all-night eateries. Every morning after, I’d inevitably receive an email from him: “Delighted to have been brought on board as one of your boys last night, my dear. Nothing like good company, several cocktails, and a few plates of Manking cuisine to help blow off steam, or work, or both. [Smiles.]

After nights of hamming it up around town, I’d drop Bill off at his place so he could catch a few winks before rising at 5 a.m. for his usual run. Just before the marathon, he sent me a text message that he’d like to see me soon, though he might be a little “tender-footed” after the race. In the end, it wasn’t his feet that failed him. You will be dearly missed, tender-hearted friend.

Simply ♥B

I talked with Bill on his 40th birthday for quite a few hours. I challenged his outlook. I pushed him…where are you going? Are you truly happy? He did the same for me. We always exchanged with each other once we cut through the thick tangles intertwining our everydayness and everypersoness — my made up words were his favorite and he even managed to incorporate them into the literary world. He thanked me numerous times for these conversations. It seems we didn’t and couldn’t have them often enough while we were together. We each protected whatever imaginary turf the other person seemed to be trampling on. I have pondered his words over the past few years and they shout at me now. He questioned more than he ever had before. He was much more compassionate. He was lost and searching, a trait he refused to show before. He hadn’t hit his full potential and I wanted that for him so desperately.

When we first collided into each other over fifteen years ago, we had much the same conversation…except our viewpoints have met more towards the middle these past few years. You see, Bill was Spock. And yes, he looked dashing in blue. I was the “AIE”, as he pegged me (aristocrat in exile). Bill had never heard of enneagrams and on our first date we profiled each other while hanging out at the Stud. He was a “justice seeker”. This trait flowed through him like blood and breath.

Bill was my atomic romantic, writing searing prose that soothed.
Bill lived in a state of subdued chaos although outsiders saw rigidity; I needed the rigidity and he needed my softness.
Bill was the host of every party we attended. Mr. Lampshade.
Bill was generous not to a fault.
Bill was a lousy driver.
Bill saved my life (literally) twice. And he acknowledged he needed saving last January.
Bill loved his family – the tribe – he protected his sisters, honored his mother, and revered his father.
Bill was too hard on himself. He said he couldn’t be any different on July 22, 2006. He knew if he could have been more loving to himself, he could have all those things he thought he didn’t deserve, including me.
Bill will always be the chiming bells of Cagli.
Bill did laundry like a yogi.
Bill never got arrested while jumping on those police cars in North Beach!
Bill looked great on television.
Bill loved so many and most never saw the signs.
Bill changed me or the better…it wasn’t simple being married to him, but I am not simple either.

Bill was the most intellectual intellect. When he worked at The SF Weekly doing film review (not critique as he would say) most would approach me asking what the hell did he mean, etc…even for the review of Stakeout 2 with the infamous cat’s ass cam…others would ask did he like it and what the hell did he mean. I think I asked Andrew if we could include a Joey Translation, stating either yes or no at the end, but those two were thick as thieves when it came to brain humping–not many could play Bill’s game–so, it was left as is. And I am thankful.

The day he died, prior to me knowing of his death, I went to dinner in my new neighborhood, Queens, NY. I had just moved a week earlier and hadn’t been to a restaurant yet. As I sat down, “The Girl from Ipanema” started to play in the restaurant. I hadn’t heard our song in months. I walked down the aisle to that song on our wedding day…I will never see anything but Bill’s shining eyes and quirky smile under the most beautiful oak tree whenever I hear that song. I explained to my boyfriend why I was wistful…you see, Bill and I were going to move to New York, we were supposed to do exactly what I was doing. Now, I see he was saying goodbye.

I can hear Bill’s laughter now like a sweet echo. I thought he was hilarious and he thought I was funny, so much so, that he would stealthily say my jokes over me and get more chuckles from those around us. It was a game to us. I spent the first ten hours with him holding my cheeks from sheer pain. Laughter…why didn’t I record just one of his hilarious rants?

He told me he would never get married again. He told me he would never have children. He asked me to get on a plane and come to be with him. I thought he was being the dramatic one…this was just a few days before he died.

I see a striking pattern when I read what you have to say. Yes, he was so alive that he should have been the spokesperson for JOLT cola when it came out – inside joke. He was so passionate about right and wrong —not his version but the version that mattered. He was so present with everyone around him, including Barbara, the Fried, Dyed and Laid to One Side homeless woman in North Beach.

In the ten years we were married (five in North Beach and five trying to figure out how to split), we loved, fought, played, struggled, laughed, cried, tried, prayed, grew and the end hasn’t happened yet.

