A continuing tale of life in the boonies
"Tranquillity! thou better name
Than all the family of Fame."
- Samuel Coleridge
It has been a few months since we had a Reason for Coming to Farmington, this haven of peace nestled in a fold of the New Hampshire hills.
Once upon a time I answered my Glasgow telephone and was talked into going to Paris to join a friend who was working on a photographic book of French motorcycle gangs.
"Come on over," he said, "they're fascinating people!"
That much was true ... but what Esaias had neglected to tell me was that he had penetrated a bunch of psychopathic Parisian Nazis, and needed me to give him cover by playing an innocent Scottish hayseed on vacation. For a couple of night we hung out in the Saint Michel area on the Left Bank, being royally entertained by these ideologues in black leather. My friend had undoubtedly won their trust by shooting pictures of bikes, tattoos, girlfriends and horseplay, making presents of his best shots. The week previous to my arrival, they had even taken Esaias to a small town outside the city where they went for secret firearms training. It was then he realized that the real story had yet to unfold.
The gang's leader was called Eddie, and one night, after stealing a couple of bottles of whisky in my honor, he asked us over to a arty in his apartment in a southern suburb of Paris. His room was a revelation. A dozen people and loud music was fine, the 16’ by 8’ swastika that hung like a tapestry was unusual, the barbells and the Doberman were disconcerting. But it was the machine guns and fruit dish heaped with grenades that were the real eye-pullers. No doubt about it. I felt the hair rise on my neck, swore at Esaias Baitel in English, and gave Eddie and the boys my most nonchalant smile. Here I was, in a foreign country with a roomful of drunken armed killers, noted for their hatred of Jews, with my buddy from Israel. "It's okay, these dumbos think I'm Swedish. What a great shot!" muttered Esaias, focusing on a tattoo-smothered savage glugging from a bottle of Johnnie Walker scotch against a backdrop of the Nazi flag.
"Make sure you get the grenades in," I said acidly.
"Hey! This is a party. Play them Jessie James on the banjo," retorted Esaias.
"I'll be playing the funeral march for both of us if they discover you're Jewish," I said with great feeling. Someone passed the whisky but it didn't help much.
Around 2:30 a.m. a loud knock came on the front door, and Eddie opened up without concern. A well-dressed man aged about 40 entered, shook hands with many of the revelers, and sat cross-legged on the floor before leaning over to Eddie, and beckoning in the direction of Esaias and myself.
Polite conversation in French then took place between the new arrival and my friend, before Esaias rose apologetically to his feet and announced that he and I had to return home. Handshakes, goodbyes and come agains, all round.
When we got outside in the street, Esaias grabbed my arm urgently and explained that the stranger had told him he was head of Egypt Air in Paris, (he was undoubtedly Arabic and intelligent) and, as such, was liable to twig that with a Biblical name, Esaias was a strange Swede. We broke into a run, heading for a main artery where a taxi might come to our rescue, but we had only gone two streets when a car, headlights blazing, screeched to a halt in front of us, and two men jumped out, guns drawn. I wondered if a banjo could stop a bullet. (This true-life drama will be concluded next week.)
Some years later
Tranquility is a comparative condition, and though Farmington is more tranquil than Paris, there are times when New York City is more tranquil than Farmington. Therefore, last week, when I received a postcard from Brooklyn saying, "Drop everything. Important. Come immediately." I thought I would mosey on down to find out what was happening, and catch some peace and quiet with a weekend away from the Summer Program,
My friend, Brenda, with whom I had once shared a Parisian mattress along with that Esaias and 14 others ne’er-do-wells, not counting a parrot, (a cramped but friendly vacation, that one) was my histrionic hostess.
As we reminisced about that tropical bird, I thought of the many stuffed parrots yet to be located for the Long John Silver Agon, and we set to work with a great scouring of the Lower East Side. No success in the ornithology department, but I did purchase a violently garish Hawaiian shirt with the intention of wearing it, stomach permitting, whilst officiating the Agon. It looked like a painter's rag that had been pelted with exotic fruit.
"Please wrap it up," I begged the salesperson, thinking I might be lucky enough not to see it for a few weeks. Hopes were dashed when Brenda insisted I wear it for dinner. Weird city.…
A party of 10 climbers was successful in driving to the base of Mount Washington and eight of that number actually reached the summit, and groped around in the mist. An enjoyable day was slightly overshadowed by a note pasted to the Community Center door which apologized for the absence of a founder member. He had been called away to pay last respects to a dying friend in N.Y.C.
More public-spirited Long John Silvers have stepped forward. It is pleasing to announce that pirate ranks have now been swelled by Tim Woodward of Memorial Drive School, Kim Cardinal of Snax fame, and a well-loved figure who will be given a slight start to compensate for a wee stiffness in the limbs - Sgt. Brown.
Mr. Ellsworth Hancock, who will start the race by firing his cannon, is determined not to be upstaged by Mr. Lefty Lee of Lefty Lee and the Drifters, who will wear his Alterations by Doris sequined jacket. Ellsworth has elected to wear his Daniel Boone outfit, complete with tomahawk. Thanks to Parker Kehoe, the Suntan Salon and Kathy Vickers, who are lending parrots (more needed), and to George Meyer for his generous donation towards the treasure for the chest.
Hay Day News
The logo on this year's posters has been designed by Joyce Nuttter and depicts the silhouette of a maiden with a pitchfork pursuing a farmer along a ridge. The original artwork had the figures in reversed position but these were changed around in committee as some people thought it was too true to life. It is not clear if the gentleman is wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Planning Board News
At the end of mammoth session that spilled over midnight, board member Anne Chapline made a motion that people behind the table should refrain from insulting each other or members of the public. This was agreed upon.
"Now they won't talk to me at all," muttered Biff Silvia with a grin.
July 28, 1986
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