It’s funny what sticks with you – the famous quotes of days gone by. When I first came to Oregon my brother took me to a Portland Beavers baseball game. They were a minor league team, part of the Pacific Coast League. We’re sitting in the bleachers at Multnomah Stadium, eating hot dogs and popcorn, watching the game, when a big man with a bushy black beard stood up behind us and bellowed, as loud as he could, “Nobody…..Licks….Our….Beavers!”
For a few moments the earth stood still. The wind ceased to blow, there was no crack of the baseball bat, no “batter, batter, batter” chatter on the field, no crunch of the wad of popcorn I’d just put in my mouth. Silence. Shock. Did he really yell that? Did he know what he was saying? Did he understand the double meaning?
Then the earth started rotating again. Laughter rolled over the crowd like ocean waves. We elbowed each other, “Did you hear that?” “Did he really say?” All through the game we could hear chortles of laughter from pockets of spectators. Here. Over there. Through the remaining 4 or 5 innings. Spontaneous laughter. It’s something I’ll never forget – a quote I’ve shared with just about everyone I know.
I’ll always remember the time my friend Clark and I picked up our friend Mary one Friday night in 11th grade. Pretty soon we found out that she was drunk. “Pull over,” she said, “quick.” We did, and Clark and I hoisted her out of the back seat and stood on either side of her, supporting her as she threw up. Her shoe came off and got filled with barf. Clark and I kept going, “B-lah, b-lah,” about to throw up ourselves. “What the heck have you been drinking?” I asked as we returned her to the car and tucked her into the back seat. She looked at me with big round innocent eyes and slurred, “I only had a little bit of Daddy’s cough medicine.” Yeah right. Turns out she’d gotten in a fight with her parents and snuck into her dad’s liquor cabinet to drown her sorrows. Every time I drink too much I say, “I only had a little cough medicine.” People don’t believe me either.
Another quote I remember came from a boyfriend I had when I was 19. We’d encountered some spooky characters in the remote hills of Virginia (think of the movie Deliverance). A few of them had some teeth, but nobody had a full set. We were able to talk our way out of trouble, but it was scary and I was relieved when we got back safely to the car. I said, “Hey Steve, what would you have done if they’d had designs on me way out here in the middle of nowhere?” He laughed and said, “I would have told them, ‘Have fun with her boys, I did.’” It took me a lot of laughing before I could start pretending to be mad at him.
He had a friend named Adrienne who was quite smart. One day Adrienne said, “Can I porif some of those potato chips?” “Can you what?” I said. “Porif,” he said. “It’s short for porifera, which is a sponge.” It became the verb that replaced the words borrow, bum, hit up, purloin, mooch, glom, and sponge. We never used those words again when the group was together. It was always, “Quit trying to porif my candy. Get your own.”
Growing up, there was a guy in our neighborhood named David Roach, a tall, skinny kid with a quick sense of humor who hung out with a bunch of us on my street – he lived a few blocks away but in those days all of us were free-range kids and would walk to wherever there was a softball game or four-square in the street or croquet or ping pong in somebody’s backyard. I was probably in 6thgrade. He was a couple of years older. One summer day a bunch of us we were standing around in the street, riding bikes, trying to decide what to do next. Someone saw a dog walking toward us and said, “Here comes a shit-eating dog.” David got a scared look on his face and took off running. We laughed and laughed, repeating, “Hey David, look out, here comes a…” To this day I can’t remember names or dates or what I went in the bedroom to get, but I will always remember David Roach running away from that shit-eating dog.
My friend Clark, whose first name is Pryor, named after his dad as many of us were in the South – first name for a family member but everybody called us by our middle name – Clark got a nickname somehow, I don’t know who gave it to him or why, but whenever my cellphone buzzes and I see it’s him on the caller ID, I answer like this: “Pryor T Coon Type Dog Liar Makes His Rules Up As He Goes Along.” To me, that’s his name. That’s what we called him when we were kids. In the middle of a conversation, when I want to make a point for emphasis, I don’t say the whole name, I just say, “Now look, Pryor T, you need to take better care of yourself.” I haven’t called him Clark in decades.
On a serious note, the world has lost a wonderful human being with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We’ve respected her strength and her bravery as she stood up for America’s constitution, equal rights and justice for all people. I wanted to close with one of her memorable quotes. There are many wise and profound ones, such as: Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf….That advice has stood me in good stead. Not simply in dealing with my marriage, but in dealing with my colleagues.”
The one I think that fits best here, however, is the one she said after someone mentioned that she’d dozed off during the State of the Union address: “I wasn’t 100 percent sober.” This is the one I’ll remember, and surely use, even after dementia has warped and gnawed my brain until it resembles porifera. In the nursing home I will shout out, “Nobody licks our Beavers!” followed by, “I wasn’t 100 percent sober.”
Thanks for everything, dear Notorious R.G.B. May you rest peacefully with the other angels.