I read all that you write, I hear your words, I hug your sorrow, and yet I still feel the same. I am envious of his bosses (yes, the magazines were his mistresses and sometimes his fulltime family), I relate to his peers for I know their admiration and sheer frustration. And I can’t count the young up n comins asking me questions about Bill. I am sure the women he loved know of the effervescent joy he gave. As for his family and lifelong friends, you are lucky like me.

My heart still shakes as I type and his words “I am so proud of you” are my lullaby at night. He was and will always be my husband.

Not a week before he died he told me what I meant to him and he stressed the forever part. Bill had a knack for timing and always seemed to make that deadline.

First Lady of Your ♥,
Joey White

“Guglielmo [William] da Baskerville”

What I’ve read about William O. is confirming the great person he was. To spend some time with him was one of my best moments in my life. Unfortunately, I could not share with him a lot of time as all of you did since I was in Italy, but I could understand his extraordinary figure being in touch for 3 years… Our email-friendship was wonderful.

I met William O. in 2001. I was at Vini D’Italia, my uncle’s little restaurant, where only few hour before I was arrived from Italy, my vacation…Bill was there, in one of the little table, alone, reading a book. I was on the other side of the room, trying to pronounce the word “otter”, that was difficult for my Italian accent and I didn’t pay attention about him as long as I felt like someone was there spying on me. My eyes went directly on the only guest that was there and they were captured by the eyes of the “man in black” (How I used to call him). He smiled and already I understood how special he was. The time passed and I was helping my uncle serving at the tables. And like a Swiss clock on Wednesday and Saturday, Bill was there, waiting to eat Italian food. No words between us, but only big smiles and bright eyes. Since, one day, he asked my name. Very very shy I said my name and I left. That was the way to become friends. He was all the time very patient with me and he tried to help me with my English, he asked me about everything, my Italian town, my culture and my real job. “I’m a researcher” I said, “I work with gerbils”, and he was also interested in that field. Amazing! Never I saw someone with more desire to learn something. Was the end of my vacation and I had to leave. I was so sorry I didn’t have too many possibility to share more time with him. Was Saturday and I was leaving the next Thursday. “I have to tell you goodbye, dear Maria Vittoria. I have to work on Wednesday so I will be not here as usual…but, maybe…I can try to get here, only to see you for the last time”. We were almost closing the door of the restaurant when the “man in black” arrived running…he came…for me (smiling). We took a couple of pictures and he gave me his card. When I was in Italy I sent him an email, and that was the beginning of our email friendship. Every, every night, as he said, “with the vacuum lullaby”, before leaving his office he was writing me something. I could know all his family, that he loved so much, and his friends, without knowing them [“Back here by the Bay, my dad picked me up at the airport then I spent Mother’s Day evening with my folks and sisters and brother-in-law (Cathy’s husband) and boyfriend (Aimee’s) and niece and nephew (who
I tossed around happily even though I have a cracked rib)”]. He was writing in a very strange way for me at the beginning, but later on I realized that…he was William O. Goggins. Everything was with a code. Every word was smart, funny and well putted [“Take your time. And don’t take any baloney. (Note: “baloney”means nonsense, aka bullshit, and is also the American word for Bologna sausage.)” speaking about my new boyfriend from Bologna]. He got the bullseye all the time!

Never I thought I could meet him again, but I had the luck to come for 6 months in the USA to work. So, we decided to meet each other again. I traveled to SF and I was with him for 10 days…the all day. Not only he was like I imagined him from the letters, he was also better!! His soul was full of life, he was curious, very polite, well organized and more all over… crazy! He liked to say: PAZZO, the Italian translation. And he was…in the hilarious way. I remember him jumping from the street and swinging on the roof of a gas station. I remember him throwing a little paper bag (from a Starbucks) on the back of the shuttle only because there was no any place where to put it, or throwing the ball playing Petanque in the most absurd place. I saw him with very different kind of people and with all of them he was able to make himself comfortable, speaking about something very serious or something very stupid, he was like a chameleon. One of his days was like 3 of mine going here and there and he had also time for a nap (wink). Absolutely…extraordinary. He was my teacher (“Guglielmo [William] da Baskerville”)…with him I have learnt something that is still deep in my soul…I have learnt how to love the life!!! And, he was only leading me, trying to let me thinking about the right answer. Incredible…sometimes he was too clever for me!

