Monthly Archives: March 2015
I may or may have not met Conrad at Willie’s wedding in Connecticut a couple of years ago . There were a lot of people there . I don’t remember him .
It’s Thursday and I’m sitting in a chapel at a Forest Lawn cemetery in Long Beach listening to a Catholic Priest reading from the bible . Conrad is up there behind the priest in a plain wooden coffin that rests on a shiny mortuary gurney .
I’m sitting next to my friend Willie , who’s flown in from Connecticut , and another east coast guy named Vic. They’re wearing black suits and ties .
I counted the people there . There are thirteen without Willie and me and Vic and another guy who drove up from Oceanside and is sitting with us in the pew . All of these guys are old friend’s of Conrad’s from early on . Vic and the guy from Oceanside knew Conrad in high school . The high school was some international high school in Geneva , Switzerland . Willie , though , met Conrad and those guys a little later . They all lived in New York City at some point .
All but two of the other thirteen people in the chapel are Conrad’s relatives . At the time designated for reflections , Conrad’s sister gets up to speak . She praises Conrad and reads a few e-mails from friends that say what a great guy Conrad was . Willie says a few words about how Conrad helped him find an apartment in the city thirty years ago . Then Conrad’s landlord gets up to talk about Conrad’s dog , about how much he loved that dog , and about how much Conrad must have loved that dog . The landlord was crying at the end of his little speech. A neighbor then said a few words.about how much he’d miss Conrad . He was crying , too .
We were all invited to lunch at what was said to have been Conrad’s favorite restaurant . We drove several miles out to Cerritos to the place . Willie and Vic wanted to see the Queen Mary . That would have been nice . Opposite direction , though . We would need more time to see the coast , but their flight was leaving early in the afternoon . Next time .
Willie is a musician . He was asked to sing a song at the end of lunch . He did . Conrad’s relatives said maybe they should have had Willie sing at the funeral . Willie said , ” Next time ,” to Conrad’s sister , who good-naturedly suggested that there wouldn’t be a next time . Moment of embarrassed pause . One of those slightly awkward moments in life.
I was the driver . That’s what I was doing there . I had picked Willie and Vic up at LAX to drive them to their hotel in Long Beach . They didn’t like the idea of driving in L.A. Can’t blame them , I guess . After the burial and lunch I took them back to LAX .
Conrad was a doctor . He wanted to be a businessman but his folks insisted that he go into medicine . His father told him that if he wouldn’t go to medical school he’d be disinherited . Rich family . That story is according to Vic , who knew him way back when . Conrad negotiated with his father . They agreed that Conrad would apply to medical school , but if he wasn’t accepted , then he could go to business school with his father’s support . Conrad told Vic that his plan was to apply only to Massachusettes General because it was nearly impossible to get in to . Then he would go to business school .
Some time later , Conrad had called his friend Vic . ” I’ve got some bad news ,” he said . ” I’ve been accepted at Mass. General ” . And so it goes . Conrad became a doctor . Vic , who seemed to me a little too up-tight , visibly loosened up as he told Conrad stories at lunch .
I wondered where all of Conrad’s friends were . He sounded like a guy who would have loads of friends . And I wondered about the plain wooden coffin . I figured that that had been Conrad’s decision . The sister had read a beautiful obituary written by Conrad . He had been a forward-thinking man , it seems . He had picked a tree-shaded plot just behind the chapel and we watched the plain coffin being lowered down into the grave . Conrad died at sixty-four years old .
Most of the relatives at the ceremony lived in Hawaii . They were dressed casually , a couple in Hawaiian shirts , the sister in shorts . Willie and Vic looked like hit men in their black suits and ties . But , hey , it’s cool . This is southern California . I considered feeling a bit out of place , too , sitting there eating that lunch and not knowing the guy . ” I met Conrad in Connecticut , ” I told the sister , who assumed that I was an old friend of her brother’s , too . I couldn’t remember meeting him , but maybe I had .
Now that Saint Patrick’s Day is done , and I’ve pretty much held my tongue about four-leaf clovers presented as shamrocks , I now will state my irritation , gather my gripe into print . This is one of those pet- peeves perhaps best kept to oneself . But , hey , this is my blog and I get to put whatever I want in here . No one says you have to read it . ( Not too many do , anyway , of course , so the world will , most likely , not be shaken off of it’s foundations with one complaining post now and again ) . So here goes .
The straw that broke this blogger’s back is a photo in today’s LA TIMES , page B1 . A bearded guy is wearing large silly sun glasses which the caption identifies as ” shamrock glasses ” . They’re not . Not . LA TIMES should know better , I think . The glasses are four-leaf clovers . Shamrocks don’t have four leaves .
I won’t blame the newspaper , though , for this ignorance . At what point does an error become part of the going truth , the modern culture , a socially approved item , a matter of fact ? For years that cereal , Lucky Charms , touted some stereo-typically idiotic leprechaun holding a four-leaf clover . At least they weren’t calling the thing a shamrock . But , the blending of reality was already infecting life as evidenced by Lucky Charms . Why a leprechaun ? You see what I mean ? Leprechauns may have shamrocks . At least they come from a land of shamrocks . And they are associated with luck , I suppose . Thinking of pots-of-gold , and all that . But , somewhere along the line , they became associated with four-leaf clovers .
Don’t get me wrong . That’s all fine . Four-leaf clovers are associated with good luck . Also , as I’ve said , leprechauns are associated with good luck [ I won’t mention in this post all of the bad luck and mischief they also cause ] . But , please , don’t confuse four-leaf clovers with shamrocks . That’s just wrong .
Every Saint Patrick’s Day , without fail , out come the four-leaf clovers ! An Irish symbol ? Ada has a bowl of special St. Paddy’s Day cookies out on the table , all glazed with green sprinkles and four leaves . They’re good cookies , but the four leaf stuff for St. Patrick’s Day is just wrong .
Okay , if you know the clear distinction between three-leaf shamrocks and four-leaf good luck clovers , then good . But , in all honesty , it’s a difficult distinction when , every cartoon leprechaun now seems to hold a four-leaf clover . The unconscious association is made , and the culture is corrupted .
I will admit that I haven’t researched all of this . Maybe ancient ‘chauns held four-leaf clovers . Maybe four-leaves have always been their thing . But four-leaves have become tied securely to Saint Patrick’s Day . As I’ve suggested , I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s green beer day with complaints . But , again , here goes .
As any Catholic school kid from the old days could tell you , one of the things Bishop Pat did in those ancient days , is to teach the concept of the holy trinity by holding up a shamrock . The difficult three-in-one idea of the holy trinity was thus made clear in the minds of those old pagan Celts . Ah ! Three -parts -in -one ! Like shamrocks !
So , there’s Saint Patrick now in store windows surrounded by four-leaf clovers . Could he have taught the trinity using four-leaf good-luck charms ? Now , let all of this mull around in your mind for a moment .
I haven’t taken this peeve far enough to be able yet to present strategies to deal with this situation . So far I am just pointing out what should be , but I believe isn’t , the obvious . If it doesn’t matter to you , fine . Go on and let one thing blend into another . But , it’s the beginning of the blandification of society , my friend . It’s giving in , and it’s happening already in all sorts of areas of life , by the way . All I can say is : beware . Think it over . [Those good luck charms won’t help either , by the way , because you’d have to find one in a garden or in a field . Cheap sun-glasses , cereal , green cookies , etc. ,just won’t cut it , I’m afraid . You’d better re-read the good luck rules ] .