A Pocket of Resistance: Dancing to the Music

Recently, Maureen and i went a wedding of one of her work associates with whom she has remained close since retiring.

i shall not mention names because i have not asked the bride and groom’s permission to write about their wedding.

The wedding was held at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe. Rancho Santa Fe is the high end area occupied by the rich and famous just northeast of Del Mar in the middle of San Diego county, several miles inland from I-5. Maureen calls it “Rancho Fantasy.”

Fairbanks Ranch is a beautiful, elegant setting. The wedding was scheduled to be outside but the threat of rain took inside.

Maureen’s friend met her new mate at a ballroom dancing class. She is Jewish and he is Mormon. She has two grown children. He has five. All of the children have plentiful children of their own. It was a Jewish wedding. The rabbi was wonderful. If i had a complaint, it would be he was so kind to ensure everyone understood what was going on. He explained each step of the ritual, then said the rites in English, and repeated them in Hebrew. The whole thing took a while, but it was delightful.

The reception was also at the country club with a delicious dinner for more than 100 attendees. The usual speeches were made and then the dancing began. A significant number of the guests were from the dance class, and boy, could they dance. Maureen and i danced a bebop but i recognized i was outclassed and sat for the rest of the numbers. Maureen managed to get back out on the floor several times.

There was every kind of dance from the foxtrot to western swing line dancing to break dancing. There were very senior citizens to six-year old’s on the floor. When we left, they just concluded the chair dance where the bridge and groom were raised in a chair and paraded around the dance floor. It all was hysterical good fun.

It reminded me of Mrs. Brown’s dance classes at Castle Heights. When i was in junior high, Mrs. Brown, the wife of Col. Brown who later taught me calculus and analytical geometry, started a dance class after school. She asked my mother is she would have me attend for free, not because she saw the potential Nureyev or Astair in me, but she reasoned if i came the other boys would also come.

i don’t know if i was the reason. i don’t recall trying to influence anyone, but the class had about a dozen boys and a few more girls. i learned several steps in the foxtrot, box waltz, and cha cha, but if there had been grades i suspect i would have failed.

The wedding and reception was a great success. i kept marveling at how many people with such diverse backgrounds and great age differences could unite over a wedding and have such a terrific time together. Maureen, our friends and i did also.

You might remember this from a Facebook post. This was the wedding.

goofy wedding


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A Pocket of Resistance: Cass the magnificent and the ornery

cassi’ve had this photo in a simple frame on my desk since it was developed in 1986. It has suffered water damage, so this scan is through the frame glass. Someday, i will find the negative and remake it into the great photo it should be.

This is Cass. McCaslin was his registered name. i  named him after Ike McCaslin in Faulkner’s “The Bear.” Ike was the boy who was a central figure in one of my favorite short stories of all time. The story was contained in Go Down, Moses.

Cass’ pedigree was not all that impressive. In fact, it was pretty blah. We found him in a pet store in Jacksonville on an autumn day in 1984 after we had lost tickets to a Florida State football game. We were at a nice mall to assuage our feelings about missing the game when we saw him in the window. They put us in a room, brought in this puppy, who danced around, wagged his tail, ran to Maureen and promptly peed on her shoes. We had to have him.

He turned out to be my best friend. i didn’t own him. We were part and parcel of each other. He chased and then played with coyotes. He loved children, was undaunted at any situation, and hated being inside a fence. He ran away when he could, would not come when called, and loved to jump in the car if you came after him. He nearly broke my arm when chasing a roadrunner while on a leash.

And we walked, long walks over the hills and arroyos in what used  to be this wild high desert land, and i was at peace with the world and, more importantly myself.

And he body surfed…magnificently. We would take him to Coronado’s dog beach. i would wade waist deep into the surf and toss his retrieval toy over the waves. He would crash into the waves, coming up on the other side, find his toy, and body surf back in. Often i would look back toward the beach and there would be 50-100 people watching Cass show off. He would have done it until it killed him. i always was the one to say “enough.” There was no training involved.

