My friend Billy died last night. This man was the first farmer in our county to go organic. Hell, he started organically in 1980 before it was really a thing, and has grown the best garlic you can find since forever. He introduced black garlic to the foodies in our community - fabricating an elaborate open air dehydrating system that turned whole bulbs of juicy garlic into fermented black flesh that tasted like heaven. He hipped us all to his fire tonic that he made outside the blessing grip of the health department - a mash of his own cayenne, garlic, and horseradish with organic Hawaiian ginger. An excellent addition to soup, eggs, and seriously the best Bloody Mary enhancer in the world. Our first time truly bonding was on an ice cold early spring morning outdoor market where he was sampling the tonic with tomato juice and he and Ami were sneaking nips from a bottle of Absolut into their own wee cups. They were drinking the sauce with fat Lovage stem straws that made it taste like celery. How do I know this? Because I caught them and when he freaked out thinking he was going to get in trouble, I said the only way you’re in trouble is if you don’t make me one, my brother. Some of you have received jars of that tonic for Christmas.
He taught hundreds of people how to farm sustainably and he did it for free. He created a composting system that he could have sold, but he just showed people how to do it instead. He supplied multiple farmers markets and a steady four-season CSA membership with gorgeous produce.
His heart gave out and I’m bereft.
I didn’t go visit him these recent weeks that he wasn’t at the market because he wasn’t feeling well. I will regret that forever. Ami and I got the news towards the end of the day at work and we both lost our shit for a bit and then sat down and drafted a notice for the market page. The outpouring of love for this man is beautiful and I sure hope he can feel the loving energy flowing his way.
I’ll find a way to live with feeling like a shitty friend. I’ll make room for this shadow next to my shitty wife and shitty mother shadows on the shelf of my life. They sit next to lots of good things, too. One of those good things is the camaraderie Billy and I enjoyed over a bunch of years, a bunch of burritos, and a bunch of beers.
See you on the other side one day, my friend. Love you to the moon and back again.