This is a story about a suit, some silver, a photographic history book, an anti-war bust, and a lunch on the dining room table. Here goes:
I’m still hauling boxes from my former abode to the new place. My alleged ex-sweetheart keeps digging interesting (useless) stuff with my name on it out of the basement and foisting it on me on unsuspecting occasions. This week, it was a box that said “David spittoon silver.” I don’t remember telling you anything about the spittoon, or, more elegantly, the cuspidor. It came from my dad’s medical office in Atlanta—my dad always sang the song to the tune of Bizet’s “Toreador Song” from Carmen:
“Don’t spit on the floor-a/ Use the cuspidor./ That’s what it’s for-a/ use the cuspidor.”
That fount of all knowledge, the Internet, says this version originated with the Three Stooges.
Now, the silver, yes—I told you about that. It was the punch line to a piece I did for WVPE in January of 2010 called “A Troubling Day in the Snow”—a perfect Christmas present for a stoney-broke pregnant married couple with fifty dollars to their name, seven hundred miles from home.
Anyway . . . I managed to keep hold of the silver service all these years, mainly by putting it in a box in the basement and forgetting about it, but it—providentially—appeared last week just as I was preparing a class-o luncheon for four of my beloved former students from Chicago, all about my age, who live in the serenely-lovely Beverly Hills area of South Chicago, and were coming in to see an afternoon music performance at Notre Dame. “Oh I’ll just shine ‘em up and blow their minds.” I only managed to make two candlesticks and a dessert server presentable—and the brass cuspidor (now that it’s polished) became a display repository for my eleven tin whistles, but it didn’t matter; the lunch was a success. My first around the dining room table.
Finally, there in the bottom of the box was a small silver bowl with the date, September 6, 1969, engraved with my name and that of my bride—who I will out of delicacy keep out of this tale. This year would have been our forty-fifth anniversary. And today, what should I be doing but sorting photographs for that history book, among which were several of the Gilbert’s Men’s Store in South Bend. The photograph and the silver bowl triggered a flood of memories. Now, I never could afford clothes from either that location or the one on the Notre Dame campus when I was a student, nor even less after I graduated and became a draft resister, but when my father, up from Atlanta with mother for my wedding, offered to buy me a suit for my wedding day—ON my wedding day—I jumped at it. Bride and a friend had been working on her dress for weeks and I knew she was to be gorgeous, and I had nothing of like quality.
Off we went. Stanley Gilbert was presiding over his men’s department that day, and wouldn’t he have exactly what I wanted: three-piece corduroy in something close to my size. Mr. Gilbert summoned the tailor with cloth tape. Perhaps some baksheesh may have even changed hands. All I know is—we got there at ten a.m., the suit fit perfectly by eleven, and at one that afternoon I was married. Among the photographs I was examining today was one of a clipping from the South Bend Tribune detailing my trial, along with five others, in City Court for resisting arrest (not guilty) and interfering (guilty) with police, who waded into our 1969 peace march. It’s always ennobling when the press gives you a name; we were the South Bend Six (do the math). Two of us are in suit and tie, out of respect. I am wearing my wedding suit.