Thursday, January 28, 2016

And You Come Out Looking Like Montgomery Clift

Dad was always bleeding, reeling, rocking on his back, pressing things against his skin. He cleaned guns in the den and sanded hulls on the back porch and wrote up best practices in the kitchen, his fountain pen on legal pad beside the electric typewriter. He wrote me unreadable ten-page letters at Georgetown. There was extra postage on them.

He had blue eyes and black hair and I have neither. We did not get along until I graduated, and then we did. Keens Chop House.

I am shaped like him, lean on top, broad shoulders (a classic 40) and crazy athlete legs that are good for nothing. Everybody else got blue eyes; I got big calves. I watched the skinny jeans craze come and go with delight. You idiotic Ludlow boys... You never went sailing with my father or drank beer in lakeside taverns.

Dad moved to Belgium in the late eighties, some gig that Goodyear offered for awhile. He was SO enthusiastic about Belgian beer and European food. It was the best thing that could have happened to him. He'd been in the Army between undergrad and law school at West Virginia. There is a famous story about him getting two sets of orders, one for Italy and one for Korea. He called a general, or the governor, and the guy said, "Well, Bill, lose that other set of papers."

So he went to the Cinque Terre, and then to Munich. He got a German Shepherd and a Fiat. He learned to ski so well that when he came back to the States he was fit to teach at Killington. (And instruct all of us at Boston Mills and Brandywine.)

Dad was always bleeding, messing himself up, but he was unreasonably concerned with our safety. Never mind that I did nothing but drunk drive once I turned seventeen. Dad still had his eye on mowing the lawn. Somebody had once lost a toe; fingers were exploded on Fourth of July. He wanted you to wear his old Army boots, and he didn't understand why anyone would ever play with fire crackers. Or stay up late at night.

The thing I love best about my dad is how flabbergasted he was by the idea of staying up late. It didn't make sense to him and it doesn't make sense to me, unless you are trying to get laid. (And that's only in New York, in your twenties and thirties. In the East Village. At Wonderbar.)

One time, shudder to think, I flew home from Georgetown into the Akron-Canton airport. I'd somehow started sporting a Goodwill Fedora. I had a jean jacket on and a serious hat, and I came into the airport area where everyone was waiting for Christmas deliveries.

Dad said, "Jesus, Robert. I'm standing here with all these Akron people watching their rotten kids get off the plane. And you come out looking like Montgomery Clift."

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