"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Booth is a verb, chapter 3

Retreating from the glaring sun, hot wind, and lukewarm students, the duo welcomed the air conditioned and dim-lighted pub and made their thirsty way to the booth at the back of the bar, where the bosomy bartender befriended both again, serving the first drinks before they had even settled into their places.

They unfolded the cribbage board, dealt the cards, and by the time the ice-cubes clinked emptily in the glasses the first time, the Clark, in spite of being math-challenged, had pegged his way to his first victory. He thought his success was because of his superior skill and intelligence, though the Illidge ascribed it to luck and perhaps cheating. Years later, the Clark realized his success was probably a tribute to his seasoned experience in filling out multiple administrative forms that made no sense at all, but which justified a multitude of university jobs having little to do with students and teaching.

And lo, the Clark reasoned that such a victory should be celebrated in style, so, in honor of his opponent the Illidge, and to irritate him even more, he switched from rum and coke to Irish whiskey. Whereupon, yeah, he won a second game, to the Illidge’s considerable consternation.

At that opportune moment in the history of the universe, the trio of fellow travelers--the German Complainer, the Public Relations Princess, and Friar John the Monk--arrived, and made their way to the back, eyes adjusting to the dim light, and noses to the fine odor of spirits. Whilst they settled in, the Clark, being a humble, quiet sort, did modestly manage to mention in minute detail his successes, making sure that the trio was properly impressed, including the bosomy bartender who arrived promptly to help assuage the newcomers’ thirsts. Whereupon the Illidge, chagrined and protesting ineffectually, tried to save face by being considerate of the others and declaring the game session up, while assuring his colleagues there would be another day.

Then it was, for the next hour or so, the colleagues became booth buddies, and the bar tabs increased more incrementally than the Clark’s game scores. And the quintet of travelers, all former scribes of various periodicals, and their tongues watered with the spirits of the season, began telling war stories of their travails in the trenches of journalism. Here indeed it was that the Illidge shown mightily as the eldest and most experienced of the group. But the Friar also regaled the group with numerous yarns of yesteryear, while The German talked about the cheapest beers, and the Princess was rarely quiet. The longer the evening wore on, the louder loomed the laugher, the larger the potential tips accumulated for the busy bosomy bartender, and the more magnificent the meanderings of tales.

Such conviviality was bound to attract attention, and behold, several stressed souls from other university departments, seeking refuge from a hot day, and putrid paperwork, began stopping by, exchanging pleasantries and laughs. They were amazed at the rare sight of faculty members from a single department engaged in collegiality and fun, rather than attending boring meetings or fussing endlessly about academic matters that mattered little. Thus it was, before the booth buddies departed that day, the seeds of the reputation of “the booth” had been firmly planted, and certainly well-watered. So it was, that when the group would soon once again seek succor in its confines, their gospel of good will had begun to spread, with unforeseen results, including the soon famous “vagaries and vicissitudes.”

To be continued

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