Dinner at the Golden Lion or I eat snails

Dinner at the Golden Lion2

When I think of Christmas in the workplace, it always recalls to my mind A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (as I am sure it does many of you), and in particular, one of Dickens’ characters whom we meet in Scrooge’s encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Past, Mr. Fezziwig. There is something very attractive and warm about this character, the first example to the young Scrooge as a man who knew how to “keep Christmas.”

And when I remember Bud Saffle, my old boss at the Saffle Theater Service, echoes of Fezziwig reverberate, at least for one occasion – the office Christmas party.

That one year, Bud and his wife Diane, took his employees – myself and Lori B. (with our significant others) to the Olympic Hotel and its renowned Golden Lion restaurant. It was situated up in the area nearby my old workplace, the Fifth Avenue Theater. Though I had been working within spitting distance of this destination for a couple of years, I had never seen it, much less been in it. (We were more familiar with establishments of the fast food variety).

The Golden Lion was a high-toned eatery with decor and a wait staff decked out in a style reminiscent of the British Raj. (Turbans adorned those flaming the special dishes). It was a mite intimidating for one who didn’t know a chafing dish from a salad bowl. But our host put us at ease, and told us to order whatever we wanted.

Appetizers were first on the menu. Our first major decision. My eye landed on the word “escargot.” Having been a French major in college, I knew what those were – snails. I was not an adventurous eater, a truth to which my wife can testify. So, she was surprised when I opted for this gastronomic oddity. I admit I was curious as to how they would taste. And I learned that anything tastes GREAT in garlic butter sauce. Warm bread was supplied to mop up the extra.

After one bite of her appetizer my wife wished she had opted for something else. Perhaps one of the soups. She had ordered smoked salmon, easily her favorite fish, but in this instance NOT. One second through the smoke before serving, one step above raw, made her stomach blanche – (no, neither of us like sushi). I slipped her some bread with the heavenly butter garlic sauce.

The main dish selection was a foregone conclusion. We decided the minute our scan down the menu fixed on Chateaubriand Bouquetiere, a dish which just happened to be our favorite. We didn’t have to chew the rest of the evening. (The escargot had been springy, so for that course I got in all my chewing for the evening).

And dessert if I remember right was Bud’s selection, Cherries Jubilee in all its flaming beauty.

It must have been a banner year for the company. It was certainly a memorable Christmas dinner for us.

Bildungsroman Anyone?

Bildungsroman Anyone?

The busy summer was coming to an end.  At the theater in May the Duke had gotten things rolling in the War Wagon. Then the summer action was perpetuated by Lee Marvin et al in the Dirty Dozen, and kicked into high gear by Connery, back again as Bond in You Only Live Twice. But perhaps it was To Sir with Love that held more resonance for me at this time, as well as the other teacher flick Up the Down Staircase, for reasons that I will go into forthwith.

I was switching from West Junior High to Brockton High School, situated right in downtown Brockton. So instead of turning right, in front of our apartment on Spring Street and heading west, I turned left and went east into the noonday sun.

For you see, there were too many students going to Brockton High at this time and too little school to go around. So the solution offered was to split the day, the upperclassmen had the mornings and we lowly sophomores, the afternoons.

The bulging at the seams school was actually two buildings. The “new” building dated from 1912, the old from 1906. The less ancient annex had an interesting feature, at least to me, a gym with a balcony that held a circular running track. And just as in the last film mentioned there were one-way staircases. The end of period bells would signal a rising tide of students that would flood the halls and stairways on the way to their next classes.

One of my destinations was in contemporary history, in which the pros and cons, merits and demerits of the then raging Viet Nam war were discussed and debated. It’s all a dim memory compared to my class in English Literature.

For English Lit we had a young teacher. She was possibly an intern or a student teacher fresh from college.  I make this pronouncement based on her decision to instruct us in that literary category – the Bildungsroman. One had the sense that it was something she had recently studied herself, and about which she was quite passionate.

So besides some time spent with the Bard in King Lear, she lectured us on the theory and characteristics of the “book of education.” The protagonist of the Bildungsroman was usually a youth just embarking on the voyage of life, and it follows his (or her) growth to maturity. As examples we were assigned Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, Golding’s Free Fall, Butler’s the Way of All Flesh, and Dickens’ Great Expectations.

Great Expectations, hands down, was my favorite. Pip, Estella, Miss Haversham, Joe Gargery and the other denizens of Dickens’ book live vividly in my mind from that day to this. It was years before I caught David Lean’s version, which served to solidify my appreciation for the original.

The Bildungsroman is also called a “coming of age” work, a terminology that often classifies a certain type of film. On this score, I would state that both To Sir with Love and Up the Down Staircase would be Bildungsroman movies. But what about the other films that I have listed for this time, they were action films, where would they be categorized? They are certainly part of a genre, but I think there are bigger overarching ideas that apply.

I believe they are both complementary in what they reveal about our desires. The one, the action film, uncovers in us that longing for a Savior God, the one who comes with justice and judgement and puts all things to right; the other, the coming of age story points out our desire to change, to become better.

Eternity is in our hearts, and humanity gropes after it. Discernment is important. Our desires, our focus needs to be on what is True.

My Brother vs the UU Church

My Brother vs the UU Church

I have no idea how we ended up going to the Universalist Unitarian church in Salem. I don’t believe it was a friend at school that invited us, perhaps it was from an acquaintance of our folks. In any event it was thought that we should get exposed in some manner to religion.
Inside, the building had an odd, old feel to it. The sanctuary, or hall as they may have called it was perhaps colorful but I don’t remember any ornamentation. The memorable view that I carry with me is one from the side, looking into the meeting area. There were a lot of books lining the shelves there. The titles that stick with me were Donbie and Son and the Old Curiosity Shop. For all I knew these were their sacred texts, (purchased when Dickens himself came through Salem in the early 1800s). I didn’t see a Bible, nor do I remember any teaching based on it.
Perhaps we were limited to the Sunday school rooms and were not in with the adults. My brother did, however, take a strong exception to the adult with whom we were placed. The gentleman either had an aversion to children in general or to my brother in particular. He no doubt had a certain opinion as to how kids should be raised, and for some reason he disparaged my mother’s parenting in front of my brother, calling her by a rather unkind appellation, one not usually bruited about in any church setting I’d ever heard of. My brother wasn’t big enough to cold-cock him, but if he were, he would have.
He did the next best thing – removed us from there. And we never darkened their assembly again.