And…at the end of the day… it was our little quiet time speaking about ourselves. Sometimes listening to the music or trying to watch a movie before falling to sleep. Poor William…he was sleeping on the floor to leave me to be very comfortable in his bed. Who is that person that without knowing his guest goes to the airport to pick her up, organizes every second to make fun and sleeps on the floor. Only a “knight”, other name I gave him. In our emails we were speaking about dragon, princess and knight too, my writing fantasy improved, and more importantly… my reality too.
I’m going to stop now, I could write hundreds of unforgettable moments I had in only 10 days with him… But what I wrote I guess is enough to describe his gigantic enthusiasm to live the life and to fill your life of love and energy [“Hope the world’s putting a smile on your face, too, sweetheart.
Always,
B.”]

All of us will miss you a lot. Forever with us,
Maria Vittoria

Verses for a friend

Upon death there is a separation between body and soul. But the soul continues to live on as it always has, now unfettered by the physical constraints of the body. And since a person´s true character — his goodness, virtue, and selflessness — lies in the soul he will ascend to a higher state after fulfilling his responsibilities on earth.

To put this in perspective, modern physics has taught us that no substance truly disappears, that it only changes form, and that matter is another form of energy. A tree, for instance, might be cut down and used to build a house, a table or chair. Regardless of how the form changes, the wood remains wood. And when that same wood is burned in a furnace, it again changes form, becoming energy that gives off heat and gas. The tree, the chair, and the fire are all merely different forms of the same substance.

In Judaism, a way to honor and continue to elevate the soul of the departed is to say tehillim (psalms) daily with the soul of the person in mind. I have chosen to say daily Psalm 24 for Bill. I believe it applies very well to him, and may his soul, which brought so joy and inspiration to others as evidenced by all the comments on this website, continue to be strong and pure.

Psalm 24
1) By (King) David. A Psalm. The earth is the Lord´s and the fullness thereof, the world of men and they that dwell therein.
2) For He has founded it upon the seas and, guiding it, constantly establishes it upon the floods.
3) Who shall ascend to the mountain of the Lord, and who shall. Stand in the place of his Sanctuary?
4) He that is clean of hands and pure of heart, who has not lifted up his soul, which is Mine, unto vanity and has not sworn deceitfully,
5) He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and kindness from the God of his salvation.
6) This is the generation of them that seek after Him, that seek your face O Jacob (Selah).
7) Lift up your heads, O gates, be lifted up to become portals of the future, so that the Kind of Glory may come in.
8) Who is the King of Glory? The Lord, invincible and strong, The Lord, the Mighty One in battle.
9) Lift up your heads again, O gates, lift them up to become portals of the future, so that the King of Glory may come in.
10) Who, then, is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory. (Selah)

The few verses of this brief psalm contain the most powerful truths that any mortal lips were ever privileged to utter concerning the ways of God in the history of man. I am proud to say them daily for my friend, and a truly good human being, Bill Goggins.

Mike Marcus
Plantation, FL

Billy – Burning Brightly

I’ve known Pat and Ute for years and I only met Billy maybe a dozen times. I’ve been trying to put my finger on why his death hit me so hard.

Whenever I met Bill he was always unfailingly polite. He was always interested in what you were doing and you became the center of his attention. In fact Bill was always interested in everything – literature, history, politics, neighborhoods, puns, food, drink, the list was endless. He could talk intelligently about anything and make you feel that you had contributed something to the conversation even when you spent most of the time just trying desperately to follow him.

I think now that his death hit me hard because I’ve only met a few people who’ve lived life at warp speed. Bill seemed to go full tilt at anything he did. I’ve been reading about another writer who approached life like Bill, George Bernard Shaw. This is from a letter he wrote to a friend about “The True Job of Life”. I’ve edited it slightly and reformatted it:

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the
Whole community and as long as I live it is my
Privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die,
For the harder I work the more I live.
I rejoice in life for its own sake;
Life is no brief candle to me,
It is a sort of splendid torch
Which I have got hold of for the moment
And I want to make it burn as brightly
As possible before handing it on
To future generations.

That’s how I’ll always remember Bill – burning brightly.

On November 4th, the annual Day of the Dead will be celebrated at Pickleweed Community Center in San Rafael in Marin County. Pickleweed is in the mainly Hispanic Canal neighborhood. Groups and individuals create altars to friends and loved ones who have died. It follows a parade through the neighborhood, music and dancing. Pat and Ute have been involved in the past; it’s the kind of celebration that Bill loved and would have participated in.

I’m not an artist but if anyone wants to work with me on creating an altar for Billy – if you have ideas, photos, anything you want to contribute, please feel free to contact me.

