The first time I met Charles Harleigh Gordon, maybe ten years ago, I was trying to pull the mail out of the mailbox at our office here in Sausalito. It was crammed full of mail and I was trying not to damage any of the packages. I heard a loud hacking sound directly behind me and turned to see a man clearing his throat and spitting on the tile patio.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” I yelled. “Why would you spit on our patio?!”
Harleigh looked up at me with his wounded look—if you knew him you know exactly the look—and introduced himself. “I’m Harleigh, Willie’s son.”
“Ohhhhhhh,” I said. “Okay, I’m sorry. By all means, spit away!”
He thought that was funny but I was mortified. I had heard of this boy–this legendary bad boy—and here he was standing in front of me in a leather jacket. Wow! Harleigh in the flesh!
Harleigh died over the weekend. We’ve all been pretty hard hit. It’s especially hard to see Willie so heartbroken. I love how much Willie loved him. I don’t often get a chance to see the dewy side of Willie; I usually see the gruff, barking, tough-guy act that so often has me rushing to make sure the lights are turned out and the printers powered down so he doesn’t worry about the electric bill. (I am actually being serious; the man HATES to waste electricity!)
But now Harleigh’s gone. I have this picture up at the office of us at a party over the summer. It was a “party of gratitude,” a party to celebrate Isabel and Willie—their birthdays and their marriage. Harleigh showed up and stole the show. I remember he wore this long black duster coat, like an outlaw in a Western. That’s how I will always remember him. That last summer party and the light on the bridges and the whole tribe gathered, like a happy song.
Everyone roots for the underdog—for the bad boy. I always bet on the dark horse. Harleigh was a dark horse, and I have to say I was completely charmed by him.
Charles Harleigh Gordon
August 4, 1977 – March 16, 2013
This post is also available in: Spanish