Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Buckhead Boy

A Buckhead Boy
     He was a man in full. Kinda low-key though. In a cardigan sweater. He was a doctor but he’d be the first to tell you that he couldn’t cure a damn thing. And he had an affection for V.W.s—Karmann Ghias especially. Old cars. Used cars. The kind professors could afford. I found him one once. At Jimmy’s V.W. Service in Hartsville and it was an old British racing green one. All original…intact and patinated. Like him. I picked up my bug at Jimmy’s and saw it for sale. I told his son, my little brother in the fratty and Doctor Jim snatched it up fast. And then my little brother in the fratty—his son—totalled it within months.

     Doctor Jim and his wife reminded me of old Atlanta…now long gone…paved over like most everything else these days. He was a Georgia boy. Kinda. His rare surname is still found in Loudon County Virginia but his people more precisely were from Lovettsville back when it was the country. Now Loudon County and little Lovettsville, Virginia—like old Atlanta and even precious Buckhead—are paved over. Like most everything else these days.

     He wasn’t exactly a Buckhead boy. He graduated from Grady High School and then West Georgia College and the University of Georgia before heading north to Maryland for his doctorate. He was Southern but there was no false gentility, no treacle about him. 

     And there was married student housing. Or at least I’ve conjured it from the stories here and there that his oldest son, one of my best buddies in the whole world, used to tell. Seems like the oldest of the five children remember the modest times when Doctor Jim was finishing his doctorate at Maryland. Unlike the youngest of the five who, when the sprinklers came to life on the golf course at the Florence Country Club, found himself suddenly soaked and went over to the tennis pro shop and charged himself a dry outfit to Doctor Jim’s tab. But only once.
     Surely there are a thousand teachers today who would say that at minimum, Doctor Jim., as Chairman of the Department of Education at Francis Marion College, influenced their journey. And I bet there are some who would credit him as the primary influence on their decision to become a teacher. But I don’t care so much about that as much as I do about his toy soldiers.

     Doctor Jim loved casting little lead soldiers and painting them and enjoying the fellowship of other toy soldier makers and collectors. I remember the first time I ever saw his little tucked away work space. And I always wondered how a busy professor with five kids found the time to painstakingly pour hot lead into molds and then paint the damn things so nicely. He made a Mess Dress WarGame set for me. I’ve always treasured it but now that Doctor Jim is gone I treasure it even more.

     So Doctor Jim’s oldest boy is like a blood brother to me. It’s a love-hate brotherly thing like all of those kinda connections are. Maybe not with you but they all are with me. I’m an easy acquaintance. I’m an uneasy friend. And that same boy, that oldest boy predicted my divorce while at my wedding. Butcept he never told me. Till after my divorce. Peckerhead.

     And Doctor Jim’s daughter…the only sister of the five was my almost-every-song dance partner at Cotillion for the entire season. Not because she liked me. It was more of an understanding, you see. We both had to get through it so we might as well get through it together.
     My thinking is that Doctor Jim didn’t govern himself day-to-day in ways that focused on what kind of legacy he’d eventually leave. He just didn’t seem wired that way. Husband, father, grandfather, teacher. Boy Scouts and the Braves and toy soldiers and Pawley’s Island…these things all rolled up…are his legacy.


ADG II … Florence Boy


LPC said...

Somehow I think that if F. Scott Fitzgerald were alive he'd be you.

ADG said...

LPC...Prunella, I love your for your total lack of objectivity when it comes to the piles of drivel that my stories really are.

Anonymous said...

She don't got no lack of objectivity Max, she got a degree [one of em, anyways] in Literature and that is what you write here Max. Yes, you damn DO.

And thank you for sending me into the bright abyss of James Dickey this afternoon where I've spent the last several hours refreshing. Man, him reading that pome own stage? was those tears he's wiping away? Again and again? Had to be cose you's as emotional implosion fluent as I's.

Once upon the time in the dark ages of PBS I, a single working gull, was watching Bill Moyers one night when up come James Dickey, him guest. I was eyeball rivited for mose an hour, on a tiny 10" b/w scream. There being no social media or youtube replay back then, I had to take up pen and write to HQ asking for a copy and it came in the mail and, oh, I worshipped at that primitive typewritten/copied altar for quite some time. I wish I had it still but I always travel light.

Thank you for this, Max.


LPC said...


As the Californian attempt to pay homage to the Southern.

But seriously, Max, you don't gotta write but you sure as hell know how.

Pigtown*Design said...

I agree with the ladies above, Flo and LPC. They're much smarter than I am.

Anonymous said...

What LPC said. And then some.

NCJack said...

He deserves a statue just for the Mess Dress figures. Sounds like the kind of man that didn't worry about what he didn't know or couldn't do or didn't have, "comfortable in his own skin", as I read somewhere. You are both fortunate to have known each other.

Young Fogey said...

Oh my golly. Mess dress toy soldiers playing with toy soldiers. That's an incredible scene.

Sorry to hear of the good doctor's passing.

Do you still dress like a preppy pimp? We hain't seed no pikshurs uhv yuh lately, so we cain't tell.

Anonymous said...

Dickey casts such a wide shadow I barely had light enough to view this man you've introduced. But now it's morning and I'm tearing up all over again at the fine man he was, and your good fortune to be pulled in under his wing. May the universe drop hungry to learn kids in your path as well, what lucky kids they would be...


Anonymous said...

Great tribute- feel like I know the man.

Orduh Lappuh

ADG said...

Nice comments, everyone. Thanks.

NCJackie...you summed it up perfectly. And yes,FogeyMon...I still dress like a prep/pimp and yes...the idea of toy soldiers playing with toy soldiers is stellar, no? And it was his favorite set to make.

Dickey...I got pulled into a deep dive with Dickey after watching ...the Buckhead Boys yesterday. He was a brilliant and tortured man. Damn that sounds boilerplate.

Anonymous said...

"deep dive"

Did you get this deep? Maybe you've read this book already, if not this review of his son's book should bring out your Visa, wow:



Anonymous said...

While Fitzgerald is a favorite, I disagree with the Fitzgerald image for you.

You would be Faulkner. Fearless and a man who loved children and dogs, who revered his mama, and knew how to move in all circles 'cause he understood what makes every Southerner tick. Fitzgerald stole Zelda's stories. Faulkner had plenty of his own. Well done with this one. Exceptional in fact.


ADG said...

Flo...the reason that I'm dragging today is that I re-read the Chris Dickey book cover-to-cover last night/this morning.

Elizabeth...thanks. It's easy to write things when you feel so right about what you want to say.