by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
June 12, 2002
SPRING FOR IT
SEATTLE, Wash. -- The routine seems so simple. Make sure you've got your membership card, your helmet, your old person's pass for the bus, your quarter, your bath kit... And then:
"Why is it called 'Irish Spring' ?" asked the new member, referring to the scent of some bit of toiletry in my kit.
"Well," said I, "we first called it Pentagon Spring. That didn't work... ."
"Why not?" he asked. "Because it didn't have five angles?"
This got everyone's attention. The new member was obviously a live one. Lockerroom talk is always starved for something new, beyond tinea cruris and tinea pedis. Anyone who knew that Pentagon meant five angles was either a Greek major or a crossword puzzle addict, or, at best, a phony.
"Naw," said my friend Jim, whom no one had invited into the conversation. "Not that. Probably those pinko peaceniks of the Sixties sank it." Jim wishes to be known as a Microsoft pauper, and dresses the part. He lives in ostentatious poverty on the only live-aboard canoe moored in Lake Union.
"And then ... ?"
"We tried various names. Chicago Spring. Cleveland Spring. Even Bismarck Spring. Nothing clicked."
"More peaceniks?" asked this faux naif.
"No," said the ever helpful Jim. "Eastniks. The people who think anywhere west of the Hudson is Outer Mongolia."
"Mongolian Spring!" said a voice from the showers. "What a concept!"
"Aaron Copeland already did it, dope!" said a music critic from the adjacent shower. "No, wait. It was Appellation Spring! The very kind of Spring we're talking about. The Spring of naming stuff! Some kind of Spring! Pass the soap."
"Then," said I, ignoring the naked wits around me, "we called it Galveston Spring, Hot Springs Spring, Elko Spring. We were desperate. Bath powder users are not your usual market. They are picky - well, picky is hardly the word - about what they dust themselves with after bathing."
"Yes," said Jim, the MP. "I had a wife like that once. Forget her name, but I do remember that no matter what I brought home, even Baja Spring, she said she'd never put it on her body, though it might serve to dust the board before kneading the biscuit dough. We had some weird biscuits. But they never chafed your throat. I'll give her that much."
"That all you gave her?" asked this tyro, who would obviously bear watching, if he lived.
"Speaking of bear watching," said Jim, turning to me, "I hear that grizzly clawed you pretty well. Told you not to hang around garbage pits in Yosemite."
"Wait a minute! Wait a flipping minute!" I yelled. That was authorial speech, that 'bear watching'. You are merely a character in this column, and not a very good one at that. How dare you pick up my phrase and twist it to your purposes?!"
"If I am, as you allege, only a character, how could I have purposes that are not those of - God forgive me - my creator?"
"Theological questions are for next week!" I almost yelled. This week it's what kind of Spring we're having."
"Irish," said he, simply. Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.