My trip to Almamaterville continues. After lunch with two dear friends and their kids (another Hot Brown, more pie), I dropped Mrs. M off at the mall while I went to have a look around a drum shop I noticed the other day.
As I looked at the kits on display, I talked to the salesman on duty, and mentioned that I had played in a jangly, folkadelic band in the late 80s and early 90s, back when Lexington was supposed to be the next “next Athens.” A voice behind me asked what the band was, and I turned, and said “It was the Groovy Kool.” (Yeah, I know.)
“I thought I knew you!” the voice — now attached to a guy about my age — said. “I was in Ten Ft. Pole.” Things clicked. “Yeah,” I said, “we split some shows, and we borrowed each others’ gear!”
So we sat and told war stories for a little while, until it was time to go pick up Mrs. M. It was nice to run into someone who remembered, and whom I remembered as well, and in a way, it was a nice cap on our visit, because tomorrow we’re heading back to pick up the Spawn, and we’ll be back in Mondoville Friday night.
You see, as much as I’ve enjoyed the scene here, and as much as I’ve loved the time I’ve been spending with Mrs. M, my relationship with Almamaterville has always had an odd taste. In fact, as we rolled into town Monday night, I told Mrs. M, “Here we are at the scene of my two greatest failures.” And I meant it — first when I had lost a full scholarship as an undergrad after two years, and then when it took me five years to get the M.A., at which point the University gave me my invitation to the world.
Both those events have haunted me for years, always providing evidence that I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t disciplined enough, wasn’t whatever enough. Because I’m the kind of person I am, if it hadn’t been those things, it would have been others — every failed relationship was proof that I was doomed to life alone until Mrs. M proved me wrong — and she’s had to put up with 22 years of my certainty that this would be the day she wised up. But as it turned out, it’s been those academic misfires that have persisted in my memory, heckling me with cries of “Fraud!” as I’ve gone on with my life, making it almost impossible for me to graciously accept the very compliments and affirmations I cherish.
But as I talked to my friends at the restaurant, with Mrs. M sitting next to me and the ice cream melting on my pie, it occurred to me that if those two events were really my biggest failures… well, I guess I overcame them. And I guess if that’s the worst I’ve done… I’ve done all right.
So my trip’s almost over. So far, so good.