Topic: "Frodo's Book Club"(5)
Alfred Hitchcock used to begin his television stories with a visual teaser. Coupled with Hitchcock's surreptitious presence for a passing cameo in every show, Frodo often found himself concentrating on the subtle as opposed to the substance. In a way, the Hobbit does much the same.
The Men of Gondor come together on the second Friday of every month. The concept began with an entrepreneur who noticed that a lot of men devoted more and more of their time to work, family, church, more work, more family, and more church. The things that guys shared, in the locker room for example, disappeared from their lives with age and responsibility. What this gentleman devised was a business whereby he would gather groups of men together, and set them on a course of meetings and activities. He charged them each a fee at the first meeting, set the organizational ground rules, then he disappeared in favor of finding another grouping.
The activities generally began with discussions about life experiences and interests. Over time the meetings became field trips to museums, homeless shelters, wastewater treatment plants, or whitewater rafting, horseback riding, or an occasional afternoon hike. Nearly all of the groups would dissolve after two or three years, but not so the Men of Gondor. There have been instances when things almost came unglued however, and Frodo was deeply involved in the most serious.
Frodo once promised himself that he would read at least one book by everybody. This was not the brightest of the goals he ever set for himself. It not only required him to go back and track down Victor Hugo (Frodo argued that having seen "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" on the black-and-white was enough), but it meant that he could not read six or seven books by a particularly prolific author that he happened to like a whole lot. Frodo suggested to the Men of Gondor that having one meeting a year dedicated to reading a book in common would be both a mental exercise, and a good way to politely argue over something less volatile than abortion rights or gun control. One, now former, member took particular exception to Frodo's suggestion, and it became clear that one, or both, would have to go in a different direction.
One book reading turned out to be enough. This past week however, something happened that rekindled the spirits of all the Men of Gondor, even moreso than the annual bell-ringing for the Salvation Army at Christmas. While lunching before touring the Carter Center, and actually seeing a Nobel Peace Prize, the discussion came to travel, and neat places visited. Frodo got around to one of his favorites, "Travels with Charly," the delightful tale by John Steinbeck about his drive encircling the United States with a blue-dog poodle, who went "Pffft" rather than "Bark." The places, and the times they had, caught the boy in all the Men of Gondor.
Before lunch ended, and before the tour commenced, they agreed to read the John Grisham book, "Playing for Pizza." The story of a former college football star, whose NFL career was jeopardized by extracurricular activities, and who found himself in a small-town club footbal league in Italy. Unable to drive a stick-shift for example, learning to parallel park all over again was almost as funny as the offensive lineman who was actually a mob enforcer. Small crowds, who understood very little about the game of American football, and ever-present "groupies" added immensely to the adventures of the protagonist.
Sometimes old dogs just need to talk about how they got to be old dogs.