One of my many irritating habits is repetitively singing/reciting snatches from old songs or jingles or poems that have risen from the playlist of my inner jukebox and loop through my consciousness like irritating commercials that repeat time and again during a television broadcast.
After yesterday’s unexpected Gamecock triumph over the 14-point-favorite Clemson Tigers, a line from Warren Zevon’s “When Johnny Strikes Up the Band” took up repetitive residence in my mind.
“They’ll be rocking in the projects.”
I sang that line out loud at two or three junctures during my six-block trek to Chico Feo, and it is what came out of my mouth as I mounted a bar stool and received my first All Day IPA from Casey. He gave me a quizzical smile. I explained I was happy because the Gamecocks had finally beaten the Tigers after eight long years so I had a song in my heart.
Sitting to my right were twenty-eight-year-old identical twin Kelsey McCormick, a Chico regular, and a young man I’d never met. We started talking sports, and I confessed that although I intellectually understood the atavistic absurdity of team sports tribalism that I whooped and hollered when the Cocks recovered that late fourth quarter Clemson fumble.
“They’ll be rocking in the projects.”
The young man, whose name is Zac, asked me if I was watching any of the World Cup. I said I was paying secondhand attention to the outcomes and was pulling for Germany because my sons had gone to school there, one in Berlin and the other in Bamberg. I mentioned that Ned is currently living in Nuremberg.
Ned (second from right) on an ad for a bar in Bamberg
Kelsey asked me to guess where Zac was from based on his accent. “Three guesses,” she said.
I guessed Minnesota, California, and Goose Creek, South Carolina.
Zac smiled and said, “Pretty Close. I’m from Montana and lived in Seattle and also Phoenix and for a short time in Sweden.”
I asked him what he did for a living, and as it ends up, he had just retired from professional soccer as a goalie.
So, I had been oldmansplaining the tribal nature of sports fans to a professional athlete, a somewhat famous one as far as American soccer goes.
He asked me about my line of work, and I said that I had a novel coming out but had taught English for thirty-four years before my retirement. Kelsey mentioned that she had heard me read poetry at the Singer/Songwriter Soapbox and enjoyed my stuff but was less enamored of the some of the other poets she had witnessed. I mentioned two superb poets, Chuck Sullivan and Jason Chambers, but admitted one or two of the other poets read prose chopped up in lines that lacked the compression that makes a poem a poem. I mockingly intoned:
As I walk around the grounds of the asylum,
the brown leaves like a carpet in a boarding house,
I think of father’s irritating habit of smacking his lips
while smoking unfiltered Chesterfields.
Kelsey got it. “The more condensed the more powerful.”
“Like splitting an atom as opposed to sorting socks.”
Then I leaned over and asked if they wanted to hear my favorite lines of poetry. I mean, what could they say?
O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
And right at that moment, an acorn fell from the sky and bonked Zac right on the head.
Zac asked about the possible meanings of the acorn hitting him at that moment. and I explained that in a piece of short fiction, you could have acorns fall periodically and serve as symbols that support the theme and provide unity. In a comedy, it could be funny, the acorn hitting him on the head, like a cartoon Sir-Isaac-Newton epiphany, that he was in love or something.
“An acorn’s a seed, right?”
“Right, Zac! The acorn seed sperm hits the ovum of your head. It’s a very good omen for your relationship’s growing.”
“On the other hand,” I went on, “in a sad story the acorns could represent failure, dropping off the trees, rolling across the bar, down across the cooler, onto the ground to be crushed by the bartenders’ feet as they concoct Samurai slings and pull drafts.”
Kelsey asked what advice I’d give a 28-eight-year-old and a 33-year-old.
“Find someone to love, be kind to them, marry them, have children, and be happy around the children.”
We sat there quietly for a while.
“Hey, Wesley,” Kelsey said. “You haven’t asked what advice a 28-year-old would give a 70-year-old.”
I smiled. “What’s your advice?”
“You get to decide how old or young you get to be. It’s up to you. I mean, mentally how old you want to be.”
I said that teaching keeps you young, and I was appreciative of that.
We finished our drinks and said our goodbyes, Zac was headed up to Montana Monday, and Kelsey would be at the Soap Box. He plans on moving down here and starting a soccer-related business.
Kelsey wanted to know if Zac fit in at Chico Feo. “Desitively,” I said. “He’ll be rocking in the projects.”