Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Art Widner memorial

One compensation for cancelling my trip for this last weekend is that I was around to attend the memorial gathering for Art Widner on Monday afternoon up in Gualala, the little town on the rugged Mendocino coast where he'd lived for many years. It was at the town's arts center, a nicely apportioned museum/workshop setup. I admired the signs reading "More Art Upstairs." They seemed appropriate.

Art had many sadnesses in his life, including surviving the deaths of all three of his children, but how he did enjoy life and experience what it offered him with gusto. Such was the theme of his relatives who were there and spoke, especially his adult grandchildren. I hadn't met them before, but I knew of them, as he always spoke of them with fondness and interest.

They in turn were pleased to see so many of Art's friends from SF fandom, of which they in turn knew little except how important it was to their grandfather. Many of us spoke as well. At my turn, I said how for me Art was a boon companion, a pillar of the fannish community and a great guy to have around. What most impressed me at conventions was how Art was always ready to do the trufannish thing, which is to drop everything and go out to a good restaurant with friends. I once treated him at a Vietnamese restaurant when he was Fan Guest of Honor and the concom had neglected to take him out. And, of course, food was a theme of his many travels. After he visited Tahiti and Bora Bora, we all heard about coconuts. Once at a con in Seattle - when there, Art would always mention that he'd be visiting a granddaughter or two - we asked Art how his trip went. (We Bay Area folks usually flew to Seattle; Art always drove.) He told a tale of seething horror! And we all said, "Art, you should have known better: don't expect good Chinese food at a greasy spoon in Roseburg, Oregon."

Three times, I think, I visited Art at the octagonal house he kept in the hills above Anchor Bay near Gualala. It personified him. Several years ago I was in Sitka, Alaska, and visited a museum of Tlingit artifacts. It was in a similar octagonal building, and I kept expecting Art to appear, casting a protective eye over the artifacts as if they were rare fanzines from his collection.

Driving back in the evening, trying to make it off the coast before darkness fell - the herd of cows grazing on the highway near Fort Ross would have been hard to see at night, and then there are all the precipitous oceanside cliffs two inches from the narrow pavement's edge - and trying without success to raise a cellphone signal to make my expected call to B. Locals note that after dinner at Bodega Bay (where the road leaves the coast) just before the last restaurant closed for the night, I headed directly east on the local roads, and still didn't get a signal until I'd gotten all the way to Stony Point, not 3 miles from Cotati. I hadn't realized AT&T was so parsimonious with its coverage.

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