"We need to booth," said a colleague the other day, and we knew what she meant. End of semester. Time to get together for a little adult beverage and toasts and stories and jokes and release from higher education's tensions, rules and nonsense.
But "Booth" has a long history for us in our department, I'd guess about 14 years. I've told this story before on this blog, but realized it has been a decade since my friend Bob Illidge retired, and nine years since he died, most of us attending his funeral in Wichita, Kansas.
After all these years, at this week's booth, here was the first toast: "To Bob." Such is the power of a friendship and a gathering.
So, in his honor, here is the first of about 16 chapters in the story of "The Booth," first written in 2009. I'll post one each day.
From Aug. 9, 2009
"Booth is a verb...a love story, prologue"
"Once upon a time long ago in a university department, two friends needed
to get off campus one afternoon, to get away from the inanity of higher
ed, from students who didn’t care, from stupid rules and useless
meetings and endless paperwork, from administrators who didn’t care
"Major universities worth their salt have
neighborhood pubs around them for the students, and select ones for the
faculty. But not so for where they labored against ignorance, a
commuter-oriented university in the midst of a rich religious-right
Republican suburb of a government-welfare capital city in a somewhat
backward, if friendly, state. And this was grievous indeed for the Irish
Catholic, veteran advertising professor whose sense of humor offset the
injustices of life. He knew he needed a “little something” to wash away
another day. Forsooth, the younger professor and chairman, a
recovering tee-totaling fundamentalist, had become an expert over the
years in the nonsense of administration, and knew he also needed respite
of a liquid kind to keep his sanity.
"Yeah verily, they escaped
the halls of mediocrity one day, a cribbage board and cards in hand, and
ventured down to a franchise bar and restaurant no more than a
half-mile from the austere campus, and found in the back, a booth
paneled in dark-stained wood, cushioned with fake green leather, and set
off from the rest of the restaurant by fake dark greenery. Then they
saw the bartender, a cheerful, bosomy young woman who both knew because
she was a student, as with most of theirs, paying her way through
college by working long hours in fooderies and drinkeries for cheap pay
in hope of good tips.
"To be continued…