I'm also clearly making regular payments on some karmic debt these days. I can't exactly pinpoint what I did to merit the utter mayhem of this year, but I suspect it has something to do with my remarking one too many times last year about how happy I was with my life back in Memphis. A lot of people in our line of work comment on how difficult the first year is for new faculty-- new location, new people, transition from grad school life, etc., etc.-- and I was happy to report that I was blessedly spared many, if not most, of those standard first-year obstacles. I was back in a city that I knew and loved, I didn't have to find my way around or make new friends, I wasn't teaching some god-awful 4/5 load, I had great students and colleagues... in sum, things were pretty good.
And here's a better picture of Wild Bill/Willie. The bass player to the right is my good friend Melvin.
There really aren't words for what this place means to me. It's like my "church." It doesn't matter how tired or stressed or anti-social I'm feeling, I need to go to Bill's to get restored. A couple of weeks ago, after singing a set with the band, Bill's wife came up and asked me if I had a job. I said I did, of course, not really knowing where she was going with this. Then she said, "well, honey, if you ever decide that you want to take over the Friday night set here as the singer, it's yours." That might be the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me. No kidding. And then, the next week, I was sitting at my regular table in the back with some friends, and we were looking at all the pictures on the wall. (Wild Bill's walls are covered in pictures of people who have been going there since it opened.) Out of the blue, one of my friends says, "hey, Leigh, the girl in this picture looks like you with long hair." So, I looked, and as I'm sure you've guessed, it WAS me. It was me about 15 YEARS AGO!!!
Once I got over the embarrassment of the picture, I realized that Wild Bill's has been about the most consistent element in my life for almost half of the years I've been alive. It's the one place in the world that I can go and know that I will see people I know and love, and it's the one place that I know I will leave happy. Wild Bill's has changed a lot over the years that I've been going there, and some of those changes haven't been good. Bill died, of course, which was awfully sad. And the place is overrun by a lot more tourists than it used to be back in the day. Also, I occasionally see my students there these days, who almost always are fronting and say something like "Dr. J! I didn't know you came to Wild Bill's!" (like they go there all the time). What I want to say to them is, "If you came here at all in the last 15 years you would know that, so don't make me embarrass you in front of your friends." But I don't say that.
Anyway, Bill's has been my saving grace this semester. God Bless Wild Bill's.