Quote of the Day:
“He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher… or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.” –Douglas Adams
On TB’s tombstone they will etch, “Here lies TB. Raconteur. Gadabout. Free thinker. Ne’er-do-well. Idiot.” (and then at the bottom of course, “ps, you couldn’t pigeonhole him.”)
When I was a sophomore in high school I had a date for homecoming with a great girl. I had been nursing a crush on her off and on for several years. I was dressed up, lookin’ sharp, brought my A-game wit and deftly employed my best supercharmer smile with perfect timing and prudent restraint. Things were moving along pretty well; she subtly edged her chair over closer to mine than it really needed to be when we sat down to dinner at the Tiki Restaurant. Then dinner was served in the semi-darkness of the supper club and I looked down at a baked potato and a huge hunk of Texas toast, but saw no steak. I asked about it, losing the supercharmer and going with incredulity. How could they serve everyone’s food, after a very long wait I might add, and forget my steak? Turns out they didn’t. It was there. Somehow I just didn’t see it. That nice girl went on to consider me a dear, trusted, and completely un-kissworthy friend. Before that though, she scooted her chair back over. For I exposed myself in that single moment as the idiot I truly was.
Time passes, thankfully and for years I was able to conceal the true extent of my idiocy from most of the outside world. After all, I was surrounded by ARB’s who at times made me look like James freakin’ Bond by comparison. And most of the time my idiocy was committed only in their presence. I got myself educated up, became a member of a respected profession and, not counting a few isolated incidents, probably seemed to the outside world as more or less NOT a complete imbecile. Then I went to trial in Austin, Texas. For four days I performed superbly and our case was going very well. We were ready for the kill on Friday, to be followed by a weekend party where all idiotic behavior would be not only tolerated, but forgotten by Monday. I packed my bags for the flight home, saving out only my best suit. The gray one with stripes on the jacket. And slightly darker gray pants. Without stripes. As we got off the plane that evening to celebrate, I found the light gray jacket and knew it wasn’t mine, since I was wearing dark gray pants. I asked around, “is this yours? Is this yours?” Like a damn monkey or something. Everybody laughed. I was exposed. I pounded my forehead with my palm. “Idiot!” So I left town a few years later.
Moving to a new town gives one the opportunity to reinvent oneself. Outwardly, anyhow. And so I projected an image of competence. Faked it so well I even tricked someone far better looking and infinitely less imbecilic to marry me. Fathered the beautiful Scamp, who, though destined by nature to one day know better than anyone the extent of my idiocy, would for the early part of her life be under the misimpression that I could do no wrong. I think perhaps it might be our trip to the Bermuda Triangle that she someday recollects as the premature time of enlightenment as to her old man’s true condition.
Many of you may know that on a cruise there is an outdated, frivolous and unnecessary ritual of dressing for dinner. Our voyage scheduled two “elegant” nights where gentlemen were expected to wear a coat and tie, at least. For a variety of reasons, not least of which is having to pack too many shoes, I think the tradition is garbage and I expressed this opinion to my dear sister-in-law before we left. She, however, was looking forward to getting the extended family all gussied up, for a variety of reasons I am sure, and was crestfallen at my objections and at my clear intent to challenge the Man and show up on elegant night in cruise-wear. I encouraged this because, you see, I had a plan.
I was near giddy at the chance before me to show an example of just how it was I managed to trick my lovely bride into thinking I was in fact NOT an idiot, but to the contrary a gentleman, sophisticated, hip, full of surprises, un-pigeonhole-able. So as “elegant night” was about to begin I retreated to my cabin after once more growling about how stupid it was being forced to pack all the accoutrements needed for dinner and how my khaki’s and button-down and tennis shoes would be fine and if the maître d’ didn’t like it he could kiss my ass. Inwardly I howled with delight at my dear sister-in-law’s sad expression and in anticipation of unleashing my display of cool.
I could not suppress a grin as I donned my tuxedo for the first time in a decade. I looked in the mirror and approved of what I saw. “Lookin’ good, Old Sport,” thought I. Not counting a few old geezers, I’d be the sharpest dressed man on the ship, turning all the ladies’ heads, earning sneers and maybe even a few appreciative nods from the gents, being led to the finest table on the ship by an approving maître d’.
By now I expect you have deduced that things did not go as I had envisioned.
In the bottom of my bag lay a newly shined left black Bostonian. Beside it was another polished shoe. A left shoe. Burgundy. Florsheim. There was no pair of rights to match, teleported back to Mississippi, I desperately hoped, by the strange powers of the Triangle. Nah, that wasn’t it. I knew the genuine, scientific explanation. Now it was TB crestfallen. Exposed. I pounded my palm into the well-worn groove of my forehead. “Idiot!”
The element of surprise lost, I slinked over to Flyin’ J’s cabin where my tux was greeted with relief and admiration. My idiocy was greeted with something more akin to elation. Luckily Flyin’ J had some black shoes to fill in for the night, a size too small, but I felt the pain was deserved. We dined. We were photographed. I looked good, all in all, and felt marvelous, discounting the toes. Had a nice steak, even saw it on the plate. Swirled my wine like a connoisseur. Told a few well-received anecdotes. Flashed the supercharmer once or twice.
As we took our after dinner constitutional on the starlit promenade I held my wife’s hand on the left and cradled the bleary-eyed Scamp in my right. A peaceful, beautiful moment, in spite of the missing Bostonian, and I quietly reflected on the blessings in life and a fine evening of travellin’ on the open sea. We stopped to gaze out at the full moon over the ocean. As the Scamp listened carefully my wife, clued in long ago about my condition, staring blankly into my eyes, broke the silence. “So, why did you decide to wear the sport coat instead of your tux jacket tonight.” I was vaguely aware of the sound of a second pop in my right ear, a tiny palm impacting an heretofore pristine forehead.