Nudging up against the cosmos might be the great lesson in life. At least that seemed to be the message at George’s funeral. Not so much astronomy or cosmology but escalating consciousness through encounter with the mundane; goats, jails, strangers, persistence and experiments. Nudging but keeping your feet in your shoes.
“George felt life was an odyssey,” said the man who had known George for the last 28 years. The man stood at his chair, moved by the Spirit of Utterance, as the others, sitting in a circle in the room, listened. It was a tribute, a Quaker style send off to George Floro who had endured the planet for 92 years.
George had done plenty and was active up to the last two weeks of his death; Great Lakes fisherman, soldier, husband, daddy, sociologist, goat rancher and cheese maker.
Another stood, “George is with us. It is sane.”
It didn’t make a lot of sense. But folks seemed to get it; sane to gather, sane to express feelings, sane to honor the life of the dead. Sane to nudge the cosmos.
“George thought the web of life was a mysterious force, that things happen serendipitously, provocatively, beyond our understanding,” another man said.
Down the road in Marfa, the people at El Cosmico deal the final throes of the serendipitous second night. Like some sort of being itself, the Trans-Pecos Festival of Music & Love, flummoxed in its own way, part of the web, pieces falling together and out.
At the concert, under the vast starry September skies, newly appointed MC David Garza runs the line-up of musicians like the cool talent that he is, strutting, off color, fun, with his own internal riff – a nudger.
The crowd trys to warm up.
Craig walks by and stops. He takes a slug of beer. “Uwe,” he mutters, his eyelids half open revealing dark eyes. “You should’ve been here last night.” He chuckles then walks off.
The teaching from the night before; rock stars, like Robert Plant, never die. But do they go happily ever after?
When George was in the limelight as a professor he liked to visit prisoners at Central Lock-up in downtown La Crosse. “If I had a bad day at the university, I could always visit the jail and make it a good day,” he said, standing under a cedar tree at his goat ranch in Sunny Glen a few weeks before he died.
He got locked down in a cell once. The jailer forgot he was there. George slept on the floor. A prisoner woke him up and they talked.
“We talked. The man had a lot on his mind,” George said.
A lady with gray hair stands in the solemn room. “I was part of one of George’s experiments,” she says. “The cheese factory in Redford.” She laughs. So much was learned there, how could she sum it up? She brings her Master’s thesis on Paulo Friere into the conundrum of George’s life. “Once the oppressed are liberated they in turn oppress the next. It’s a bad model.”
Shawn Colvin and others jam with Garza. They play their hearts out, making up a new song about a new song. Scripted words are a verse behind the collective talent of this stage as penciled stanzas flutter to the stage floor, demurring to experiment.
Marfa’s mystique may be its nights. They are surreal, dark, vast. Too much of it spooks. Like being aware of your solemn existence but laughing instead to take away the power pushing against you. It would not be wrong to run. Run to a fluorescent light and buy fried chicken.
George wrote about leadership, and what it takes to keep a community together. He formed a club called Big Bend People and Goats. One of their missions was to promote goats. Every year he’d have a goat day at the courthouse in Alpine and bring in some of his animals.
“Some kids pet the goats and prank around, to get their pictures taken. They didn’t get it. Others would come by and pet and nuzzle and talk with the goats. They were the ones who understood,” George wrote in an essay read by his son, Andy, at the service.
George felt that newcomers are important to any group and that they should be cherished and allowed to contribute. “You never know what gift might come your way from a stranger.”
At El Cosmico, the night is only a backdrop to the energy on the stage. Teepees glow in the background and kiosks offer craft, beer and fried chicken. At least a thousand souls. People dance: gyrations, interpretations, beat.
George felt that leaders should be persistent. George was persistent according to some at the service who stood in the low ceiling room, big enough for the fifty or so in attendance. A wall partition had been removed to make more space. The First Presbyterian Church offered it. They served sandwiches and cookies and tea.
George lived with his wife Martha for 60 years, until she died last year.
Of course nobody ever lives happily ever after and that’s the other way we nudge up against the cosmos.
Editors Note: David Garza will be hosting the Dude of the Dead concert this week end at the drag strip in Presidio. The 2 day event includes camping, community and musicians Kat Edmonson, Suzanna Choffel, Amy Cook, Mexicans at Night, Jason Blum, Topaz and Mudphonic, Bene Medina, Doodlin’ Hogwallops, and Miles Zuniga.