He is legendary with stories galore.

i have written a poem and a couple of articles about him. He was simply magnificent, incorrigible, and my soul mate.

i still miss him.


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Notes from the Southwest Corner: Earl Major and his Porsche 911

Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, August 12, 2014.porsche 911

SAN DIEGO. – The recent lawsuit of Tajie Major on behalf of her husband and fellow Lebanon native, Earl Major brought back some great memories of Earl and his cherished 1967 Porsche 911.

In 1973, Earl and I reported to Destroyer School for our six-month department head course and picked up right where we had last seen each other in Lebanon the summer Earl had graduated from Castle Heights (1961). Of course when we realized we were in the same classes, I invited Earl over to our Navy Housing home at Fort Adams.

When he pulled up out front, my jaw dropped. Earl was driving a 1967 tangerine Porsche 911. Several adventures were to develop around that car, Earl, and me.

After we completed about half of our courses in early autumn, Destroyer School held a regal ball. I planned to take the mother of my older daughter Blythe and then my wife, Kathie Lynch Jewell to the affair. She bought a beautiful dress. I got out my formal Naval officer dinner dress whites. The dance was held at the Marble House, the former summer “cottage” of Alva and William Kissam Vanderbilt completed in 1888. The Marble House is lesser known than The Breakers, Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s former summer digs but still impressively opulent.

Earl, single at the time, decided not to go.

Instead, he decided to travel to Stamford, Conn. to a shipyard where hatch covers for World War II Liberty Ships of could be purchased. The problem was the hatch covers would not fit in a Porsche 911.

The two of us came up with a solution when I told Earl I also would like a hatch cover. We would switch cars for that Saturday. Earl would take my 1972 Toyota Corona station wagon to Stamford, buy the hatch covers, and bring them back to Newport. I would drive my wife to the ball in the tangerine Porsche 911.

Early Saturday morning, Earl drove to our quarters for the exchange. He said he needed to go cash a check at the base Navy Exchange, which was across town about six miles away. He said we could drive each other’s car to the exchange and ask any questions we might have about the cars. It sounded like a good plan to me. Then as I moved to the Porsche, Earl mentored, “Be sure to keep it about 3000 RPM.”

For those who don’t know, a 1967 Porsche 911 was one of the most powerful sports cars in the world with a four-speed standard transmission. Also, downtown Newport, R.I. has some of the most narrow streets in the country because much of the town remained as it was when our country was being born. Many of the streets still were cobblestone and not much wider than an alley. My drive to the exchange was as harrowing as driving a standard transmission Johnson’s Dairy truck from the Dairy at the corner of West Main and West End Heights through the square to Hankins, Byars, and Jewell Pontiac only having driven automatic transmission cars before.

I kept the RPM above 3000 for most of the way, practically living in second gear with the Porsche ready to leap forward every gut wrenching foot of the way. My teeth were grinding. My knuckles clinching the steering wheel and gear shift knob turned blue. Sweat popped out on my forehead. The startled fear on pedestrians’ faces as I passed them on the narrow streets barely recorded in my brain. But I made it…barely.

Earl greeted me as I emerged from the devil car, eyes wider than a saucer. When I told him of my wild ride was something Mister Toad could never imagine, Earl chuckled.

“I meant you should keep the RPM above 3000 on the highway,” he explained.

I nearly cried.

Kathie and I went to the ball at the Marble House with no further incidents with the Porsche. We were admired for her beauty and the splendid vehicle. Earl went to Stamford and came back with two liberty ship hatch covers. Eventually, I did a terrific job of finishing the hatch cover, and it was a grand (and large) coffee table for many years. With a glass top, it is now Maureen’s sewing and work table.

I cannot look at that table without thinking of Earl and my Grand Prix ride through Newport 41 years ago. Now I smile, but I didn’t smile then.

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