Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Lunch with Don Garlington PhD

A small, hasty foal I am, among the warrior riders. I fidget among them basking in their veteran's glory. "These," thought I, "have fought on many fronts, have ridden in numerous battles, have traversed mountain ranges and swum deep, charging rivers. And I have only read of their accounts. I have merely identified vicariously through tales of their wanderings."

Nevertheless, accompanied by a humble man of many years around whom the weekend centers, this colt's presence is welcome. We sit at a round table, and folks peruse its circle introducing names, occupations, and other pleasantries. Resting at this knight's round are many of whom I admire: their scholarship, education, and numerous, big-league affinities. Surrounded by scholars and writers whose faces I had not previously seen, but whose names I had read on book covers time and again, I grin like a boy at his own neighborhood birthday party on a sunny day in Spring. The flowers bloom in efflorescent joy!

But the party is not in my honor. I am no scholar. I came with one--yes, and he is my good friend. And we will offer the entire weekend to his thoughts at our Chicago hotel, as we listen, take notes, and ask questions. Our minds will vex and convulge; they will swim round a vortex of complexity, and finish bathed in amiable courses leading to a smooth, unfolding channel of clarity. These men are doctors of ancient languages, surgeons of philosophical conundrums, and practitioners of theological queries. I sell loans. I make dials. Nevertheless, a company of good, Christian men welcome the pistols into the armory of enormity.

After prayer, we sift and stir our luncheon spread with the ardour of hungry soldiers. Passersby--old aquaintances, introduce themselves to the round. My friend, the speaker, offers the same of me to our kind guests. Hellos are exchanged. I'm a child in a candy store. I don't want to emabarrass myself by making any funny bodily noises, cough up some food or spill anything--or the worst: say something stupid that's supposed to be funny but falls on a cricket's audience. Just smile, and keep your mouth shut and everything will be ok. These are men who travel the world! They write books--that sell. The know people in high places! I make cold calls. I sell mortgages that refinance with "cash-out." These men move thousands with their pens. Tens and hundreds of thousands--even millions. Me: do you want insurance with that? "No." Okay.

The man sitting across from me is a white-haired professor at a Canadian school. He has his PhD in the biblical languages. He can pontificate upon objective, subjective, appositional, or adjectival uses of the genitive in a key phrase in the letter to the Romans, which scholars adhere to which genitive, the strengths and weaknesses of each view, and which one is best, based upon the evidence. This man writes scholarly articles that get published in dictionaries, journals, and other reference tools. He wears a white shirt with a cardigan sweater. His head is tilted somewhat awkwardly, as if he has a kink in his neck. His face is pleasant: smooth skin and lips, a kind smile, and an unpretentious air. "Hi, I'm Don Garlington," he says to a man standing outside our order . A few others say hello.

Finally, my friend introduces me to him. I've been introduced to a few of these men prior to sitting down. I'm brimming with the excitement of a tossing tree on a slightly breezy Autumn day. The privilege I feel is one, booming excess! Today I am away from my cubicle. This day, I languish not at convincing a would-be to accept my usury. Now, at this moment, sitting at this table, I am in the course of the path upon which I envy to trod. Surrounded by such a great company of generals, I commandeer a breach for levity. My humble estate of something less than a loan officer precludes me in the presence of such keen intellectual prowess. I make a decision. I shall abase myself. None shall know my meaning, and my abasement will reside, in delegations regarding this strange fellow, their thoughts will abide.

After my introduction to Dr. Garlington, I quip, "Hello. My name's George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents."

"Seinfeld!" he says.

2 comments:

"G" said...

I have to tell you two things:

a) All Garlingtons are highly literate, extremely charming, good looking wordsmiths.

b) Garlington is a Welsh name.

chris van allsburg said...

Hi "g"
Yes, it appears that the Garlington name is pressed with emerald qualities!

My daughter, Brynne, has a Welsh name. I strayed a little from my Dutch heritage on that one.
~Chris