News, Views, Happiness Pursued

The Society Page

by | Nov 5, 2018

My incautious youth was marked (but not marred) by fits of whimsy, and long before I went to school for archaeology I developed a fetish for digging old stuff out of the ground. In high school, my friends Amir, Steve and I went on an expedition to discover remnants of a colonial garrison and battle site at the entrance to Prouts Neck, in Scarborough. Equipped with metal detectors and few inhibitions, we sought the site of the 1703 skirmish between settlers and natives at the since aptly named Massacre Pond. It was a misty-moisty day, and our search for relics was in vain, but as was always the case on such trips, we had a great time anyway.

On a Thursday afternoon last month, I returned to Prouts Neck for the first time since that expedition. My uncle Phil and I have a monthly lunch together, and it was his turn to choose the restaurant. He chose the Black Point Inn.

We Tracys are humble folk, and the properties on Prouts Neck look like they’re owned by rich out-of-staters. The Inn’s dining room was super-nice; it brought to mind the dining room in The Shining, minus the undead staff and waves of blood. There was a hearty crowd of older sophisticates enjoying their lunch. Being thought-tangled scholars, Phil and I can never be troubled with something as mundane as getting a reservation, but we managed to snatch the last little table available.

The restaurant had a lot of servers! It seemed like there were as many servers as there were tables, and a disproportionate number of them were cute females. Our waiter was not cute, but he was a cool guy from England with a beard and an interesting story, so I didn’t feel too cheated.

The menu at the Black Point Inn leans heavily toward meat, but I received my satisfaction in the form of a big Caesar salad, hold the anchovies. After that, I had a luscious dessert: a chocolate-caramel tart with a delicious scoop of carrot-cake ice cream. A meal at the Inn is way too pricey for an unwashed ruffian like me, but Uncle Phil had a half-off coupon, which brought the bill down to a tolerable but, to me, still outrageously expensive total. Prouts Neck is soaked with history, and once you get past the militant front of class consciousness, you can find a damn-fine meal — at least during the off-season.

Growing up, I was the “fat kid.” I liked to eat, I sure as hell didn’t play any sports, and I prioritized mind over body to an unflattering degree. On a Friday in October, I went to the Portland Museum of Art with my friend Danielle Soucy to see the film Love, Gilda. It’s a biopic about the late comedian and actress Gilda Radner. Though she came to stardom as a thin little waif, she too was a chunky kid.

The movie splices interviews with her friends and fellow comic actors with tape of Radner reading from journal entries about her life. Gilda grew up in the ’50s and ’60s in a financially secure family. Through grainy home videos and photographs, the film follows her journey from a smile-prone, chubby child into a svelte TV star. Gilda used her body type as fuel for her jokes. She found that if she made fun of herself first, it both took the wind out of the sails of would-be mockers and turned the pain into something everyone could laugh at and enjoy.

The movie briefly touched on the fact that to achieve and maintain her weight, Gilda had to adopt some unhealthy habits that today we would label anorexia. She married fellow comedy great Gene Wilder and died from cancer in 1989, at the young age of 43. Her untimely death was a real punch to the face of her fans, but by sharing her struggles with an appreciative audience, Gilda helped people see the sun and the smiles even on a cloudy day.

Sometimes one must sacrifice your own share of happiness to bring it to the lives of others. I use this as a convenient excuse to often act like a fool! To wit, these lyrics I just wrote:

Donald Trump is an odious oaf
Doo-da, doo-da
His face looks like a loaf of dough
Oh, the doo-da day!


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