Tales from the Southside
by Will Capel
This is Will's column but today he's not writing it. With deepest regret I inform readers that Will was found dead on the morning of August 3. He was 31 years old. I extend my sincerest sympathies to his family and friends.
How and why Will died is open to some conjecture and perhaps for the benefit of his memory we should leave it that way. He was found lying in bed. Peaceful, they said.
My first introduction to Will was through his anonymous writings for the Bayon Pearnik. Some time ago, I cannot remember exactly but I want to say about two years ago, reports on the scene in Sihanoukville began appearing in the Pearnik. The writing was witty, sarcastic yet not overly irreverent or cynical. These anonymous "snippets" showed respect for the people and country he adopted (or adopted him).
In early 2003, out of the blue I received an e-mail from Will introducing himself, complimenting this site and asking if he might work up some kind of Sihanoukville guide for it. I jumped at the chance and the Talesofasia Guide to Sihanoukville and the South Coast was born.
Will was diligent with his updates so our contact was regular. As 2003 became 2004 we continued to share phone conversations and e-mails, but never managed to meet face to face. It almost became a joke... "he's written for you how long? And you've never met?"
This past May, while in Phnom Penh, I was sitting along the river at the Cantina (that's Hurley's Place) chatting with some folks who then departed leaving me alone with my Beer Lao. I figured I'd empty this last glass and move on to Sharky Bar or somewhere. Then I got a text message from Will, that he was in Phnom Penh and would I be here in the next day or two? No need to waste finger energy, I rung him up, "Yes, Will, I'm in Phnom Penh now at Hurley's Place, out front in a purple..." and a stranger walked up and sat next to me, "Hi, Gordon, I'm Will." For the previous two hours he had been sitting two tables away.
We chatted and I soon pitched the idea for a monthly column from him. It took little arm twisting. Then again Will was an affable and relaxed sort of individual.
We moved up to Sharky Bar. Adam of Bayon Pearnik fame, joined us, "Oh, so you two wombats finally stumbled into each other?" And on to some circuit of Walkabout, Shanghai, and finally Howie's, where come 2:30 a.m., Will was at his limit and made his way home. I would never see him again. It had been a good night of conversation and one I would liked to have repeated for many nights to come.
I was not given the benefit of long-term friendship with Will. We met too late for that. I don't have a wealth of shared memories to fall back on. Only a single meeting, and his writings. The written word. Permanent, enduring. Speech is fleeting, transient. The spoken word emanates from within us, soundwaves existing for an instant before dissipating into nothingness. Gone. Following the way of thousands of years of unrecorded human communication. But the written word survives. Recorded, reflected upon, read and re-read. From within us, along with us, and after us. Every word a writer records is a piece of themselves for others to share. One only has to look.
Rest in peace, Will.
Unless otherwise noted, all text and photographs © 1998 - 2006 Gordon Sharpless. Commercial or editorial usage without written permission of the copyright holder(s) is prohibited.