Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Man in My Garage

October 13, 2007

At the recent reunion of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education, a.k.a. The Organic School, people came into Fairhope from all over. I expected to have a couple sharing one of the little bedrooms upstairs in my cottage, a student teacher in the other, and a man living in the little room at the back of the garage for the duration.

As it turned out, the only one who was able to make it was the man in my garage. Playing hostess to him as well as partaking of all the events of the reunion weekend and giving something of a lecture at one of them (plus reading a chapter from Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree at another) gave an offbeat dimension to my participation in the proceedings.

He turned out to be in some ways typical as a product of our unconventional school, but for the main part, a man like no other. He likes to go which ever way the wind blows him, and this has taken his windblown persona in many directions. A delightful raconteur and observer of details, he carried big blank notebooks with him wherever he went, asked questions of everybody, and wrote down almost every damn thing anybody said. He was quick with a quip, but quizzical about many of the answers he got. I had a wonderful time with him.

As it turns out, he's a retired environmental consultant who has decided to relocate from the grey Northwest (Anacordes, WA, where he says "everybody is nice nice nice -- so nice I had enough,") to the desert country of Azo, AZ, to be part of an artists' community and develop his talents in art. He lives quite comfortably on almost no money, reads omniverously, and writes all the time too. He was complimentary about my writing, and made good suggestions too. He read When We Had the Sky and suggested some rewrites I shall use.

He and I had long talks in which we enlightened each other on the ways of the world. We both have had varied and amusing experiences and enjoyed each other's company enormously. I took him down into one of the gullies that once were so popular for youngsters in Fairhope. I introduced him to a local restaurant where he warily ordered crab gratin and was amazed that it actually had a lot of crabmeat in it. He said in the Pacific Northwest they don't put crabmeat in their crab dishes! Hmmm...that must be quite a trick. I introduced him to the Lower Alabama specialty of fried crab claws and he was quite taken with it.

Mostly he was looking for himself, the young self who had boarded at the school in the 1940's. Some women remembered having had dates with him and told him how much fun he used to be -- one time he went to the Country Club with one and walked a few miles in the wrong direction going home until somebody found him. Reunions are good for this kind of exploration, and he is nothing if not an explorer.

He's been married a few times, has grown sons, and takes a lot of time off to visit old lady friends and make new friends of all ages. He says his exposure to Organic Education put him on the path of discovery that has been his life. He didn't want to leave the school by the time his parents decided he didn't need it any more, but it really never left him, and he seems to be searching for more than the old landmarks and contact with people now shadowy in his memory.

I enjoyed the diversion of having this character in my garage. He stayed on a couple of days after the reunion broke up, and after he left I received a phone call at 9 P.M.

"I'm in a youth hostel in New Orleans," said the voice. "I'm having a wonderful time. It's $17 a night and full of young people. We're all drinking and singing."

Wherever he is, I'm sure he's having a wonderful time.


Dr. Fil said...

He sounds interesting but really sad, a man with either too much deep feelings or none at all. A
changling who fits the moment for survival. All said and done, in the end, just another butterfly. Where is his caring that is innate to most, that makes men want to stay and deal with bad times as well as good times? If he were an unlicensed canine, he would be caught and most likely put in la-la land.
He seems to be a tragically interesting individual.

Finding Fair Hope said...

Where, indeed is his caring?

I guess I didn't really capture the guy if he comes off uncaring or unrooted. He spent his childhood in boarding schools and then back in a turbulent nuclear family, has loved many and been intrigued by much that life has to offer.

Dr. fil could learn a thing or two from Dr. Phil -- and even more from a few hours with the man in my garage. Tragedy is nowhere near this guy. "Dr. fil" is judgmental and perhaps a little jealous of a man who has lived by his own lights and always seeks a new challenge, finding joy without money, and security without having to pontificate.

We should all be such butterflies.

dr.fil said...

or be reptiles that have no warmth as mammals have?...judgement or not,
without the society which is visited, these butterflies could not survive....

Finding Fair Hope said...

I'm having trouble understanding what isn't working for dr. fil here...he finds the man in my garage to be an unlicensed canine; or worse, a cold-blooded reptile. I see him more as a waterbug or an air plant, but with a sense of humor and a store of intellectual curiosity. Different from most of us, but living among us like Puck, darting about, observing, making notes and living a life of fair hope that he will find some answers to the questions that fill his mind and his heart.

dr. fil should meet the guy in person and see if he's as turned off by him as he seems to have been by my description of him.

dr.fil said...

The man in the garage probably is a rush to be around............for
a short time. A soap bubble..a butterfly.. flies until it dies, so to speak. Oh, the spectra of it , yet touching it destroys it...the Midas touch?...Luring enough to have attracted several women...gone now...and have children that may enjoy his company, yet off he goes to smell another flower of self indulgence. Therein lies the tragedy. Spontaneous maybe, intellectual, creative and selfishly searching sometimes new, sometimes old acquaintances to rekindle his wandering spirit. Is there purpose to his galavanting, other than to get another rush of newness? Some wanderers contribute, Johnny Appleseed, Dr. Livingston, Teddy Roosevelt, Audoban to name a few. There has been no mention of purpose except the traveling itself. But, sure, someone who leads a different life is usually interesting.
dr. fil never said he was no likeable, he said "tragically interesting".