Ranting

Friends and Tuesdays

August 13th, 2021

Tuesday Lunch

(published in The Daily Memphian)

“Have a blessed day,” the young woman said as she gave me my change. It doesn’t matter where I was or what I was buying. I am, like you, offered that wish almost as much as we’re offered, “Have a nice day.”

Most of us don’t pay much attention as we return the favor by rote with a throwaway, “You, too.” If we’re honest, some of us, say me, are a little annoyed. Maybe by the self-righteous if not pious overtones of one, the banality of the other.

Some of us, say me, have been mostly annoyed by the last 18 months. I’ll have whatever kind of day I damn well please, thank you.

Today was Tuesday, and pretty much nothing happened. And pretty much everything.

Charlie took us to an old graveyard in Transylvania to find the tombstone of his great grandfather, and to share a bowl of something or other only he could pronounce, and then assuming the accent and mannerisms of his native New Jersey he took us to a beach on the Jersey shore. As usual, the last part made me spit a little beer on the table.

And, as usual, he asked us if we knew that he went to law school with Elizabeth Warren. And, as usual, somebody threw a roll at him.

Lucius took us to his son’s wedding in Germany and before we got our lederhosen on, we donned dhoti garments for another son’s wedding in India. And then he discussed a series of obscure events from 1880’s Memphis, and a number of other centuries and cultures, complete with specific dates.

And Breen debated both the events and the dates, and discussed the finer points of law, and what he made for dinner the night before. And why the finer Pinot grapes grow on the south side of vineyard hills and the value of morning sun.

Now we’re running out of rolls.

Michael took us to the burn unit ICU of Regional One, and Andy was right there for Michael and his family to show us what friendship is truly about.

Rob struggles with memory but never struggles to smile, and never struggles to be welcome anywhere in a city he helped design.

In the midst of piles of empty calories, mounds of things deep fried, and a table littered with beer, Barney, yet again, has a salad and iced tea, and, yet again, caught nothing but grief from me for his choices. In fact, he had a BLT and a side salad ­– a salad sandwich and a salad.

One of these days, Barney, quite possibly the nicest guy in Memphis, is going to cover me in lettuce and blue cheese. He’ll have help doing it, too.

Harry, who writes a letter to the editor right after he brushes his teeth each day, has something to grouse about. And, like any other Tuesday, Harry and Barney discuss baseball cards of mostly forgettable players that only they remember. Invariably, we travel to places only people older than television and suburban flight can get tickets.

Harry is the referee of these events, and actually has a whistle to restore order. And to return us from the middle of the last century to this week.

Somehow, Rob manages to work Memphis architecture, duck hunting, and Tyronza, Arkansas into the middle of any conversation. Likewise, Michael will find a way to make his father’s childhood experience and view following a mule around a hardscrabble farm outside of Jackson, Tennessee, relevant to anything. I, I’m told, have the same problem with Memphis trivia. Ad nauseam.

Rob and Michael can also teach lessons in courage in meeting disease and loss with strength, dignity, and dedication to wring the most out of every day given us.

Andy doesn’t come every week, but when he does, it’s on a motorcycle, the sound of which will kill the hair on the inside of your ears. He says it could be louder, at least I think that’s what he said. I couldn’t hear.

Spouses and children and grandchildren and family histories – and genes – join us at table in spirit and stories and challenges. Memphis is stirred and poured out hot and cold, salty and sweet. Politicians are roasted and grilled side-by-side with opinions and sometimes emotions are served raw. We travel the world and its travails with each other, and we often wonder if we’re there yet.

A retired Federal immigration judge, a retired lawyer. A retired architect, a retired banker. A financial advisor, a not-for-profit pioneer. A retired doctor, a retired engineer. An adman turned columnist.

Just some guys and some sandwiches and some beer and one salad. Talking about nothing and everything.

Today was Tuesday, and it was indeed a blessed day.

Have one yourself.

I’m a Memphian, and I’m thankful, maybe now more than ever, for time spent with friends.

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