Memories of things Ashtabula were popping up daily this week. It started Thursday evening when we went to the Springer Opera House to see Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience. It was an interesting evening all around. The Springer, built in the 1870s, is the oldest theater in Georgia and the sixth oldest in the United States. When you look up at the private boxes near the stage at the Springer, you expect to see Abe and Mary Lincoln in one of them.
The show featured three very enthusiastic brothers – Billy, Matthew and Ryan McGuigan – whose father, Bill, was a huge Beatles fan. Bill died from leukemia in 1996, and the show is a tribute to both their father and the Beatles. During intermission I talked to one of the ushers, Audrey, who, like me, was in awe of the McGuigans’ energy. She said she had to be back in the morning, when Yesterday and Today would be put on for an audience of school students. If the McGuigans were even half as energetic Friday morning as they were Thursday evening, we decided she should find out what they were on and how to get some.
Then Audrey talked about the restoration projects that have been completed at the Springer, and the ones currently underway or planned. I admitted my ignorance of the Springers’s history and told her I had been in the area less than a year.
“Where did you move from?” she asked.
“Ashtabula, Ohio,” I said hesitantly, expecting a puzzled look and a mumbled, “Where the hell is that?” in return.
“Oh, I’m familiar with Ashtabula,” she said. “My former in-laws lived there for a few years.”
It’s not the reaction I expect from people here when I say “Ashtabula.”
Friday afternoon, I found myself thinking about Dave King, one of Nancy’s bicycling friends. Annie and I were talking in the hallway when Polly and Margaret came by. Polly, a resident here, is blind. Margaret is a friend of hers who visits her regularly and helps Polly do things she wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. Friday, a wonderfully warm and sunny day, she took Polly outside for a walk.
“Hey, Polly,” Annie said.
“Somebody is talking to you,” Margaret told Polly.
“Who is it?” Polly asked.
“You know who I am, Ms. Polly,” Annie said.
“Annie. I know your voice. How are you?”
“She’s better with names than I am,” Margaret said. “I was in an accident years ago, and I have a terrible time remembering names. It got to the point where I called everybody sweetheart or darling. I used to work in the PX at Fort Benning, and one day I gave this guy his change and said, ‘Thank you, sweetheart.’ The woman who was with him said, ‘I’d appreciate it if you didn’t call my husband sweetheart.’ I said, ‘I’ll try to remember that, darling.’ It didn’t go over too well.”
Which brings me back to Dave: Nothing spoils his dining experience as quickly and as thoroughly as a waitress calling him hon.
Saturday morning, I gathered some dirty clothes and a copy of Roy Blount’s Alphabetter Juice: The Joy of Text and headed for the laundry room. As the washers ca-chunked, ca-chunked through the rinse cycle, Mr. Blount discussed the word “adverb.” He asked the reader to consider the adverb in “An Old Joke,” a poem by Sarah Lindsay:
They buried the husk of her
in the front room,
“Not a common word, tiredly, and not euphonious – wearily would have been more conventionally poetic,” Blount wrote. “But tiredly is inspired, somehow. I wonder if Lindsay remembered it from the short story, ‘The Best of Everything’ by Richard Yates.”
The title and author didn’t ring a bell until Blount told the story of Grace in her negligee, offering herself to Ralph on the night before their wedding. Ralph declined. He’d been drinking with the boys and wanted to rejoin them, but first he had to use the “terlet.” On his way out, Ralph reminded Grace to show up for their wedding the next day.
“She smiled tiredly and opened the door for him. ‘Don’t worry, Ralph,’ she said, ‘I’ll be there.’”
It was a story Suzanne had recommended to us a couple years ago, and being an occasionally dutiful student, I read it – and enjoyed it. And for a few minutes Saturday morning, as I sat in the laundry room, I enjoyed memories of our Thursday morning writing class at the Conneaut Community Center for the Arts.