We were sad to hear that Leslie Cochran died in the early morning hours yesterday. We knew that he had been in the hospital. We knew that he had been struggling. We are glad he isn't in pain anymore.
And we sure will miss him.
For those of you that don't know, Leslie was a (mostly) homeless guy that could often be spotted on the streets of South Austin wearing a thong and some four inch heels. Many years ago, he and his shopping cart could be found on Congress Avenue with large cardboard signs that were filled with his own personal manifesto spelling out his beef with the city on that particular day. He was also known for his mayoral run - and shockingly, he receive something like 8% of the vote.
But for me, what stands out most about Leslie wasn't the bare buns, painted nails or leopard skin halter top. It was his kindness. Many times over the last 15 years, I had the privilege to speak with him. Every single time we saw him, he would give the kids the same advice - stay in school and never ever start smoking.
But he gave the kids so much more than verbal advice. He taught them that we are all humans no matter what we look like, where we live or what our life choices are. He gave our kids a gift by allowing them to see past the outside appearance and look into another person's world.
I know a lot of people equate him with the Keep Austin Weird slogan. And I agree, he was part of what made this city so unique. But when I think about him today, I don't think of him as weird. I think of him as another symbol of what makes this city so great. Our community loved and accepted him just the same as the next guy. People in our community didn't hesitate to give him a ride, a few bucks, and even a few minutes of their time for good conversation or a funny off color joke. And what is so weird about that? Is it weird that we were willing to expose our kids to someone who looked so different? Is it weird that we didn't blink an eye when we passed his naked backside walking down South Lamar?
I am thankful that our kids are being brought up in a weird environment where compassion and acceptance comes first. I believe Leslie was instrumental in helping each of us to acknowledge that all humans need is love and kindness. And if that is what people in other places call weird, then I say bring on the weirdness.
When our kids grow up and as adults are able to treat other humans that are different than them with diginity and respect, I will send up a prayer of thanks to Leslie.
Keep Heaven Weird, Leslie!