My first subscriber was Peggy Williams, the one and only, a one and only of the kind that perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to know. I mean the man or woman extraordinary in spirit or courage or flair or generosity or boldness or originality or some other special quality who is known and loved only locally and who, because of their own being, bring life to a group of people, a community or a town.
Peggy’s influence— and the influence of others like her— acts person to person. Not via TV or the Internet or some other second hand modality. This is the original broad band transmission! Peggy’s cheer, her laughter, her outsized expressiveness and good natured bluntness was an everyday ingredient of the civic life of Alameda where she ran a popular restaurant and gallery and was active in several other civic organizations.
I don’t know how long it was before I first noticed that her right arm was partially paralyzed. It didn’t slow her down or cramp her style. If she had to lift her right arm, for instance when someone offered to shake hands, she used her left hand to help lift her right arm. I mention this only because the way in which she long ago had relegated her physical deficit to irrelevance is a convenient window into her character. She wanted nothing to do with slowdowns, worries, hesitations, or confusions of protocol over the limited use of an arm. The hell with protocol! That was Peggy. You had something to say? Say it. She certainly was not going to be the timid one and hold back! What in the world is that? she would demand right away in no faint tones should you show up with something out of the ordinary. And she loved things out of the ordinary That was what made life interesting.
I gave Peggy a copy of issue #1 of The Secret Alameda (It's the magazine that came prior to works & conversations). This would have been in January of 1991.
“What in the world have you done?” she bellowed in her customary way when I held the first copy out to her, a xeroxed document of 38 pages with a funny cover.
“It’s a magazine I’m publishing. This is the first issue!”
The next time I saw Peggy, she came up to me with a stern expression. “I have to tell you Mr. Whittaker, you almost were responsible for grave personal damage! She stood there for a long pause with her stern face. And then she said, "I almost died laughing. I almost fell out of bed! Oh, my God! I'm not kidding!" And on the spot, she pulled out a ten-dollar bill and said, “I want to subscribe.” She was the first. What an affirmation like that can mean can only truly be understood by those who have been fortunate enough to receive such a gift.