Sean Prendiville
spprendiville@comcast.net

Forever in My Heart

A spirit so great
A blessing to know
To share a part of his life
That will never go

I met Billybob when I started working at the SF Weekly and the calls, emails and instant messages about his passing made their way to me in the early morning. I knew it was a special bond because a few of the people who brought me the news commented that they didn’t know him that well, but they knew how much love we had for each other. One friend reminded me that he had me introduce him to Bill because he had to meet the guy who left me the crazy messages on my answering machine.

I would challenge Bill on his movie reviews so much that it finally got to the point that before they were published, he’d run them by me and ask how he did. Even after I moved back to Texas, Bill and I kept in touch. Sometimes it was only around the time of his birthday when I’d send my annual email or when I’d visit SF, but no matter what he was and always will be forever in my heart.

I saw him last a couple of Easters ago when he came to town with his parents and I am so glad that we got to spend our last moments together in the manner we did.

Tahneebob

BILLY – The Renaissance Man

When I first met Billy I think he was working at the SF Weekly. I think his dad introduced me to him, as I’m a friend of his dad and mam. Anyway Billy was very polite and respectful, as befits younger people to the older generation. And the next few times we met he was just as polite and respectful. And then one day I met him at the Irish Cultural Center, and his enthusiasm level when talking to me had increased by the power of ten. He told me that he had found out that I used to work for the Bay Guardian which seemed to excite him enormously. So we talked about how I was a founding member of the Guardian, how I knew Jean and Bruce (the publishers) before they started the paper, and what the experience of actually getting started was like. He was so interested in every detail I actually thought he was interested in starting his own newspaper! Then I told him about my experience working for Keystone Press on Fleet Street in London when I was an aspiring journalist, before I came to America, and although I never actually became a journalist it seemed like we had created a little bond. It seemed like I was of his world. After many years of knowing Billy I came to realize that this was not unusual. He had a way of making you feel unique, by his unique interest in you.

Much later when we started Wilde Irish Productions, I discovered Billy’s wide interest in the arts. (And why wouldn’t he be interested in the arts with a mother who is an accomplished artist, and a father who supports artistic endeavors, and struggling artists from the hills of San Francisco to the Native Americans of Montana, from the wilds of Mayo to the Giants Causeway in the North of Ireland and everywhere in between.) And why should I be surprised? Because not all young people whose parents bring art and enlightenment into their lives actually embrace it. Billy not only embraced it he lived it. And breathed it. And talked it. And even being Irish, I was hard put to keep up with him.

I remember specifically the night Varese invited me to join her and Billy for the production of Gogol’s Overcoat at ACT. I’m a fan of Gogol, and The Overcoat is one of my favorites of his short stories. So, I was looking for the empathy, and the heartache the author created for his hero which I didn’t find in the production. Varese and Billy and I discussed this at the intermission, and Billy was adamant that it wasn’t necessary because the production (which was excellent) did so many other things. Varese agreed with Billy. She was totally enchanted by the production. And I agreed that the show was an incredible theatrical accomplishment. But I still missed the heartache of the hero’s life and particularly at the loss of his hard-earned new overcoat. Billy vigorously defended the choices of the director, better than most theatre professionals that I know, could have done. So, by the end of the show, and our discussion afterwards over drinks, we had to agree to disagree. But, I must say that it had been a rare and invigorating discussion which I went over and over in my mind many times and for many days afterwards.

So my humble impression of Billy’s life is that it was lived to the full. And not in the common sense that that comment is made. I think that Billy fully entered into life at all levels, work, art, sports, writing, family, community, politics, and all the other things that I couldn’t possibly know about, and with all of his energy and intellect and in this way he touched so many lives that for a long, long time someone will be thinking of him somewhere. I know I certainly will.

With love and gratitude for Billy’s life,
Breda Courtney

Bill’s brief, but big, impact on my life

Bill passed through my life nearly ten-plus years ago, but he had a tremendous impact on my career as a journalist and editor. At the time, I was an intern at SF Weekly – my first “job” in journalism. During those several months, Bill never slung his arm over my shoulders or he never whispered words of wisdom into my ear. Instead, his encouragement was something much more sincere and much more real: He was simply kind and encouraging to us interns – which, in a work environment that was often dismissive and abusive of interns, ultimately convinced me not to quit writing and give up on weekly papers for a kinder, gentler profession.

Six years ago, I helped launch a weekly paper in Portland, Oregon. It was a long path from my internship at SF Weekly to becoming the managing editor at the Portland Mercury – and along the way there were several standouts who encouraged me to keep with the business of writing. Among those, Bill was my first.

I had never thanked Bill for his kindness – and, in fact, we had not even spoken since I left SF Weekly back in 1992. But a year ago, I decided to write him a brief note (below). I did not expect a response from Bill. I simply wanted him to know that he had been a positive and important force on my career.

