Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tribute to a Blogger: Wil Kyle, Paradise Driver

The genesis of this blog, 7 years ago, was a coffee-shop pact with 5 friends.We'd gather, read, and share, and on a local, nationwide, and worldwide basis, we began to "meet" other bloggers..

It's been interesting how circles naturally transpired. I have dined with three of a circle of women from Baltimore, Ohio, Michigan, and California. I have a set of friends from Texas and Canada. My own son has met two of my blogging friends, even though I have not!

One of those circles brought me to Wil Kyle, the author of Paradise Driver. A retired San Francisco cop turned Hawaiian cab driver, his late-night cabby stories were hilarious, while his reminiscence about his police career was often chilling.

Wil brought me to another high-spirited blog from a (now retired) meter reader in Australia: Dogbait. Tales of Australian spiders that ran out of meter housings and down his sleeve were enough to make you go lie down for the afternoon. I also met up with a New York City cabby, the King of New York Hacks. King is temporarily out of commission after a car accident that broke his arm, but his wonderful NYC photos on Facebook still keep me entertained on a daily basis. 

The Paradise Driver's cabby career ended in 2009 when his eyesight began to fail. He went through a rough time with finances, health, and near-homelessness, and when he was diagnosed with cancer, moved back to California. His blog stories began to dwindle, but he continued to post news and amusing anecdotes.

I received an email from Dogbait last Friday, informing me that Wil had little time left. An excerpt from a letter Wil sent him:
“Aloha Reg, here’s the most recent picture of me. I am currently in a local hospital and do not expect to leave. My friends and family will be communicating with you to give you regular updates about my condition. Right now it could be 4 days or 4 weeks...unknown. Please post the picture and it would be appreciated if you let everybody know what’s going on so that people don’t think I just disappeared and this is my one opportunity to let everybody know how much I appreciated their friendship and their love. And I hope you use your blog to pass all this to them, anticipate communications from my friends.  When I finally do pass, they will let you know, and hopefully you can pass the information on to the world.
G’day Mate, Wil”

Wil's phone number and his son's address was also included. Hoping it wasn't too late, I sent him a text and I emailed his son, asking him to give Wil a few messages from me.

Right after I left work that afternoon I received a phone call. The first time I'd ever heard him speak: "Lori, this is Wil Kyle."

He was lovely. His voice was so strong that except for a few pauses where he was clearly in pain and had to regroup, I would never known he was sick.

He told me he was thrilled to get my text message! He asked about Clint, and told me that he was amazed at how the house was coming along. He asked me about Brian, and spoke about how much he was wandering, before he enlisted, and what a strong young man he is now. He told me that he used to be a radio announcer, and he did a fun "bit" for me, so that I would hear his "real" voice. He explained to me that he was fine; he's "pragmatic," he said, and it was just his time to go. "You sound exactly as I imagined you would," he told me.

And I told him how much it meant to me to have him in the wings cheering me on when Brian went to boot camp, and when he deployed. How great it was for him to rally friends to send me notes of support, and how much I valued his friendship, and enjoyed his writing.

After 5 minutes, he was clearly exhausted, and I knew how much the conversation must have taken out of him. The radio bit alone must have been excruciating. He told me that had to get going. I was weeping by then, but I told him goodbye and that I loved him.

And he, jolly and stoic, said "I love you too, hon."

"Hello," "I love you," and "Goodbye," each spoken for the first and last time.

I got an email on Tuesday from his Grandson that he passed away Monday night.

I have been deeply saddened this week, but at the same time immensely thankful for this circle of friends that rallied for him, passing on email addresses and phone numbers, to get the word out. I'm thankful I got to hear his voice, and to hear him laugh.

I am thankful we got to tell him how much we loved him. And how much we'll miss him.

I'm so glad he got to know that.


  1. A great tribute, Lori. Very moving. I had written to him several times over the last few months and he was very stoic and you had to read between the lines to realise he was in real pain.

    Thankfully no more.

  2. Great post, Lori. It is so amazing how we get wrapped up in each other's lives through the written word. It's proof this cyberworld is a good thing - bringing people closer together.

    I'm glad I didn't have to wait until my deathbed to meet you in person!

  3. Beautiful tribute.

  4. Sweet tribute, Lori. You're as real as a friend can be.

  5. Wow. Sad to hear of his passing. But so glad you got to talk to him...

  6. I remember Paradise Driver, from all those years ago, when we were all new bloggers. Sad and happy, all at once, out here. Hugs to you, my friend.

  7. I'm sorry to hear about your friend. I think I would have loved his blog. I wish I had known about it. I'm glad you got to speak to him. Not sure how I missed your last post, but I am so happy for you. You were carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. And I guess it is very strange to have it gone. Good luck with the boat. It looks fun.

  8. I am in tears..

    I am saddened when a blogger friend stops writing or moves away or is inaccessible...but, not in my wildest dreams did I think I could loose one for what happened with you and Wil here.

    I am glad you wrote the email and the text message..I am glad he called back and the conversation took place.

    He sounds like such a strong spirited person who spread a lot of cheer around him when he lived.May his soul rest in peace.

  9. Incredibly moving tribute Lori...I'm glad you spoke with him and raised his spirits...Wil was a genuinely caring person who could make you belly laugh in one sentence, and make you want to hug him with his next always giving advice on any task life has thrown our way...

    I'll miss him and know he's a good angel watching out for all of us in his Paradise now...

    Hugs from the NYC Lori, this blogosphere is a wonderful place, as you have shown in reaching out and making a difference.

    Thanks for being you.

  10. Hello. Your moving tribute was passed on to me by King of NY Hacks and I want to thank you for writing it and giving your comfort and support to Wil. He inspired me with his blog when I was just beginning my own in '06 and often commented to my posts and pictures, which I greatly appreciated. And his advice as a former cop has proven quite valuable to me as a cabbie. By relaying his wish to be remembered by his fellow bloggers you have done him a wonderful service. Now I know and will always fondly remember Wil Kyle. Thank you.

  11. Thanks for all of the great comments, everyone; Wil would have loved them.

    Eugene, nice to meet you; looks like I have a lot of catching up to do on your blogs!

  12. Anonymous1:30 PM

    I am glad you got to talk with Wil. He was one of my good friends over the years. He met me when I was 17 years old and would drive me all around Maui when I used to visit. I would go visit Maui once or twice a year before he moved back to the mainland and he would always take me out to my favorite restaurant called Sarento's on the Beach. I couldn't believe his kindness. I knew it took him time to save up to bring me to such a nice place but he always did. I was lucky enough to fly to see him with my family shortly before he died. He became family to my family and would always have dinner at my folks place when we went to Hawaii. We miss him so much when we are on the island. I was thinking of him today because I get married on Maui in 2 weeks and I was looking through pictures with him so I could put one up in the area we will be having with leis to remember those that we miss so much. I wanted to see his blog and scroll back on some of his fun stories and then remembered that he decided to get rid of it along with his facebook page before he passed. That is how I came across this. Thank you so much for giving him such a nice tribute when he died a few years back. I know how much he would appreciate it. -Alissa

  13. --Alissa, so,so nice to receive this today. Of course I remember his posts and updates, and how much he cared for you. Hearty congratulations on your upcoming wedding; I know Wil is watching--even though he didn't think that's how it would happen on "the other side." I wish he could be here also. Thank you so much for commenting here.


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