“lesser evil” in 1960—into the Kennedyrnadministration and the Council on ForeignrnRelations. Williams suspeeted thatrnhe was being neutered, made “ready tornjoin the system,” and he refused. He preferredrnMadison to Washington, and as hernsaid of the Kennedys, “Don’t ask mernwhy, I just don’t trust them.”rnWilliams maintained a surprising distancernfrom the New Left, though not sornsurprising when one reads of his “sociallyrnconservative sensibilities,” his consistentrnbelief that the middle class was thernAmerican bedrock, and his disdain forrnfeminism. (He was also a thrice-marriedrnadulterer.) Surely Williams was the onlyrnhero of the New Left who subjected hisrnchildren to “Annapolis rituals such asrnshining their shoes and holding them uprnfor inspection when he came home.” Atrnthe apex of his reputation, he packed hisrnfamily off to the Pacific coast, where herntook a sharp pay cut to teach at OregonrnState and live near the ocean in one ofrnthe small, working-class, poolhall townsrnhe so loved and idealized. He fished andrnbuilt model airplanes—including replicasrnof The Spirit of St. Louis.rnWilliams was an old-fashioned Americanrnvillage eccentric, contentious andrnrefractory and sentimental to the core,rnand you either dig the type or you don’t.rnOne of my favorite Williams remarksrnconcerns his Iowa paladin: “Hoover, inrnthe depths of the hell of 1931, said thatrn’what this country needs is a great poem.rnSomething to lift people out of fear andrnselfishness.’ If you kill a Quaker engineerrnwho came to understand that—and tornbelieve in and commit himself to that—rnthen you have murdered yourself.”rnA boy never forgets a visit fromrnCharles Lindbergh, and if you canrnunderstand why Lindbergh’s father, arnMinnesota congressman, was called “thernCopher Bolshevik,” then Williams thernpatriotic radical socialist lowan makesrnperfect sense. His prescriptions mayrnhave been wrong, but what the hell, hernwasn’t a druggist, he was an American.rnHe closed Empire as a Way of Life with arnstory about stealing “a very fine and expensivernknife from the best hardwarernstore in town”:rnMy maternal grandmother, MaudernHammond Appleman, discoveredrnwhat I had done. She confrontedrnme with the question: did you stealrnthe knife? Yes, I stole the knife.rnWhy? Because I wanted it,rnbecause I liked it, because I canrnuse it.rnShe said: the knife is not yours.rnYou have not earned it. You willrntake it back.rnI said; I CAN’T do that.rnShe said: You WILL do that.rnNOW.rnOh, my: the moral force of therndeclarative sentence.rnAnd so I walked back alongrnthose long and lonely blocks to thernstore. And in through the door.rnAnd up, face to face, with thernmember of that small communityrnwho owned the store. And I said: Irnstole this knife and I am sorry and Irnam bringing it back.rnAnd he said: Thank you. Thernknife is not very important, butrnyou coming down here and sayingrnthat to me is very important.rnRemembering all that, I knowrnwhy I do not want the empire.rnThere are better ways to live andrnthere are better ways to die. <&rnTumbleweedrnby Charles Edward EatonrnHe looked fixed in a certain mood.rnBut I could see tumbleweed in his eyes.rnHe might extend a hand, a turquoise ring.rnAs if to say he were richly weighted,rnThe indoor pool, a blue mine in his house.rnEven the lush peonies in the gardenrnLooked heavy, dreaming incarceration.rnAs though they would be the ball to his chain.rnIn his neat study, one could also sensernA longing for tumult, the papers cringingrnBeneath the paperweight, the cold rose eyernCaught in petaled anguish as it opened.rnOne wanted the house to yawn and relax,rnThe letter opener to have an erection.rnThe ink in the stand like Bluebeard’s spittle.rnSuitable only for lurid fiction.rnHe took me, of course, for a rolling stone.rnHis thick, plush green carpet held all the moss-rnJust when I was ready to kiss his ring,rnI saw his blue eyes roll in his head:rnThat rotation, slight, quick, but unsettling.rnI winced as if a tumbler had just tossedrnMe in the air and let me fall, flat out—rnSo, I was not meant to land on my feet.rnIt was for me a brisk opening West—rnHe could throw that pool as far as Idaho,rnIndian tribes roamed on the turquoise ring.rnThe pink eye grew passionate with sunrise.rnIt seemed I had met the pope of pleasure,rnTraveling far reaches in this foreign land—rnI shall never forget how light and freernI felt, blessed with the touch of tumbleweed.rn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn