Vinburd & Will's Convivium

May the tender prejudices of friendship be temporarily put aside for an unbiased look into the qualities of a close friend?  I doubt it, unless one stumbles into it.

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Vinburd first visited my e-mail box snuggled between two opportunities: one that I help spend the good fortune of a doctor in Nigeria and the other a cheap deal on guaranteed Viagra from Sepulveda. While I wondered what qualifies as a Viagra guarantee, I did not read the gentle blogger named Vinburd until his or her fourth sending, and then I noted to myself, “Bill should read this!”  As I prepared to forward Vinburd to Bill I discovered to my surprise and delight that Vinburd was Bill.

With this blog’s introduction to Vinburd (as a buttoned link) and in line with full disclosure, it was Bill Burden who introduced me to Berangere Lomont – of this blog – in 1977.  They met, with full Mediterranean exposure, on a boat from Athens to Venice, as Bill was on his way to picking grapes in the south of France during the late summer of 1976, which some of you will remember, perhaps with no particular relevance, as America’s bi-centennial.

And it was I who introduced Jean Sherrard first to Bill Burden in 2001 and then to Berangere in 2005 when Jean and I visited her and her family in Paris. Bill joined us from Saudi Arabia where he was momentarily consulting on something and his daughter Caroline drove down from Germany with her two children.

The accompanying picture is proof of place for at least Jean, Bill and I, but not of our age now.  We were directed by Berangere to smile for her where millions of tourists before us have posed with their backs to the Sacre Coeur and on the steps to the top of Paris’ highest hill.  Grandfather Vinburd is at the middle.  (Although snapped only four years ago, to me we look uncannily young. But then I am currently negotiating my first mid-life crises with my first old man crisis at the same time – this week at the age of 71.  Bill is a few years behind me and Jean is still in his prime.)

L-R: Paul, Bill & Jean (photo by Berangere Lomont)
L-R: Paul, Bill & Jean (photo by Berangere Lomont)

I met John William Burden in the Helix (a newspaper) office during the summer of 1969.  The U.W. Grad student in Old English (think Beowulf) was doing public relations (long hair and all) for the “Mayor’s Youth Division.”  (Now I wonder, did he think that an “underground tabloid” like ours would have been a pipeline to Seattle’s youth?) We soon became friends and although he moved back to Southern California in the late 1980s we have never been out of touch.  He still flies north often, although by now it is as likely for funerals as weddings that we and many friends are reunited.

We lived together for two years in the late 1970s in an old asbestos faux-war-brick workers home next door to the Cascade Neighborhood playfield.  There every Sunday in summer we set out the bases for “artist league softball,” a warm tradition that survived for perhaps five years.  Bill was then working as an independent carpenter and late 70s hot tub hysteria was splashing his way. (Several friends had them and we were still young enough to comfortably strip with them and even strangers.)

When I met him Bill was married with two children.  I watched them grow up.  In those sometimes intuited “groovy times” Bill was already a generous and encyclopedic wit willing to use his vocabulary and allusions and so never boring.  Jean is the same.  One of my fond Parisian memories from 2005 is seeing the two of them side-by-side in animated conversation as they walked across the pedestrian Pont des Arts while we were all returning to Berangere’s Left Bank home from a visit to the Louvre.  That, dear reader, is spanning high culture.

Paul, furthest right, bottom row. Bill, with bat next to Paul.

I’m confident that many of you will enjoy following Bill’s reflections on a variety of subjects, both the eternally recurring ones and those that are more contemporary.  And here’s some more fan-mag-like twitter stuff on Vinburd. He has traveled almost everywhere.  He loves skiing and more than once chose his home site in order to be near the slopes.  He is an expert fly fisherman and for a time was a columnist on the subject.  This fly-fishing fits his Vinburd persona very well.  Of course, so does his wine making.  I love his Chateau Fou.  Now you may, if you like, imagine taking a walk with Vinburd, and with his blog, Will’s Convivium, you can, if you are so moved, have an invigorating conversation with the oldest brother of Lawburd, Newsburd, and Bigburd.


With help from a few of those pictured we will identify most of those players in the Artist’s Softball League who managed to pose together on a Sunday afternoon during the summer of 1978 in the Cascade Playfield with Pontius Avenue behind them between Thomas and Harrison Streets.  Many are missing including Philip Wohlstetter who helped with the identifications and who this weekend may have been in Paris, and Doug Barnett, who had the mightiest swing among us having slugged a softball from home plate over the fence bordering Harrison Street.

Bottom Row, Left to Right:  Who is the bearded man with the white shirt and in profile?  We do not know as yet. (Continuing)  David Mahler, Irene Mahler (supporting the bat), Bill Burden AKA Vinburd (supporting the other bat), Paul Dorpat.

Second Row, Left to Right: Bob Clark stands with glove and Paul Kowalski next to him has a glove too.  Annie Carlberg holds her glove aloft.  Judith Connor, with the striped shirt, soon after moved to Japan.  Barbara Teeple, with long hair, stands next to someone for now identified only as “Ann Rich’s boyfriend.” Billy King holds his hat. Man behind Billy looks a lot like the “Ann Rich’s boyfriend.”  Hmmm.  Norman Caldwell, who lived three feet from the playfield, separating it from Bill and my home.

Top Row, Left to Right: Norm Langill, who helped with the captions and played with style; Andy Keating, who hit with power and later moved to New York and Merilee Tompkins with her hands on Andy and David Rosen.  (This year David generously let me share his studio overlooking Lake Union.)  Next, Norm Engelsberg with the big hair and Lisa Shue in white.  Lisa played the cello and lived next door with Norm Caldwell.  Neither the dog nor man in striped shirt standing aside to the right are as yet identified.  This is more than 18 players – this Sunday enough for two teams and base coaches.  We used no umpires.

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