Nahno McLein wrote about a cultural event that had been presented at his university and it reminded me of a story of something that happened when I was in college so many years ago.
Now, I have posted some stories about my friend Fred in the past, but today's story is about a different friend who was also named Fred. This Fred was a larger than life character in both physical presence as well as personality. You couldn't help but like Fred when you met him. He had amazing abilities of drawing people to him because of his generosity, his good humor, and his outgoing nature. This was in the early 1970s. Fred had come down from his hometown near Chicago to visit me in Knoxville where I was attending the University of Tennessee.
As with most communities of academia, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville had many programs concerning the arts. They would bring in various touring groups who would stage presentations for free or at a very nominal charge. I would attend many of the lectures, films, plays, and musical presentations, usually alone since I lived a good distance away from campus and was not very integrated into the university community.
One program that had particularly captured my interest was a multimedia presentation of dance, film, and avant-garde music that was to be presented on a Tuesday night at the University Center Ballroom. It just so happened that Fred's visit coincided with this event which I very much wanted to see. Fred agreed to accompany me to the presentation as did Forrest, a musician friend of mine.
Befitting one his size, Fred loved to eat--often and heartily. As we made our way to the Ballroom, Fred stopped at the University Center Snack Bar and purchased a large bag of M & M's and an equally large size bag of pistachios. With Fred in a leather jacket that looked more like motorcycle gang fifties and Forrest in a buckskin outfit that was a sort of nouveau theatrical hippie garb, I was feeling a sense of regret in having invited my friends to this lofty cultural affair.
Inside the ballroom my uneasiness was heightened as I looked at the roomful of bohemian artsy types and snooty looking faculty gathered for the show. I guided my group to the back row hoping that we would go unnoticed. My friends showed no sense of embarrassment about the way we looked and good-naturedly followed me to our seats.
The show began. All I can say is that it was weird and dare I say--boring. I pretended to be engrossed in the performance. As I snuck glances about me it looked as though the students around us were not very impressed either. Sweat began to bead on my forehead as I wished that I had not convinced my friends to come to this event. Then when I thought I could get no more uncomfortable, Fred took it to a higher level.
To my horror he took out the paper bag of pistachios, loudly crinkling it open. The crack of each shell seemed to resonate throughout the venue causing heads to turn. Forrest helped himself to a handful and also began cracking them open. I declined when Fred offered the bag to me feeling shame that I had brought such uncultured louts to a highbrow event such as this. And then it got worse.
Fred offered the bag to the guy next to me--and he accepted it! Soon the bag was being passed up the aisle and the back row became a cacophony of rattling paper and cracking pistachio shells. The mood became festive in the back of the room as the dancers in front moved modernly before screens of kaleidoscopic projected images to avant garde sounds that someone had thought was music.
Before long those around me were all munching on pistachios and M & M's and the absurdity of the situation hit me. The feeling welled from deep within me as I heaved and convulsed with stifled laughter. Fred and Forrest watched me with amused expressions. I felt that I was going to explode.
I stood up and led my friends out of the Ballroom. As I emerged into the hallway loud guffaws let loose from me. Fred joined in with a lusty laugh as Forrest's staccato chuckles made us a trio of funny fellows. We staggered down the hallway nearly bouncing off the walls.
That dance troupe may have been professionals who'd come all the way from Atlanta to do some dumb multimedia thing for a bunch of pseudosnobs who thought it was all worth watching for some haughty reason. What they were missing was the fun. As we headed back to the car I realized that my friends were the real entertainment and there was probably a whole row of audience back there that wished they were leaving with us. Fred, Forrest, and I laughed all the way home and for years afterward.
Nahno is hosting a 60-60 Blogfest until next Wednesday March 16. Make sure you check it out. There is a prize involved. I am going to try to come up with something for Friday. Check back then to see if I was able to do it.