picture stolen from stephen cramer.
Dena wrote about the Bill Doss Memorial & asked others to share what they remembered. I’ve been trying to think of how to write it but I don’t know.
I had to work that day so I walked back and forth from my job to the 40 Watt a couple times and I missed a lot of the Memorial. I remember that walking into the 40 Watt definitely felt like a funeral, all somber & suits, but some people were wearing jeans (myself included) so it was also weirdly casual, and they also had to check IDs and give wristbands like a concert. But it still reminded me of going to funerals when I was a kid; I have a big extended family and my great-uncles and cousins &c. who I didn’t know were always dying and I was carted around to a lot of funerals. It was always chrysanthemums & cigar smoke. Sometimes my family also held wakes, and this Memorial was more like a wake.
Colby never had to go to funerals when he was a kid so I explained to him about how funerals are pretty sad & serious but when you go to a wake, you’re supposed to celebrate the person’s life and tell good stories about them & eat a lot of food & maybe get drunk. I told him, when someone dies, you are always supposed to make food for the family, because that’s how you help take care of them when they’re grieving, so they don’t forget to eat. These things are important.
When I arrived, Robert Schneider was on stage giving a long speech about his friendship with Bill. Some things that really hit me were when he said that upon hearing the news of Bill’s death, his first thought was, “I need to call Bill and talk about this!” I understood what that kind of friendship feels like, and I thought about the people in my own life that I would feel that jarringly lost without. Robert also told a lot of sweet stories about Bill & Amy’s relationship and those stories made me remember that love is still really important in spite of all the stupid human shit that sometimes gets in the way and makes me feel like I can’t get out of bed & want to be alone forever. No more of that. At one point Robert was describing what kind of a nice, polite, helpful person Bill was, and he seemed to hesitate for a moment searching for the right word, and ended on “such a decent human being.” Even though that sounds so simplistic, it really gave me a start because I couldn’t even think of the last time I’ve heard someone described as “decent” (“shows honor; is gracious,” [via]) so it felt really important & became a quality to strive for with greater conviction.
During the entire Memorial, they projected a slideshow of Bill pictures which had been previously requested from friends & family. I submitted a couple photos even though all I had were concert pictures & most of the pictures they used were personal snapshots. I was really, really surprised & honored & humbled that one of mine was included in the show — like this is what photography is for, after all, is remembering. I think it’s really good that that’s the picture that came up in the above photo that Stephen took because it looks like Bill is in the concert playing with everyone. There were actually a lot of moments where the pictures that came up matched somehow with a story someone was telling onstage. Dena had submitted a picture of Bill from a different concert, with his hands in a particular position, and while that one was onscreen the person speaking unintentionally put their hands in almost the exact same way. I thought that was like magic.
After Robert played some songs, I had to go back to work for another hour, so I walked a couple blocks and thought about, I guess, all the usual things that people think about when inspired by a loss: how to be more decent, how to stop wasting time, how to value my friendships & relationships more.
After work I came back to the Memorial & Jeff Mangum was speaking. I remember he phrased the death as “when Bill decided to check out,” & I wondered about if there is ever any moment of agency in these matters even though people usually talk about dying as being taken unexpectedly. I thought about giving up versus giving UP. Jeff began to play “Love Athena” and eventually I started crying. I was thinking about Athens & feeling community & togetherness & deciding I might not want to move away any time after all. I was thinking about all the mistakes & confusion that initially brought me here and how it was beginning to make sense after so many years. I was trying to cry discretely into Colby’s shoulder because I thought if I made eye contact with anyone else I might start totally weeping… when I looked up near the end of the song, a lot of people had joined Jeff onstage & were preparing to play, too.
They sang Sun Ra “Enlightenment” & had given out lyric sheets so everyone could sing. After a few rounds, they paraded off the stage and onto the floor & snaked among everyone in the “audience.” It was like a jazz funeral; I thought for a moment they might even lead us all outside! But we stayed inside & continued repeating the words again & again and like Dena said I didn’t want it to stop, it was sad & beautiful and I didn’t want everyone to shuffle away as the lights came up. Scott ended up standing in front of us with his tuba & Julian was banging on some empty bottles at our table; whoever didn’t have an instrument was clapping or stomping or hitting the beat on something. Everyone was singing & smiling & crying and it was just lovely.
& then it was finished. Colby & I went home and we talked about the things people said that we wanted to remember.
Later that night, Colby played a Mouser show & it was a really good one. I hung out with Marie & she told me about the Girls Rock Camp Showcase which happened earlier that day (but I missed it because the door guy couldn’t find my name on the list even though I was supposed to be on the list, and I couldn’t afford to pay to get in since I was shit-broke and rent was due the next day). This Mouser show was also Meghan’s last show because she’s moving away to go to graduate school soon. Marie & I had drinks together and we had a really good time even though we cried with Meghan, too; it was a good night to follow such a weird sad beautiful day. The show sounded really great & a lot of friends were there & I felt really comfortable and together, like these are the things we are supposed to be doing & supposed to keep doing, no matter what.
When Colby & I went back home afterward, we laid in bed together and he asked me to put on “that psychedelic music you were playing earlier” — I had just gotten the Pipes You See, Pipes You Don’t album which I had never heard before, so we listened to that again. I was still pretty drunk & when “I Disappear" came on I started crying a lot. It was a really good cry, though; I was kindof waiting to be able to have that kind of cry about everything, everything — for Bill & his friends and family & for Athens & feeling community & for wanting to be decent & for falling short & for being afraid to die & for a lot of other personal things I don’t need to elaborate upon here, & for making something beautiful out of sadness & for not wasting time & for being a part of something & for nothing making sense & for everything actually making sense & for trying to be sincere and not letting all the stupid human shit get in the way. Then I was almost done crying but “The Next Anything" came on and I cried all over again.
I tried to write this really simplistically because I don’t really know how to translate all the thoughts & feelings yet; it feels like this is too much to cram & compartmentalize into words, but that’s it.