Author: Judd, Brooks

Ten Items or Less

Item 1. If you are reading this today Friday August 3, Sheila and I will entering the sights and sounds of wonderful Alaska. We departed Wednesday August 1 from San Francisco on the Princess Cruise Lines and are excited at being on our very first cruise. We have spent the past few days getting ready and I had the rather unfavorable chore of buying slacks for our casual but non –Levi attired dinners on the ship.

Item 2: Sad to say I am not a slacks type of guy. In fact coats, and ties and other casual dress attire is banned from my Levi clustered closet. Wearing slacks, with God forbid dress shoes that shine, a $35 dollar belt that sparkles in the dining room is so foreign I might as well be eating with chop sticks. But fancy schmantzy slacks it is and they will be worn at dinner, accompanied with a crisply ironed name brand shirt highlighted with a famous name brand belt that glistens in the very posh dining room all topped off or bottomed off with a pair of extremely shiny Docker shoes that just reek “Old man trying to look cool in newly store bought wardrobe dining here. The horror…The horror…

Item 2: Sheila spent the better part of the day a few weeks back cleaning out our garage. This has always been one of those hot button items between us. I believe a garage should be used to park your cars. Sheila believes a garage is to house and handle our children’s toys, clothes, books, and shoes from the 70’s. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad and absolutely tickled pink we have these items. But a garage can only hold so much. Plus where do we put all toys for our three grandsons and a fourth grandchild to be named in February.

Item 3. While whittling down the tons of material in the garage Sheila was able to find our yearbooks from Castro Valley and Hayward High. She was able to recover all four of her yearbooks while only two of mine were found. Sheila placed the yearbooks on the book shelf and as I gazed at them I began thinking of a story I shared with you a few months back in an earlier column.

Item 4: It was my senior year and I was in my public speaking class. Our assignment was to choose an appropriate poem to read to the class. I chose “The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. I loved the poem then as much as I love it now.

I spent hours upon hours reading the poem, looking up the various Latin allusions, actually working on the poem trying to get the feel of it. I was prepared and the big day came. I walked up to the podium and began the long epic poem just knowing the class and teacher would be excited and impressed by not only the poem but by my presentation. To say I was well a little bit wrong would do an injustice to the word wrong.

According to my instructor Prufrock was not a suitable choice for the class. It was too advanced. My instructor lambasted me in front of my fellow students for “not knowing my audience,” one of the requirements of the lesson. She felt that the lengthy classic epic poem filled with countless allusions and images was beyond the scope of our 17 year old minds.

I disagreed and argued like only a passionate 17 year old could argue. My voice began to rise , and my cheeks turned red with anger as I explained how I had read and reread the poem to understand its various meanings, subtexts, themes, etc. (Most of I’m sure were wrong.) The instructor eyed me like I was a deranged dingo and said, “Mr. Judd, as of right now you are removed from this class and are to report to the Dean. Now!” I picked up my books took a look around and began to walk toward the door. Then something strange happened.

Rick, (not our Rick) was also in this class. We were not friends but he had recently attached himself into our very small lunch group that ate outside in the center of the courtyard. He boldly stood up, puffed out his chest and bellowed, “Mrs. W. if you send Brooks to the dean you will also have to send me. If he goes, I go!” She looked at Rick and with her hand waving nonchalantly simply said, “Good-bye.”

We both walked out of the room and Rick smiled at me and with a huge grin on his face and said, “Well, we certainly showed her.” “Showed her what?” I said. “You know, we showed her up in front of the students,” he giggled, as if we had just found the cure for cancer.

Now I wasn’t and still not the most mature person in the world but I knew then that this was wrong. This whole assignment was about my love for the poem and Eliot. The whole debacle had nothing to do with showing up my public speaking teacher. I loved Prufrock and the hours spent reading and re-reading it. I perceived this whole assignment as a break through from the innocence of high school learning to the soon to be reality of ivy covered walls of college learning. Sad to say I didn’t carry that enthusiasm into college where I really needed it but like so many other things,that will be fodder for another column.

Item 5. In the same Public Speaking class I met up with a kindred spirit. His name was Jim Norris. (Still is) We had shared some classes together in high school but never really talked to each other. In Public Speaking we discovered we were both admirers of the author Len Deighton, who wrote several top selling spy novels. His novels, “The Ipcress File” and “Funeral in Berlin” were both made into best selling movies starring Michael Caine as agent Harry Palmer. Harry smoked French Gaulois cigarettes. Jim made frequent trips to San Francisco and would bring back the bright blue packaged Gaulois cigarettes. We would smoke them and discuss Deighton and the exploits of Harry Palmer. It was our version of cool.

Jim was assigned to do a speech on Perception. I’ll never forget his introduction. Jim strode up to the two huge blackboards with the confidence of a Drill sergeant, grabbed a piece of chalk, tossed it a few times in his hand to get the exact right feel to it and then drew a tiny circle on the chalk board about the size of an egg. Underneath the circle in lower case letters he wrote the word, “ r o c k”. Underneath “rock” in lower case letters he wrote, “ c a l i f o r n i a “.

He slowly turned around and let his eyes sweep over the classroom. Seeing that we were listening and paying really close attention Jim grabbed the long pointer from the blackboard, pointed to the word california and said “This is california.” He then pointed to the word rock and said “This is what a rock looks like in California.” We all nodded in agreement.

Jim faced the blackboard again and this time went to the other blackboard and drew a huge circle that touched all four sides of the board. Inside the circle in bold upper case letters he wrote, “ROCK.” Underneath the word Rock he wrote in huge letters, “TEXAS.” He grabbed the pointer again and repeated the exercise pointing to each word. “ROCK-TEXAS . “This is what a rock looks like in Texas.

The class broke up into spontaneous laughter. Jim dead panned perfectly and said in a very dry manner, “That, he said, is perception.” It was the shortest speech ever given in a Hayward High public speaking class. I believe he got an A on it.

Until September read a book, hug a child, pet a dog, stroke a cat, and enjoy.

Posted:  8/3/2012

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