That’s Spuds above; the story only tangentially involves him. Today I took him to the Shirlington dog park about 7 minutes from our house. He loves it; it’s huge, and there are about 50 or more happy and generally well-behaved dogs of all breeds and sizes running and playing on a nice day, like today was. A half hour to 45 minutes is sufficient to get both of us exercised, him romping, me trying to keep him in sight.
When I arrived there were two geezers outside the gates, apparently leaving, one with a huge Bouvier that wanted to make Spuds’ acquaintance. I started chatting with the owner, and the older of the two men, who did not appear to have a dog, noticed my Red Sox warm-up jacket and launched into a pointless tale about Carl Yastrzemski. It turns out the guy—I later learned his name was Kevin—-had been an usher at Fenway Park 50 years ago. He was thrilled to learn that I was also a Bostonian.
I was mistaken, for Kevin wasn’t leaving; his dog was still inside the dog park. Spuds took off looking for pals, and Kevin latched on to me like a barnacle. I can match anyone in Boston-related anecdotes, and periodically interjected some while Kevin rambled on about Richard Cardinal Cushing, the Bruins, Boston College, Tip O’Neill, the death of Durgan Park, Jesuits and the Kennedys. He had done a lot of things and known some famous people; he also had a background in national intelligence. Unfortunately, he kept forgetting his stories mid-tale, and each incomplete story led to another: it was like spending time with Grandpa Simpson. Kevin also walked very slowly, so I kept losing sight of Spuds.
It soon became clear that Kevin was desperate for someone to talk to. He said he came to the park every day. Most of the dog owners are young, and often standoffish; I bet Kevin hadn’t met someone there with anything in common but mutual dog ownership for a long time. I, however, was a fellow Bostonian.
I was trapped. He was so happy and loquacious, with his white mustache, well-worn clothes and a mask he wore under his nose. As one story after another tumbled out of him, often lacking a conclusion, I couldn’t bring myself to cut him off. I was way over my time at the park, I had work to do, and, frankly, I was bored out of my mind. But my Dad, in his last years, used to go to the World War II Memorial on the Mall when Mom was depressed, which was often, though she would accompany him. Kevin’s wife was dead. Mom used to complain about how Dad would chat up visitors to the memorial. My mother didn’t like to talk about the war. Dad was a lot more interesting than Kevin, but I kept thinking that some tourists may have given his war stories a little longer an audience than they would have preferred because being kind and respectful to a decorated veteran—Dad wore his medals on a sash when he went to the memorial—seemed like the right thing to do.
And so I spent almost two hours wandering with and listening to Kevin. Finally Spuds found us and sat down in front of me, asking to go home Good dog! That gave me an out, but even then, Kevin stalled me at the exit gate, with “Wait, wait, just one quick story, you’ll like this”—three times. Finally I escaped; Kevin was smiling, and felt like he had made a friend.
I told Grace that if and when I got to that stage, she had my permission to hit me from behind with a brick.