Saturday, December 7, 2019

Early mornings at P.A.'s

As has been the case for most of my life when I ‘go to town,’ as I occasionally do, I go to Salem. And if you happened to join me there early on a weekday morning I might suggest that we stop by P.A.’s to catch up on the latest news and gossip. 

There, tucked away in an east-side industrial area, we would find his scruffy man-cave. Though it might look a bit disorganized ……chock full of tools, machines, duck decoys, a coffee pot, and several chairs arranged in something like a circle……he would surely swear that he knows exactly where every one of his treasures is located.

I don’t know what P.A. does the rest of the day, but most any morning you will find him there playing host to an eclectic assembly of drop-in guests. Chances are that motley crew will be male, long-time friends of P.A., often dating back to high school, even grade school.

There, coffee in hand, those of us who fit that description will be revisiting our version of some vaguely-remembered highlight or lowlight of our long-ago glory years. Occasionally we will be reintroduced to one-time classmates we haven’t seen in years, even decades……familiar names with faces we don’t remember at all.

Time passes quickly in those unscripted visits, as one story or long-forgotten incident triggers yet another recollection, sending us off on a new tangent. Names will be dropped and personal histories updated as we exchange news about other friends and classmates. The information itself may sometimes be less than accurate, even exaggerated. So what? What difference does that make when basking in the comfortable sense of connection to a shared past.

At an age when so many of those schoolboy and schoolgirl friends have left the scene, I find that those moments spent at P.A.’s, revisiting earlier times, provide a connection I won’t find in any other social exchange. I am reminded that no matter how much we have changed those youthful recollections, so important in their day, still draw us together.

Perhaps it helps to know that like me, every one of the fellows who gather there is dealing with his own unique set of what we label “late-life issues.” Except when someone decides to express a particular concern or offer special thanks for a bullet dodged, there is no need to elaborate. Suffice it to understand that we all face our own octogenarian trials.

Truth be told, not every one of P.A.’s early morning dialogues takes us down that ‘good-old-days’ road. Some days a younger group, with fewer of us old fossils on hand, will deal comfortably with other, more contemporary topics. But when the conversational scales are tipped in our ‘remember-when’ favor there may be no reining in our far-ranging recollections. 

I, for one, am just fine with that. I am living in my own November, for God’s sake. (at least I hope it is.) I reserve the right to indulge myself a bit, while putting my personal history in sharper perspective. I am thankful for a forum that helps me do that. I’ve been around long enough to know that the past is not a proper place to live. I do, however, find it an enjoyable, even fruitful place to visit from time to time.

I would never say P.A.’s is a fit for everyone, but if you are one of those who would benefit from that sort of connection I wish for you a morning with P.A. or some place like that.