OUT OF AFRICA

1967 the Indians ended the season mired in eighth place. That same year the Browns were thrust from post-season in a 38 point loss to Dallas. Oh yeah…one more thing: 1967 was also the year our lifelong friend Alan, truth be known, limped out of Brush High…

Ah, but that was then. This week—this most improbable of weeks—not only did the Tribe make the playoffs and not only did the Browns perch in first, but Professor Alan Vernon Wieder, make that Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the University Of South Carolina, strode to town on a book tour.

What an amazing story! Not that Wido wrote a book, mind you; he’s done that before. Remarkable it is though that none were the volumes expected.  Left unwritten were “How To Win Games And Influence People”, “Diplomacy in One Word:  No”, and even the long-awaited  “ Mayor Of High Street”.  Au contrere! Our erudite-come-lately amigo, rather, has spent adult decades living with and studying the world of South Africa, and has in fact now authored a dual biography detailing intertwined lives of two leaders of its fight against apartheid.

Still, there we were, Thursday— Bobby, Stuart, Mark, Fred, H & H (the left-handed Hollywood pitching tandem from early 60′s  South Euclid Little League), and Kraut—each refugees from suburbia, tucked in the basement of a bookstore–listening intently.

And there he was — light years from the days on the mound when he’d dust off his mother— speaking passionately of the struggles for freedom.

(It was a serious talk, as such, and we all behaved. Well, almost. Let’s just say each of us behaved as best we could).

“I was surprised” mused a guy from the audience, prefacing a post-speech inquiry, ”That this high-profile husband and wife would fight in public”.

“Just like me and my wife”, blared one of our troupe. (The eighth graders in us laughed as Alan, not quite hearing it at the podium, took another question).

To a man, though, we were appropriate. Ermine shot his hand up first in the Q & A; I nodded my head periodically, and Stuart?  For once in his life, didn’t laugh at the word “Mozambique”.

*  There was one minor surprise: You know how when you’re in school and it’s almost time to leave…how there’s that pregnant pause of silence when no one dares open his mouth? Well get this: it’s 80 degrees in the bookstore cellar and the thing is pretty much over…Wieder’s just thanked the crowd and the store’s hostess is edging in to take back the gavel… And then…AND THEN…and then as Arthur had one foot out the door, Harold Bogart, (arguably a “walk-on” last night), blurts out a question!

“What’s wrong with you, Nemo?” cried Snyder minutes later as we walked to The Lizzard.

It mattered not, though—the night was so good.

Browns played overhead as we sat down for dinner. Bobby faced out, of course, and we dined over burgers or wings—Alan autographing books—and caught up. It occurred to me, (but I said nothing), that the only thing that’ll ever be read ‘tween those covers will be Wieder’s name. Thirty years from now those blue bindings will still be stiffer than us. Bank on it. (I didn’t want anyone to think, by the way, that I hadn’t purchased the book. Not only did I get mine on Amazon in August, but I personally signed Alan’s name weeks ago.

And then it was over. And we left. To our worlds.

—Six friends and brothers, faces chiseled by time, memories chiseled in love, to our homes—

It’s a good bet we’ll never all share that bookstore again. It’s an even greater bet we’ll not share that basement. We’ll have the evening, though:  the night our cherished friend shined. And ‘though we’d don’t quite feel the heat of his passion, we sense well his luster, and we view him with pride.

He deserves it.

2 Responses to “OUT OF AFRICA”

  1. bob says:

    Absolutely a wonderful evening with some true friends. Even with Nemo’s additional question. Who didn’t know Mark would ask the night’s first question? Now that Wido has the connections and the know how it’s time for you and he to collabarate on an oral history of our youth in South Euclid from the 5′th grade to graduation in 67. Please do it while there are enough of us around to partake.

  2. alan wieder says:

    Hey Bruce

    This is very special for me as was everyone — friends and family coming to the event. Truly, I think that it would only be appropriate if Bob himself took on the oral history he suggests. I will give him and interview.

    thanks

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