Biff America: Dull is as dull does (column)
August 18, 2018
Big Al voted for Donald J. Trump.
Or at least I think he did. Despite spending hours with him this summer discussing everything from immigration and gun control to prostate health, I never asked him. But he did describe himself as 'conservative'.
There is an ad hoc group that meets once a week called the 'Dull Men's Club'. The name is misleading because many women also attend. Moreover, not all of us are 'dull' (just ask my mate about the dance I sometimes do when I exit the shower).
The group changes almost weekly depending on who is in town and what friends happen to be visiting. Big Al vaguely knew one of the regulars; he chanced to be in the coffee shop one morning, months ago, and continued to show up until he returned to Oklahoma last week.
The group is fairly diverse — doctor, airline pilot, cop, national political operative, former homicide detective, avalanche forecaster, and one handsome middle-aged man (who looks younger) and happens to be a magical lover. Then there is Big Al.
Al is in his 80s, an active church member, retired small businessman and community leader from a southern Okie town. Of all who have been known to attend the 'Dull Men' gatherings, he and I have the least in common. He's from the Southwest — I'm Northeastern. He has children and grandkids — I've used my personality for birth control. He seems socially conservative — before I was married I was like a door knob (everyone had a turn). I'm also guessing Big Al voted for DJT — I would have rather written in 'Satan'.
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Despite all that, when we all sit down I always look to see if there is a seat open next to Al. We always have good conversations and I enjoy his company, and not only because he laughs at my jokes. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to wondering how we could see the world so differently.
I would never presume to think that I was enlightened, compassionate, intelligent, and he not. I'm sure he puts as much thought into his political choices as do I. I think it has less to do with policy and more to do with where we both were raised, our respective lifestyles and upbringings, and even our spiritual perspectives.
But to be clear, Al and I never declared our POTUS picks. We did talk about health care, immigration, tariffs, gun control and entitlements. We agreed on some points, disagreed on others, though we were like-minded on all things prostate.
As I said, the club's name is a misnomer. It is not confined to men and one of us is very exciting (and did I mention a magical lover)? Mostly it is just a place and a time where if you are in town and if you are inclined, you show up. Actually, the most regular attendee this summer has been Big Al.
It was about a week ago when Al and I were sitting across from each other. Al said he was happy I showed up that day as his vehicle was packed and he was heading back to Oklahoma in an hour and wanted to say goodbye. He joked that, at his age, goodbyes meant more to him.
As various conversations went on around us, he and I were talking about the recent immigration policy of separating the families of refugees. We were in agreement on that issue. We were interrupted by a young woman standing by our table. Mark, another dull man, looked up and said, "Oh, this is Dawn, she's an old friend who is passing through and I invited her to join us."
Standing up when a woman joins or leaves a table is rather an old school and perhaps even a sexist gesture. For that reason, and because sometimes getting up from a seated position tires me, I don't always do it. But standing, holding doors open and waiting for gals to order first in restaurants is something that was ingrained in me as a teen and young man. I also try to curse slightly less in mixed company.
So I stood up as Dawn joined us — it was more a reflex than anything. I looked around the table, and the only person who did the same was Al. Now, granted, it is an outdated gesture, perhaps even chauvinistic, since when the tradition began, women merited special courtesies while they were denied equal rights.
But it did help me understand the political disparities between Big Al and me. Our knee jerk response was one of tradition; me, Northeast-French-Irish-Catholic, him, Southern and Baptist. Often, where you are from and how you are raised reflect who you are. Politically it is often that you pick a side and stick with it. I know Al doesn't agree with all that has transpired in this current administration as I didn't agree with everything during the last.
My friendship with Big Al once again reminded me — North, South, East, West, Blue and Red — most of us want the same things: Love, health, safety, friends and a pristine prostate……
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff's new book "Mind, Body, Soul." is available at local shops and bookstores or Shop.HolPublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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