Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Big Bill

Recently I have taken to reading books by David Sedaris. For those that don’t know, Sedaris is a hilarious essayist of everyday life. His work was referred to me by my boss Linda, who handed me two of his books. I can tell you that he has actually made me laugh out loud at many of his biting views of life and family. Linda thinks my writing has a familiarity with Sedaris, and I can tell you after reading his work, that I am extremely flattered by the comparison. Thank you, Linda…and best wishes in Austin.

Anyway, Sedaris expends a lot of effort describing memorable characters in his life, which got me thinking about similar characters in my life. Once I went down this path of pondering, it didn’t take me long to conjure my memories of Bill Casey, affectionately known as Big Bill.

Big Bill was the father of one of my close friends, Paul Casey. Paul & I were golfaholics in our younger days, and both of us were quite good players - Paul moreso than me, but we would enter amateur tournaments together & wager on who would fare better. We even played team events together. And to this day Paul still swings a mean stick out in Las Vegas where he still plays amateur events. Me? Age and yips have atrophied my game. I just play for fun now.

Anyway, back in the day many of our rounds were with Big Bill. To begin with, that moniker was not to describe him physically, as he was maybe five-seven, built round, sort of like a humpty-dumpty shape. It was more a term of endearment, given to him since he was the patriarch of the Casey Clan. Big Bill was born and raised in New Jersey, educated at Princeton, married to a stunningly beautiful woman. But when you first met him, none of these attributes presented themselves. He came across curmudgeonly. He always smoked a cigar, and would talk through it, giving his pronunciation a stifling effect, sort of like talking through wax paper. That, coupled with his Jersey accent, made him tough to understand. Toss in some peppery language, and you would get phrases like “Gawwwdammit Pfaul , I pfuckin’ toldya to reed more brake in dat pfutt…”

One time I was lamenting about a recent break-up with a girl. As I was explaining what went wrong, Big Bill interrupted, “Maybe yer chieph”. Not understanding him, I asked him to repeat - “Maybe yer CHIEPH”. One more time please, Bill. He took the cigar out of his mouth and finally, without the garbler in his mouth, he said, “MAYBE YOU’RE CHEAP.”

Yeah, Big Bill was direct.

What was cool about Big Bill was how he lived his life. Large. Remember that stunningly beautiful wife I mentioned? I had occasion to see a picture of them when they first got married back in the 50’s - Here was a young Big Bill, not looking much differently than he did 30 years later - kind of short and stocky, with this knockout gorgeous blonde who was at least 3 inches taller than him. And the look on Big Bill’s face was priceless - he was laughing uncontrollably, as if he was saying ‘That’s right - I may not be the best-looking guy in the world…but I got the BABE! TAKE THAT! AHHHHHAHAHAHAAA!!!!’ And my mind conjured up this image of Big Bill charming, well, the pants off of her. And making her his wife. I admire that kind of chutzpah.

Big Bill passed away a few years ago in Florida. And every year the Casey Clan gets together and has a golf outing in his honor. Paul flies in from Vegas. I was able to participate a couple of years ago, and in between imitating him with a "Gawwwdammmit Pfaul..." phrase, we laughed until he cried.

Just as Big Bill would have wanted it - live large, laugh a lot....and don't be chiepf.

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