Augie

There are people who are almost always good. They might make a few mistakes here and there in life but they’re unusually decent. They’re just filled with truth and beauty.

There are people who are almost always bad. They make many mistakes to the point that anything good they do becomes an anomaly. They’re filled with darkness and while God loves them they’re not people you, as a mere human, want to associate with.

Then there are the Augies.

Augie, a character in “Blue Jasmine”, is complex. He drinks too much too often and beats his wife. But he also genuinely loves his wife, works incredibly hard and has a mostly fair sense of most things. He’s not a simply reduced person.

My parents were complex people and still are. They worked incredibly hard and still do. And, as I said, they were very blessed. My mother’s parents were divorced so she had a somewhat harder lot but they both had advantages.

My father, for example, spent a lot of his time “in Vietnam” surfing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (he was stationed there at a hospital) and while he protested the war and was extremely against fighting in it, he still feels guilty that that was his experience. His most terrifying encounter with death involved surfing too far out in the ocean and being cut off from the beach by a shark. And to his credit, he never even claims to have had a “Vietnam experience” at all, most of the time. And his older brother did rise to the occasion, joined the Navy and graduated well from Annapolis (United States Naval Academy).

He was also given a nice bank account in college and a car by my grandfather who also paid for his first degree and…anyway…etc., etc.. He was blessed.

BUT my parents were sensitive, artistic and different and…they chose very unique paths that weren’t particularly all that lucrative. I’ve discussed this.

So, for years they didn’t have as much as their siblings, cousins or (most) friends did. Or as much as they had expected of themselves.

Still, I cannot emphasize enough that they really did work hard. It’s not as if they didn’t give life their all.

And my gosh, my father was as neat as a pin. Our apartment was filled with antiques, Native American artifacts, a piano, decent furniture, and lots of books and records (and a radio and two TVs), but it was all polished, dusted and sorted weekly to a great degree.

In my adolescence on Saturday mornings I’d wake up to hear my father’s classical records being played, a vacuum being used and I’d eventually smell lemon furniture polish being sprayed as the fumes wafted everywhere. It was a simple but tasteful life.

But really, they were complex. They still are.

…And they’re a perfect example of “how things work”. Our existence is ruled by forces we can’t see, and God has ultimate authority. But we all make choices. And eventually everything catches up to us. The good. The bad. Your background or lack of it. Your brilliance. Your foolishness. Your sin. Your sacrifice. Nothing is missed.

…Poor Augie.

As I write this I’m listening to Ben Webster’s, “St. James Infirmary“. It’s perfect:

“It was down by old Joe’s barroom, on the corner of the square
They were serving drinks as usual, and the usual crowd was there
On my left stood Big Joe McKennedy, and his eyes were bloodshot red
And he turned his face to the people, these were the very words he said

I was down to St. James infirmary, I saw my baby there
She was stretched out on a long white table,
So sweet, cool and so fair

Let her go, let her go, God bless her
Wherever she may be
She may search this whole wide world over
Never find a sweeter man as me

When I die please bury me in my high top Stetson hat
Put a twenty dollar gold piece on my watch chain
The gang’ll know I died standing pat

Let her go, let her go God bless her
Wherever she may be
She may search this wide world over
Never find a sweeter man as me

I want six crapshooters to be my pallbearers
Three pretty women to sing a song
Stick a jazz band on my hearse wagon
Raise hell as I stroll along

Let her go Let her go
God bless her
Wherever she may be
She may search this whole wide
World over
She’ll never find a sweeter
Man as me.”