Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Only in America

Fraternity brother and sometime college roommate (the first semester of our senior year, Fall 1956 — well, it was my senior year, I think it was Brad’s freshman or sophomore year again, he kept flunking out, God bless him, and taking a year off to drive out and work with the forestry service in Flagstaff, Arizona and then coming back to give it another old college try with his forestry major at UnivFlorida until I graduated, went in the Navy and lost track of him — and that semester we had a converted garage a block back from University Avenue and Brad the outdoors camper and cook did all the cooking for us — eating breakfast we used to sit at our little dining table by the dusty dirt road running by the window and flirt with the cute girls on their way to high school — there was one cute blonde girl I developed a semi-crush on and she always walked by smilingly waiting for my morning greeting but that’s another story and as far as it ever went — OMG has my mind rambled off into the brambles this morning — Brad and I made fast friends as KA pledges Fall 1953, the first semester of our freshman year — and he drove a black 1939 Mercury convertible in top shape and used to talk about how he wished he’d kept his 1936 Ford convertible instead of going for the Merc — there are too many stories to tell, and anyway did I lose my antecedent?) Brad L. used to joke of himself, “I don’t have an inferiority complex, I really am inferior,” and every time he said it he’d break into laughter at his own joke. Brad wasn’t inferior in any way except that his love for the great outdoors so totally eclipsed his toleration of the college classroom that he kept just not quite making the grades to stay in school. Brad’s home was Coral Gables, we drove down in the Mercury once, my first visit to South Florida, I couldn’t believe Miami Beach that they’d allowed skyscrapers to be built so thick along the Atlantic shore that the ocean could not be seen from the road, and I told him this certainly would never be allowed in Bay County along the Gulf shore at Panama City Beach. Holy Christ and Jiminy Christmas was I ever wrong.

To get himself out to Arizona, Brad used to go down to an automobile transport company in Miami and check out a Rolls Royce or Bentley that some wealthy soul needed taken to Phoenix, and drive it out. On the way, he stopped once or twice in Panama City to see me, even though by then Linda and I were married and away in the Navy and me at sea on my first ship; and if what mama observed and reported was true, Brad no longer was stopping to see me, long and far absent, he had developed a crush on Gina, my sister. I don’t know how far that went either, and I’ve not been in contact with Brad for well more than half a century, maybe sixty years. 

Where this was going to begin with was my secret sure and certain knowledge that what Brad joked about himself was actually true about me, about the person only I knew and kept hidden deep within me, whom some looked up to but I knew as a dark, profane, most unholy creature. Why am I saying this? Just thinking, actually, of this evening’s visitor to PCB, and remembering the feverishly salivating, wild-eyed, fanatically saluting crowds I’ve seen in Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” and many newsreels, and my own experiences of locker room talk, and that not even in the snickering adolescent locker room at Bay High nor holy christmas even upstairs in the fraternity house at college, I never myself nor ever heard even the most vile white trash engage in what Sunday night I heard a currently national figure dismiss as just “locker room talk.” Not even in the forward bosun’s locker of a Navy warship. It just ain’t so.

Snapped a pic from Monday breakfast 

that stirs my wondering how many pickup trucks will roar up similarly clad at the political rally tonight.

Last evening, their clergyman being away at clergy conference, we drove out to the beach to officiate the Monday evening worship service at St. Thomas by the Sea Episcopal Church. From something resembling a contorted Word of God and Evening Prayer, I turned it into Holy Eucharist in order to consecrate Bread and Wine to leave in the aumbry for the incumbent cleric. It was huge fun, being back in the last pulpit and at the last Altar that I felt was my very own those years; and to be welcomed as if it still were. The service had been tailored I suppose from something like Lesser Feasts and Fasts, I’m not sure, to honor Julia Scudder, a scholar and late 19th and early 20th century professor at Wellesley College, whom the Episcopal church has decreed to venerate as having lived quite an extraordinary life of service to the working class, organizing labor unions. Julia (her name was actually Vida, and anyone can look her up online) lost her father to accidental drowning a year after she was born, was looked after by her mother and then in turn looked after her mother lifelong, never married but lived with Clara French and later Florence Converse, as two of my own beloved spinster aunts lived lifelong with companions, and was a member of the Socialist Party. I enjoyed reading and learning about Julia Scudder, and “preaching” a bit of a homily both about her and about the gospel from John appointed for her day. It did occur to me, my love for the writings of Harry Golden, his essays, and his early book Only in America that was a collection of his folksy essays about, among other topics, growing up in a Yiddish-speaking family in the Jewish garment district of New York City. The essays are wonderful. Harry Golden wrote as “The Carolina Israelite”, the beloved lone Jew in an antisemitic region of the South (they loved him if there was only one and he could be claimed as Our Own), during an antisemitic era of American history. Thinking of his book Only in America, it occurred to me that Only in the Episcopal Church would one be standing in a pulpit venerating virtual goodness nigh unto sanctity of a female Socialist. 

After church we waited a quarter hour for a booth at the Sandbar, a seafood sports bar at the "Y" where I had a draft 390 beer, a dozen fried oysters and a pound of those sweet and lobster-beautiful royal red shrimp, steamed. And watched Jameis Winston playing for Tampa Bay on the enormous TV over our booth. Gotta love Jameis, who could have been a good guy instead of a hoodlum if only he'd chosen to be a Gator. Bless him now and anyway though. Terrible traffic driving out, none driving home after.

Anyway, that was my Monday and this is my Tuesday. Dinner this evening with a favorite monthly gathering of folks at church for red wine, dinner, perhaps discuss C S Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and, even perhapser, watch the BBC movie of the wonderful story.

And to all a good day.
DThos+ still mucking along

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