Shout out to all the dads, stepdads, uncles, special friends, and men who choose to love and support a young child, whether they be his bloodline or not.
You are needed. You are doing something that matters.
Fathering is complicated AF for me. I’ve had many dads and no dad.
I’m thankful for all the dads that have been in my life, and to this day feel the lack of true fathering deeply.
Most precious to me is the one who was there when I was born, the legendary Llwyd Watson. My mom’s BFF. I called him Uncle.
Mom and Uncle Llwyd were both cab drivers at Taxi Unlimited, the famed anarchist taxi collective that served the East Bay in the 60’s and 70’s with psychedelic art cars and boasted regular clients such as Ursula Le Guin. Llwyd cared for me daily, as an infant, giving my single mom the respite new mothers so desperately need.
As I grew, he visited us wherever we lived. His visits were a highlight and I felt that special sacred masculine energy of protection and strength, guidance and love from him. In my little mind, he was Merlin the Magician. He’d show up at our doorstep with his backpack made of colorful patches and his walking staff with ruby eyes. From his pack, he’d draw his magical bag of treasures (the ubiquitous Crown Royale purple bag I’d come to recognize as an adult), into which each of us kids was allowed to slide our hand, feel around and pull out a mystery treasure.
Uncle Lloyd taught me so much and helped form me as the person I am today. I learned what it means to be an anarchist, pacifist, tax resistor and about the life’s work of his hero, Ammon Hennacy. He taught me who the Catholic Workers were, the sacred art of activist theater, what a Mobius is, how to roll a cigarette and how to read the Tarot.
He taught me about the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement, the legacy of the Vietnam War resistors, Kent State, and our history in Berkeley, my birthplace. From him, I learned of the stories of Indigenous resistance at Alcatraz and the American Indian Movement.
When we found a wounded hawk on our land at New Jeruselum Meadows, he and I cared for it until it recovered. Etched into my mind is the image of his hand in the leather weathered leather work glove he wore as we prepared to release the hawk into its freedom.
An anti-capitalist until he transitioned, Uncle Llwyd never owned a car the whole time I knew him, and his method of traveling the entire planet was hitchhiking. A legend in so many ways, his ability to hitchhike as a means of travel was genius. Notably, he hitched across 6 states with his momma dog, Gertie, and her 10 puppies. Even more amazing and fantasmical (a word this word genius loved), he hitchhiked to take in every solar eclipse in the world that happened in his later adulthood. Go ahead, puzzle on that one for a minute.
At the age of 5, I took my first hitchhiking trip with him to Cocolalla, Idaho. This photo of us, circa 1982 is one of my favorite photos and represents some of the happiest memories of my childhood.
This photo isn’t of our first trip hitchhiking together. It was actually our last. Mom took this shot just before Llwyd, my 5-year-old brother Songtree and I headed out to hitchhike to the Rainbow Gathering in Idaho. I can see her smiling, the Cannon DSLR that she so loved held to her face as she snapped this photo and reminded me to be kind to my little brother. I was upset that he was going to be intruding on this special time. Memories of him on that trip are fuzzy, most notably, who took care of him as I galavanted all around the Rainbow Gathering grounds? What must have been going through my mom’s mind as she snapped this picture, sending her kids off into the wilderness of highways and unknown drivers who would transport us across the hundreds of miles that separated us on Barker Mountain from the forests that are known in colonialist American lexicon as the Trinity Mountains?
Dearest Uncle, you soothed me daily in Berkeley as a colicky baby and came right away to San Francisco to meet my firstborn. We had so many adventures in many lands along the way! Oh, the inappropriate stories I can tell of those three trips we took through the Pacific Northwest between my years of 5 and 9.
Remember on that first wild goose chase – as you always called them – when the sheriff stopped us as we walked down the streets of Sandpoint, Idaho, and asked me if I was ok and if I knew you? You had to shush me because I was so righteously indignant as I told him off, already knowing how dangerous cops were for us hippies and people who weren’t bought into “The System”. That part hasn’t changed much has it?
The last time I saw you in life we ran into each other in 2004 or so, in the streets of San Francisco amidst a sea of peace marchers, showing up in opposition to Cheney’s Iraq war. I had little Maggie with me and we were dressed in orange and pink, along with the rest of the Pussies for Peace contingent who had come from Santa Cruz on a chartered San Francisco party bus named Lola. A memory worthy of the splashes of technicolor you brought into my world.
I miss you Uncle. Happy Birthday season to a consummate Virgo vagabond. Thank you for everything you gave me in my life, most importantly a feeling of being held and loved by the strong, masculine arms of a protector.