“Encaena” is an old Latin word for a graduation ceremony, seldom used in the U.S. but cherished in the lush green fields and among the libraries and colleges and pubs of Oxford in the heart of England. It is an annual festival, a ceremony of honorary degrees and new-minted graduates celebrating their achievements with glasses of champagne sipped happily in garden parties and along the River Thames and on the punts that glide along the River Cherwell near Folly Bridge.
Full Disclosure: I am not and never was a “Car Guy”. Even in my high
school freshman year when a buddy and I delighted in stealing the cigarette
lighters from the latest GM models on display at the Steel Pier I had no claim to
being a car guy. Of course I met the requirement imposed on all teenage
American males that we recognize every make, model and year on the road, and maybe know its horsepower, but that didn’t make me a car guy. Those were guys like Lee Iacocca or John DeLorean, who knew what a muscle car should look and act like. Or the guys who brought out the Chevvy Corvette in ‘53 or the Ford Thunderbird in ‘55.
“On July 20, 1969, when … Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon , he
carried with him, in tribute to the Wright brothers, a small swatch of the muslin
from a wing of their 1903 Flyer.” The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough.
If you ask the ubiquitous Google about the oldest living persons, you will still find a handful of folks who were alive when the Wright brothers made their historic flights on the dunes of North Carolina. But none, I think, who saw them happen. A hundred and twelve years after those great events, all known eyewitness survivors are gone.
“Of course she’s guilty,” Aunt Tess said after she watched Bridget Anne Kelly’s spirited statement on TV about being indicted for the GW Bridge scandal
traffic jam. “They’re all guilty. But at least she’s going to take that big phoney
down with her!”
There are some things you should keep in mind about Aunt Tess. One is that she admires people who fight back when they get bullied. Doesn’t matter if you’re in the right or not. In her book if a bully kicks you in the shins you kick back higher up. She knows how to be ladylike in the old sense, but saves that sort of behavior for funerals and other genteel occasions. Growing up youngest in a family including nine older brothers all of whom fought in the Big One taught her to fight back. Serving later on as Secretary of her Teamsters local hadn’t exactly convinced her of the spiritual value of meekness when in a fight.
Something about the returning freedom of Spring draws me to poetry every year. It is as enticing as a walk among new-blooming flowers on a sunny day. Sometimes it’s W.B. Yeats, with his “Come away, O human child, to the waters and the wild …” Other times it’s Robert Frost’s “Two Tramps in Mud Time” in which the writer is splitting wood in his yard in Springtime when two tramps “sleeping God knows where last night, but not long since in the lumber camps” subtly claim the work by urging him to “hit ‘em hard.”
Dave Barry, a very funny Florida writer likes to say “I am not making this
up,” when he’s setting up his outrageously hilarious stories. I’m not making this
up either. I’ve been in New Orleans this week, seeking relief from the whacky
doings of the millionaires and bigwigs who pass for the movers and shakers of
Atlantic City these days; guys like Donald Trump, Glen Straub, and Chris Christie. Seems like every day brings us a story of another fiasco, whether it’s fights over the Revel power plant, restrictive covenants, or the race between the slow-growing mold in abandoned casinos and the emerging lawsuits between the wannabe tycoons hoping to own them. Casinos bring the whackoes out of the woodwork everywhere. Not playing in them, you understand. Owning them.
The writer hasn’t been born who can write about a wedding without
mentioning how beautiful was the bride. Certainly this writer doesn’t intend to
try. I’m convinced there never has been nor ever will be a bride who wasn’t
beautiful. But the one who came smiling back down the aisle on my grandson’s arm this past Saturday was downright stunning. So was the one who came down the aisle with his brother a short two years ago and joined this wedding happily pregnant and with her proud husband serving as a groomsman. Of six grandsons, two are now married and the other four showed up with a collection of girls so pretty the supply of beautiful future brides seems inexhaustible.
“So he’s gay,” Aunt Tess snorted. “So what?”
At her age it’s hard to keep up with the younger set out on the fringes of
the family. But since she’d moved to the Assisted Living near his hometown of
Cape May she had gradually gotten to know Jay. He might be a Democrat, a
liberal, and his sexual magnets might run east-west instead of north-south, but he was family, and that was good enough for Aunt Tess. Family loyalty trumps almost everything in Tess’s book.
It caught my eye like something you see in a flash of summer lightning on
a dark night; an interesting object but gone almost before you see its outline. In
this case it was a little-noticed headline about an obscure legal trick called a
“restrictive covenant.” Chris Brown, the Republican Assemblyman representing
Atlantic County and an Atlantic City caught in the shipwreck of the local casino closings, had issued a criticism of how the casinos are using restrictive covenants to stifle Atlantic City’s development.
“Come take us out to lunch,” she said. “Becky’s upset. She needs a break
from the news.”
Such a call from Aunt Tess is the local equivalent of a command performance at Buckingham Palace. You dare not refuse, lest you be stricken off the list forever.
“What’s got her upset?” I asked.