(Image: “After School” by Catrin Welz-Stein.)
(Image: “After School” by Catrin Welz-Stein.)
Today is overcast and breezy, and I have yet to prioritize today’s missions, let alone muster the energy to commence. While Jon is at UNC’s Memorial Hospital for his quarterly “study group,” I sit in a large (what appears to be a Mitchell Gold) eggplant velvet chair. My trenta iced coffee teases me each time my glance returns to its cramped spot on a tiny side table. While I indulge myself with a few reflective and private hours at a Starbucks, my older and wiser half is getting prodded, poked, and what certainly must seem like drawn and quartered.
I’ve always been fond of my field trips to Chapel Hill. I was born here while my father was in law school. Since then this eclectic and picturesque village has been a home base. Its demeanor is comfortable with its many restaurants, coffee shops, and ordinances eschewing change. Of course, it is unreasonable to think that I could ever afford to live here among the ghosts and childhood elves. Instead, it will likely remain my favorite destination for either a field trip or escape … or, like today, both.
The nostalgic eateries of my childhood and college years are today gone and barely remembered: The quirky, yet speedy Porthole, pizzeria Zoom-Zoom, and the Ranch House, the once special occasion purveyor of all things Angus. The Rathskellar is still operating but no longer trades quality Italian fare for long lines of students and alumni. And the Carolina Coffee Shop, where I met the likes of Randall Jarrell, Harry Golden, and Charles Kuralt, is more restaurant than coffee shop and more yuppyish than beatnik. Nonetheless, I can still visualize Saturday mornings when I’d tag along with Hal and, afterwards, be treated to a new book from the Intimate Bookshop.
In fact, very little here has remained unchanged. In fifty years, the town has tripled in population as has the student body at UNC. Jon is likely right now lost in the labyrinth of buildings that I remember as a one structure hospital. The Arts & Crafts bungalow in which we lived on Ransom Street, however, still looks the same. I am certain the attic no longer has a cache of odd and forgotten finds that can delight a child. Yes, I want to drive over, quickly park, and scurry to the back yard to see if the ancient fishpond is still there.
The Catholic school I attended is still here. The “oh so hip” Sisters of Mercy that taught me kicked the “habit” and married in the late sixties. But I still remember where my friends lived: Damian, Mark, Jean, and the twins Gary and Jerry.
As I sit here, squirming and restless for a smoke, there is one aspect of Chapel Hill that immediately seems unchanged: this time of year there is a pungent mix of scents in the air: honeysuckle, cut grass, and brewed coffee.
Soon, I shall pack up the laptop and head over to campus to fetch my beloved. I’ll pass the storefronts that used to house Danziger’s Olde World, where I’d spend my allowance on marzipan … and the long gone Leo’s where I’d always get some Halvah treats after dinner.
I won’t be melancholy though. I can still taste the first few bites of both. And I still have what remains of my trenta iced coffee.
Such is an indulgent afternoon, a county or two away from the hinterlands of Marklewood.
(I apologize: I no longer remember the source of this image. If any of you know, please pass the information along to me.)
As April’s errant and way-laid rains moisten these last of May’s “lusty days,” Jon and I look to June as a new beginning. Yes, we have escaped yet another month: trumping bill collectors and carefully doling antes from the pot, while clutching the most precious of chips to our hearts. If I were indeed a betting man, I’d now bet on the future, for to do so now is no longer a foolhardy risk or premature gamble. The humble House of Marklewood still stands proudly, cocked with neither bluff nor slam, although now well-concealed by Spring’s quick and magic deal. True, we may often play our hand thus, “seeing the other’s denial and raising our justification!”
As months go, June has always been a favorite here in the hinterlands. The hydrangeas, gardenias, and the carefully selected potted annuals are in full splendor. The evenings are still breezy-cool, at once ideal for Jon to sway in his swing while chatting with his mother, the ever practical Jean, or one of his buddies who share in both his maladies and habits. The seasonal sun has yet to evoke such words as “heinous” and “swelter”; and the “lazy” dog days are still but “playful pups” with a gumption to frolic.
Of course, June holds dear many days … those of prideful boasts, paternal roasts, and the ever so academic vexillologist’s toasts. While many friends celebrate birthdays in this looming sixth month, it is a safe bet that many saints, or the de-canonized and thereby demoted and denoted “blessed”, call June days as their own as well. Saints Jarlath, Branwallader, Ceratius, Amantius, Rutilius, Cocca, Agobard, and Theodichildis are but a few of the Catholic holy persons who’d soon be honored with feasts and fêtes, were they indeed remembered. As a survivor of parochial school, I question the judgment of Sr Mary Joseph who steered me into opting for St Christopher who is now simply “Christopher the Blessed” (and the subject of millions of now obsolete medallions). Quirky lad that I was in fifth grade, I would have likely preferred Agobard as my confirmation name. Egads! I swear that I came by my issues honestly and without coaxing.
So another month has packed its triumphs and defeats and is soon headed to life’s “Green Room”. I can now slowly breathe in the sweet pollen-free air and sigh that oh-so familiar sigh. There will be no fanfare. I shall offer my beloved a tiny crimson rose, plucked from the garden out front. As he ponders the shrub’s metamorphosis from bearing antique pink to deep red blooms, I shall smile. We are bolstered for the days ahead no matter what tricks the Universe conceals up its mossy sleeve.
(Perhaps, just as I did in fifth grade, I selected a confirmation name in improper haste. St Agobard was, perhaps, a little too ecclesiastical even for my tastes. I did, however, sense a kindred affinity for odd sentence structure:
“Further, they believe the letters of their alphabet to have existed from everlasting, and before the beginning of the world to have received diverse offices, in virtue of which they should preside over created things.”)
(Image: “Mr. Charming” by Catrin Welz-Stein.)