Friday I visited Paul Williams at a nursing home in Encinitas. Formerly an accomplished author and rock critic, Paul is now in the late stages of dementia. I was afraid I'd have to steel myself to see how far gone he was. But once I got over my dismay at seeing him bent over and drooling on a book he seemed to be reading, it was actually a pleasant visit.
I reminded him who I was and said I was glad to see him. He responded with a flash of his old smile and hugged my arm. When we held hands, I marveled at how strong his grip was. He seemed to relish touching and physical contact.
I mentioned people we'd both known, friends from the '60s, and that elicited a few coherent sentences. "Do you remember Larry Stark?" I asked. "I lived with him," Paul said. At one point he even asked me, "Is there a new book by Phil Dick?"
When I was leaving, I caught a glimpse of the book Paul was reading. The cover illustration was a photo of a glowing nebula and at first I thought the book was a science fiction paperback. But the title was "Does The Creator Have A Plan For You?" and it turned out to be a religious tract from the Watch Tower Society.
"Do you think the creator has a plan for you?" I asked Paul. "I don't know," he answered.
-William Sarill (October 2012)