A few weeks ago, though, I did receive an email from Bill’s parents telling me that they had found the letter that I had written to Bill and that he had passed a few weeks earlier. I am truly sorry for his family and friends, and cannot imagine the loss that each of you must feel. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to write Bill and that he received my thank you.

I only knew a sliver of Bill and only for a very brief time. But that glimpse was remarkable. Below is a copy of the letter which I sent Bill.

—————
21 February 2005

Bill –

This is an out-of-the-blue letter, and a long overdue thank you. Ten-plus years ago, I was an intern at SF Weekly and you were a copy editor there. As well, you shepherded us interns.

More recently, I have become the managing editor for the Portland Mercury, a popular weekly in Oregon. We’re a spin-off from Seattle’s The Stranger (and, ultimately, The Onion.) I helped launch the paper five years ago.

To the point: There really is no point to this letter except to say “thank you.” Without any real prompt, your name popped into my head last week. Perhaps it was because I was dealing with a stubborn intern, or perhaps I was dealing all hard-ass with a cranky reporter and started to realize (against all promises to myself) that I was acting like Vince Beilski (the former news editor at SF Weekly).

During my several months at SF Weekly, you were incredible. I don’t know whether you even remember, but you set up weekly seminars and lectures for us interns. Most of the time, few people attended, but you kept at it. It perhaps wasn’t anything big to you, but those after-work mini-lectures helped keep me involved with the paper and, ultimately, helped me suffer through my internship (and get something worthwhile out of it, besides an ego bruised by Vince). Also, if I remembering clearly, you were one of the few editors who didn’t act too-cool-for-school towards us interns.

Like I said, your name and my experiences at SF Weekly were just something that popped into my head. They were a good reminder that small things that I do now as an editor and mentor can have a big impact on impressionable young things.

Anyway, this letter doesn’t need any response. I simply wanted to drop a few recent issues of our paper in the mail to you and, more important, to thank you.

I hope that all’s well.

Sincerely,

Phil Busse

Billy Martin, never just Billy

Blonde, almost white hair, this little blue eyed boy always Billy Martin, never just Billy, finally asleep on the couch at 3am while his Dad, Pat and I and whoever else is over talk and drink and laugh and joke about everything in the world that is meaningful to us. His Mom, Ute has long since gone to bed, she has lots to do tomorrow. But Pat and Billy Martin and I can stay up all night if we want to. And we do.

Billy Martin with us as we teach him to drink beer and eat hot sauced food in our favorite Mex Cafes or search out the poets in North Beach Cafes. He must be about 5 or 6 and he is part of us. It’s no wonder he grew up to be all the things I’ve been reading that you, his friends have said, warm, witty, generous and “smart as a whip.” Must have something to do with the salsa we consumed so often or the late hours listening to us blog before there was an internet. We blogged in person, laughing, touching, loving. First at the pumpkin colored house in Marinwood and later, in the moss roofed cottage in Mill Valley.

I can remember clearly, Billy’s face in a photo that Pat took for a series of postcards, this one to show racial harmony, sitting on a curb next to a boy of his age, maybe 4 years old. Billy Martin, fair, blonde and the boy, his friend for a while, shadow black, innocent and sharing a moment of childhood grace.

The world was graced by Billy Martin for such a short while. It is our loss that he is no longer with us except in memory. I only knew him as a boy since I was out of contact with his family for some time. I regret that I spent so little time with him and will not have the opportunity to do so now and I am saddened knowing that he will not have the experiences of a long life filled with joys and sorrows. It was many years later that I married and had a child but when we were together, Billy Martin was my son too.

Poet, A. E. Housman said it thus:

To An Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the raceWe chaired you through the market-place;Man and boy stood cheering by,And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come,Shoulder-high we bring you home,And set you at your threshold down,Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes awayFrom fields where glory does not stayAnd early though the laurel growsIt withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shutCannot see the record cut,And silence sounds no worse than cheersAfter earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the routOf lads that wore their honours out,Runners whom renown outranAnd the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,The fleet foot on the sill of shade,And hold to the low lintel upThe still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled headWill flock to gaze the strengthless dead,And find unwithered on its curlsThe garland briefer than a girl’s.

Eddie Greenly

A good Life …

Having known Bill and his family since he was about five years old, I came to know him over the years as someone of great integrity and warmth.. A truly nice human being. I believe these words ring very true for Bill …

“A long life is not good enough,
But a good life is long enough.”

I am starting each day with Psalm 24 in memory of Bill, and hope it comforts his soul as it comforts me.

Mike Marcus
Plantation, FL