Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006

by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
Seattle, Wash.

SEATTLE, Wash. -- The section of Seattle where I now live, Ballard, has a strong Norwegian flavor. The smell of lutefisk is a thing which, after some weeks of therapy, I have learned to tolerate, and as for krumkake, I find that a filling of Ben & Jerry's frozen yoghurt makes them seem less absurdly like parodies of pastry.

There is, however, one part of Scandinavian culture of which I entirely approve, especially in December. This is the sauna. We had a sauna, of course, in the Mathey Health Club in Princeton, but maximum occupancy was two men of normal size, or three, if they were consenting adults.

The sauna in my Ballard gym is some 9 x 6 ft. with ample seating on two levels. It is the social center of the gym, since the only light comes from the glass door, making reading impossible, and no one, thanks be, has yet contrived a tv that runs in those conditions. Thus bereft, men talk.

Today I saw my old buddy, Greg, who refers to his native New Jersey as "America's Heartland," and made the acquaintance of Nick (The Saint) Custalow. The sobriquet comes from his business card (see below).

He was in the sauna when I came in and I made the mistake of wondering what the news with the Mariners' Brett Boone might be. That was the last word I was able to get in for at least a quarter of an hour. Nick went on (and on) about baseball, and when he'd covered that switched to football until something in my demeanor, squirming perhaps, suggested to him that he'd better get back to a sport that I understand.

Later, in the locker room, where I was shaving, he looked in the mirror and said that I reminded him of someone. Cary Grant? I asked. I know, said he: Randolph Scott! I said that he was too young ever to have seen Randolph Scott.

The only resemblance, said I, must be the accent; my grandmother wasfrom Virginia (as was Scott) and I might have a trace of the tidewater inme. Nick was from Virginia! At this point he handed me his card. He is a tv sports commentator. His show comes on Thursday nights at 8 on Ch. 29. Much good this will do you, or him. I said I was from South Carolina, only lately from New Jersey. What'd you do there? I was at Princeton, said I.

Did you know Pete Carrill? he eagerly asked. Which department was he in? I asked. He looked at me with the truest expression of pity that I have received lately. I was not an undergraduate, I said, I was a professor... I figured, said he, but still ... never mind.

When he'd left, I went back into the sauna to chat with Frank, the nurse-receptionist of Dr. K., my podiatrist. We talked about toes, naturally, and the possibility of the doctor's making house calls. He smiled. If I offered a drink, said I? That might do it, said disloyal Frank.

Thinking that he might have seen Nick's show, I asked him howto pronounce the last name, Custalow. Frank said that it was/kus-TAH-lo/. Then, as though it were the most natural thing in theworld, he said that Nick had asked him to compose a theme for the show.

You're a musician? I asked, stupidly. Composer, said Frank. It is best, in the sauna, where one is after all ideally naked, to be one's unadorned self and simply gape when gaping is the correct response.

Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus ofComparative Literature at Princeton University.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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