Little Steve Asked What’s A Custodian

Carolyn’s House, Beaufort, N.C.
May 26, `77

Morning came and with it more rain, not torrential, but consistent. I
decided not to ride in it; instead I found a spot under an overhang
and stuck my thumb out. Around 4 p.m. I was about to give up and go
back to Mikes to rent a room for another night, when Carolyn
approached me. “This is the second time I have passed you by today,”
she said, “You look like you could use a hot meal.” She didn’t live
far away, so I followed her on my bike.

After I arrived at her nice middleclass house, Carolyn introduced me
to her husband, John, a psychologist, her son, Steve, and her teenage
daughter, Lenore. Carolyn was a music teacher. She was in the kitchen
making spaghetti when she told Lenore to take me in the other room and
play something on the piano for me. Lenore was a little embarrassed,
but she did what she was told. We went into the drawing room where I
sat down, and listened to her play a beautiful piece of music. A
friend of the family composed it, and as far as I was concerned it had
the flavor—almost to perfection– of the countryside I had just
bicycled through. Lenore giggled when I told her that because, as she
informed me, the piece was entitled “North Carolina Reflections.”
After Steve had his turn at the piano, all of us were called to dinner.

I was fortunate to run into the Mead family. When Carolyn asked me to
dinner, I had already made up my mind to stay at Mike’s Hotel, and it
would have been easy for me to excuse myself, but
uncharacteristically, I agreed to go with her. I remained “centered”
the whole time I was there which means I did not let myself fall
victim to expectations, familiar or otherwise. I did not become
anxious. I did not feel out of place. At dinner, John asked me what I
did for a living and I told him I was a custodian at a university.
Steve spoke up and said, “What’s a custodian?” I told him a custodian
was just another name for the janitor who cleans the floors at his
school. Everyone at the table except Steve felt the embarrassment. It
wasn’t a big deal for me, though. I just let it go. I didn’t even feel the need
to talk about my university studies.

When I left to go back to Mike’s Hotel, I felt high. I was pleased
with myself for not getting caught up in the judgment and evaluation
game. In fact, it was especially gratifying because the Mead’s were
the classic “name dropping” family. I wasn’t sure if they were vying
for status for themselves, or for North Carolina, though. When I
settled back in old #7 (my room), with a beer and a bag of potato
chips, I was still high. That night, I watched another good TV movie.


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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3 Responses to Little Steve Asked What’s A Custodian

  1. Wow, your pictures are amazing! Love the post too! Thanks for stopping by on Brain Caviar! Blessings!

  2. Thank you for liking my posts and for sharing this trip. We have traveled the Atlantic coast a number of times. Your saga reminds me of a trip with our kids where we bet a hiker doing the Appalacian Trail somewhere in Georgia, or perhaps it was in the Smokies. He reconnected with us in New York where we were living and spent some time with us. We stayed in touch for a while and then as those things happen lost touch. Thank you for recreating that memory and many others. Will read all in time and, of course you will turn this into a book or maybe not you seem to know what matters.

    I have just purchased a trike–as balance problems have kept me from riding a two wheeler, it is electric as at 74 not sure I can power up all the hills around here. When we moved from New York we drove down the Atlantic coast then through Mississippi and Lousiana and eventually picked up the Santa Fe Trail to Denver our new home. If you make it west, would love to break bread.

    Stay strong.

    • bwinwnbwi says:

      Your comment captures the necessary precondition for any meaningful significance, any meaningful important significance whatsoever–a life well lived! I’d love to break bread with you also, but I doubt that Denver is in my future–thanks for the invite, though.

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