The Irish have a name for it. Craic.
My definition is when the music, conversation and the refreshments all elevate an evening or a party to where the oil bills, leaky roofs, layoffs and lumbago are forgotten — at least for the moment. That’s what parties are for.
My druidic belief was that good times and craic at Cobb Manor would shake out the depression, losses and despair of the previous tenants, for a while, at least. It made the house a healthier place.
The Cobb Manor parties used to be a notable event, occasionally making the police blotter. A chilled keg would be in order and the primary activity of the day was to make sure it went back empty, to avoid public humiliation. Fireworks were the order of the day, especially bottle rockets, which occasionally landed on a neighbor’s roof, starting a small fire or two. The empty bottles would fetch a beautiful penny at the redemption center and provide a head start on the winter’s oil bill.
There were plenty of single women, which attracted plenty of single men.
Florida Frank would concoct his 80-ingredient Doesn’t Suck barbecue sauce and transform the lowly chicken into a culinary masterpiece.
West Warren Mark would save his change all year to buy a crate of lobster at cut-rate prices right from the dock. He would even cook the red devils, dumping the lobsters, steaming on the deck for all to grab, first come, first served, all you could eat.
What a mess. Imagine the shells left from 100 pounds of lobster. We used to get out-of-state flies who planned their Maine vacations around the events, usually on Seafood Festival Saturday and Labor Day.
Waldo Walt would bring his whole music-playing family and there would be songs from the deck with the mighty Yvon on the stand-up base. Yvon was a party all by himself.
The ’round-the-keg stories would focus on recent adventures, car wrecks, marriage wrecks, new loves, old loves, office gossip and of course, rock ’n’ roll. Along about midnight, people returned to their cars, some with assistance. Everyone prayed that the entire cast would make it home in one piece.
How times have changed. We apparently have gotten older — a lot older.
This Labor Day party was a subdued affair, with not a cop in sight. A lot of the old gang has moved away, a lot to Florida.
Jefferson Phil, usually the life of the party with the very best (true) stories, did not even make the trip. He had his children and grandchild (if you can believe that) together for the first time and was going nowhere.
West Warren Mark decided against the trip from Florida this year, choosing instead a cruise along the Alaskan coast. A strange choice. I missed him and Bangor Jane, but not the crate of lobster, which I have never eaten. Naturally, I refused the $400 expense and the toil and trouble of cooking the great big spiders, plus the cleanup chores. (In all the years Mark has purchased his lobster crate, I have never heard anyone offer him a nickel to help out).
Florida Frank is reportedly hiding out in Florida and this year’s barbecue sauce came from a supermarket bottle.
There was plenty of room on the Cobb Manor lawn this year. The lack of lobsters plus the lack of Jefferson Phil kept them away, in spite of perfect weather.
It was a pleasant day, all right, but the conversation drifted much too often to current and future ailments, Social Security and retirement, medicines and blood sugar levels. Naturally, there were updates on children who somehow had changed from bright-faced 6-year-olds to college students, even college graduates, some with children of their own.
It was a pleasant, sunny affair on a perfect, sunny day that signals the end of summer. No fights, not even a loud argument. There was exactly no trash on the lawn. We all have become neat and tidy in our old age.
For heaven’s sake, I ended up with more beer than I started with. A bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey was never even opened.
The bottle returns won’t even buy a decent hamburger, or veggie burger. All in all, minimal craic.
Some of my friends have gotten old. Maybe I have, too.
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.