I have been struggling with this session of Ted’s Head for three weeks. It is not that I have writer’s block but there is just too much jammed into my little brain. We have just completed a 3,000 mile version of Ted’s Magical Mystery Tour. From start to end there are stories to be told and experiences to relate. I hope I get it right.
There was a wedding of Kathy’s nice to be attended in New Jersey on Labor Day weekend. That morphed into stops in Savannah,Asheville, the Hamptons, Rhode Island, DC and Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. Yikes! Crazy but somewhat predictable. There was joy at young couples, old friends and family. There was sadness at tragedies occurring and evolving. Methinks it is that little thing called life.
Our stops were not the big city lights but the heart of America. The incredible seafood omelet on the Savannah River. The vastness of the Biltmore and the funky nature of a metropolis in western NC. The simplicity of Morristown NJ and the tranquility of the eastern end of Long Island or Narragansett Bay. DC, thankfully without the pols and the Low Country hue of fog over the marshes. Pretty special.
My radar was working full bore trying to see what these people were about. The wedding was a white and black one and was reflected in a half chocolate and half vanilla wedding cake. Not a swipe but an effort from a young couple to make fun of our prejudices. At the wedding I crossed the divide and met some wonderful people. A black gentleman, a retired firefighter from the Oranges stood in the bar line with a cigar. We both reveled in the nirvana of a fat one and a glass of single malt neat on the back porch. What do you drink? Balvenie, he said. 15 year old ? Nope! I drink 21. What was I thinking?
My Navy buddy resides on the shores of a bay that also is home to US Navy OCS. A car ride through history. We went to the Black Pearl on Thames Street that witnessed a transformation of Blood Alley, where I would ride in the “Meat Wagon” for Shore Patrol to the trendy enclave of the rich and famous. We calculated that less than a dozen spots in the Newport Shipyard held more than a Billion dollars of nautical real estate. And they were not alone. What an incredible collision of man’s hubris and ingenuity to create the beauty of a massive sailboat or yacht.
That evening I was privy to Mr Holland’s Opus in the flesh. It seems my friend’s son in law is a music teacher of some 17 years in East Providence. It is a blue collar area. As he talked, I was enthralled at his love of his craft as well as his students. I peppered him with questions as to the state of education to class mobility to his hopes and dreams.
The reality is that for some of these kids to sing in a chorale is their one chance to shine. This was it. They weren’t taken up with soccer, lacrosse, SAT tutoring and socializing. They are good and went to Europe on monies not from the school board but the car washes and bake sales of a toiling community. As he told me of graduation day they took the top students in caps and gowns and they were allowed to parade through the halls with underclass kids cheering. He proudly noted that 90% of the super achievers were his students. So much for getting rid of the arts.
Our new friends from Harbour Ridge live in Fairfax, Virginia. He was a 23 year veteran of the Army. As an Army wife she was too. As we went to the Army Navy Country Club for dinner I looked around the room. With no mention of rank, I wondered who were three stars and who were ordinary looies. There was a woman in her 50’s having a meal by herself. Where had they been? What had they seen? Above all the place oozed pride for their particular branch and for their country. Thank you for your service. What a place.
The last leg was to visit my college roommate from Georgetown. We have known each other for 60 years. Their burgh, just south of Myrtle Beach is idyllic. We played golf and ate and drank too much single malt over a cigar one night. He is a hoarder and he brought out yearbooks where you looked like a dork or handsome devil depending on the time frame. Here’s to the brothers who are no longer with us.
From all of this I came back with a gazillion thoughts and vows to do this or that better. For the last 450 miles Kathy and I just sat in silence, reviewing all that has passed over the days. It felt so good to just be yourselves. Conversation gaps of anywhere from a few months to decades melt away when you are comfortable. No airs. Just enjoying friends new and old.
I guess we saw life at its simplest and most beautiful. I wonder how we get so wrought up or better yet why? We seem so hell bent on improving our lot in life do we ever just sit down and enjoy it? I want to improve when it comes to this or that. That is normal and healthy. But to make it an obsession to outrun or outgun my peers seems to me to be an absurdity. I am the luckiest person in the world. I hope you are too?
Ted The Great
Rhode Island is the smallest state in area. With a tad over a million inhabitants it is the seventh least populous and second most dense housing in the US. East Providence has 47,000 residents.
The Biltmore in Asheville was built by George Washington Vanderbilt in the 1890’s and is till owned by his descendants. It weighs in at 179,000 square feet. It has 250 rooms including 35 bedrooms. I would love to have the listing on this place when they sell.
The Hamptons include Easthampton, Southhampton, Westhampton, Quogue and Hampton Bays to name a few. They range from middle class to the elite. It is said the bigger the house the less time peole spend there. Kor J’s fish market has about 30 different kinds of fish and the biggest cherrystone clams you can imagine. $6 a dozen and a little more to shuck them. Eat them right out of the shell.
The Cross Bronx Expressway and I 495 around Washington are pretty much grid lock 24/7. The condition of some roads were beyond deplorable. It is pretty much a tossup whether there are more prone end replacement shops and psychiatrists in both.