Willie Brown

Willie Brown is back in town, and if that sounds Dr. Seuss-ish to you, you should see the man in question.

First, Willie Brown is not his name. He is Cuban, and has about six long, grandiose Spanish names. No one can seem to remember them in order. One of them is Guillaime, so we call him Willy.

Willie’s natural ebullience is such that it spills out into the world around him. He is a physical dervish of hugs and kisses. He tries to hold three conversations at once, catching up with friends and making new ones, and when his English is stymied (It’s his fourth language), he cracks up into staccatto howls of laughter. While he’s talking, his hands are never still. In conversation they stroke one’s cheek or high-five or grab someone’s forearm in earnestness or sympathy.

Willie’s downfall is music. Sooner or later, he’ll hear something that he just has to dance to. And he really has to. It’s like an extra rule of physics for him. Sometimes he’s happy to salsa alone. More often, he will grab a startled partner from where she is sitting, whether he knows her or not. I have seen a number of women go from the verge of crying assault, to helpless and laughing abandonment while dancing with Willie. The first time he grabbed me, I was startled, and then charmed as he steered me between the bar and the tables. By the time we were done, I was gasping for breath in laughing exhaustion.

Willie’s exuberance is matched only by his gentle spirit. He is a man who is more wounded than most by the slings and arrows of life, and he feels others’ pain as well. His sensitivity can get him to sit still for far longer periods of time than casual conversation, but after a while, he has to express himself physically. He loves his friends unreservedly. They love him back, because it would be impossible not to. He shines through this world as an example of how to live in joy. He is a miracle.

Willie Brown is back! I’m putting on my dancing shoes!

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