Posted by: guinness222 | April 29, 2011

Fortune Cookies never lie,….only people!

Like most folks I love Chinese food, particularly take out. You can go home, slurp, sop and suck noodles without the social stigma of being “uncouth” ,..and then at the end of the feast is the inevitable “fortune cookie”. We all have different ways of “playing” with it, there is the “clean snap” method where you try and make a clean split with no loose crumbs, there is the “crusher” which is just what it says, those folks just ball up their fist and “pop” the cookie. But in the end it’s that little piece of paper that fascinates us.

Sometimes I get one that is meaningful to me, and I save it. Stick it in my wallet, tape it up by my computer, or just pick it up once in a while from my desktop “pile” and re-read it. Such was the case of one I re-discovered the other day. It reads,..”It’s not what you know but what you USE of what you know that counts.” I guess that is the consummate definition of the term “useless”. we all know folks like that,right?

But beyond the “what” of “what
you know” is the “WHY” of what you choose to do with it. My last little short entry about my high school newsletter and all the “successes” it highlighted has been bothering me a bit. Some times I let these things ferment, like a good wine, and then either spit it out, or savor it. Today we are savoring, shall we?

My 50ieth high school graduation anniversary is coming up next year, and I would really like to go, just to see the “final wine” and determine if it is simply “jug wine” , or truly a “Reserve”. You see I was the second graduating class of the school since it began. It started in a closed and about to be destroyed old Public Grammar school. It took three years to raise the funds and build a brand new High School, and it was staffed and run by the Irish Christian Brothers. (New guys in town in terms of Boston. Word on the street is they were tough, cut no one any slack, and were not afraid to smack sense and knowledge into you,…literally!)

I can honestly say I don’t know of maybe two or three guys in my class of 200 who escaped all four years without a few “shots”, yours truly included. And like death, when it was your time there was no escape, no excuse, and no way out! One day in Freshman History, World Civilization, the “perpetrator”, a/k/a Brother Shannon, came over to me and said something like, “I’m sure like always you read the assignment give you to read last evening, the History of Greek Civilization through Alexander the great, correct?”. Of course I answered “Absolutely Brother”. I then waited for a question and really believed I could “bluff” an answer enough to escape,…but he said to me,”Very Good Mr. C*****, then perhaps you could outline and explain the entire period to the class and show them what I expect of my students, particularly since you DID read it and of course studied it as well, right?”

After about two minutes of “chattering away” trying the bluff, I know I was doomed and just pushing the inevitable back by seconds. So I stopped talking. “Is that it?” replied the Dear Brother. “Yes Brother”, says I. “So 500 years of glorious history of one of the most influential societies on the earth and all of your reading and assimilation of the 42 pages of the book are summed up in a mere 2 minutes?” (I was still hoping for a reprieve,…but it never came. “Alas Mr. C***** I think perhaps your study technique of osmosis was not up to par. Would you accompany me to the coat room for a minute while the rest of the class reviews their notes on the subject?” “Yes Brother.” And I got about ten “shots” with the belt across the butt. (Now I can expound on the Classical Greek period with the best of the scholars in the world, …believe me! It is all about motivation and desire,…as is life.

I have some classmates who are surgeons, Dentists, Lawyers, Politicians, even a Mayor of a major metropolitan city, Boston. But that is the minority, as is dictated by the 80/20 rule of life. But what of the other 80% that are not Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs etc.? Those are the guys, like myself, whom I wonder about. because I graduated from High School in 1962, and even those who went on to college would have graduated from College in 1966 the Viet Nam “War” was raging, and I’m sure some of my classmates went, and surely some of them never came back, but what of the rest of us, what happened to us?

Fifty years ago we did not have “Facebook” or Twitter” or any other things, even the Internet was non existent (While I believe it existed back then as a “Top Secret” military communications system to insure that in the event of a Nuclear strike the government could continue via a “web” of redundant connections that was virtually impossible to “destroy”, and was subsequently expanded as a “knowledge sharing system amongst colleges,…well look at what it is now!) Trying to keep in touch was difficult to say the least. Of the 200 graduates of my class they probably went to at least 80 different colleges from Harvard University to Quincy Junior College, some went to Cornell, some Columbia, some Boston College, some simply went into their family businesses with their Dad, or Brothers, others either got drafted or went into the Military Service, or the new thing created by John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps, and yet still others simply “fell through the cracks”.

Here we are 50 years later, all doing like the fortune cookie says, “USING what you know”,…..or passed away. Nothing is too lowly to not be honorable, in some sense. So I really wonder what they are doing. How many got married, I know a number became Catholic Priests, Brothers, Missionaries, and in fact one even became a Protestant Minister, but what a curious and interesting book it would be, even a two page spread on each one of us, and what we did, how we feel now, and what we remember as “important” (besides all I know about Greek Culture, and I’m Irish American!)

I leave you to mull this over and leave you with one thing. As a kid in grammar school and on into High School my family all used to have a giant get together on St. Patrick’s Day in South Boston, and being a “smart ass” kid I looked to leave, go for a walk, anything to just “get it over with”,….and only ten years ago did I realize the oral history of all the relatives in that one spot from both sides of the family, of whom 8 out of 10 were immigrants from Ireland, and I was only second generation American, and what was totally wasted, and now dead and buried, of a heritage, a history, and a family. That was “Direct family”, but what of “High School family” “College family” and all the other links forged in a life.

How precious,…..and how sad that wisdom is granted so much later.


“It is certainly desirable to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors” – Plutarch

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