Friar Tuck’s Friend, ©2010 by Ken West, all rights reserved
After a busy day at the bookstore on Washington Street in Boston, we’d go around the corner to Friar Tuck’s, a tavern on Province Place. It was crowded after five with everyone from the surrounding jeweler’s buildings and retail shops. The juke box was always going. The horseshoe bar buzzed with conversations about work, sports, sex, politics, and gambling.
We’d go over as a group of three or four, all minimum wage booksellers ready to drink beer and complain about our jobs. One night I found myself sitting next to some guy who worked in the Jeweler’s building. I had seen him before. He always had on a dark suit and tie, but didn’t look like a big-shot. He looked more like a mid-level kind of guy.
We struck up a casual conversation about the Boston Red Sox, but eventually moved on to the state of the economy and the world. We seemed to be in sync on many things. The beer helped. Meanwhile my fellow booksellers had drifted into other corners of the bar.
Friar Tuck’s was a place with many waves of patrons coming in throughout the day and night. The after-work crowd would be thinning out in a while. New patrons would be drifting in. I was still talking with the guy. He was married and had two kids. Lived out in the suburbs somewhere. He told me about his rich mother who lived in Connecticut. They didn’t get along very well.
Somewhere we crossed an invisible line in our conversation. We seemed to be verging on a potential friendship. Perhaps the beer was exerting its influence. Suddenly he began talking about what would happen next when we became friends.
He mentioned all manner of things, from inviting me and my wife over to his home, seeing each other after work, introducing me to his mother who visited now and then, talking on the telephone, going on trips together, chartering a fishing boat, going to football games… and his mental checklist went on and on and on. He was starting to scare me.
Friar Tuck’s bar crowd was thinning out. The next wave of drinkers hadn’t arrived yet. It was time for me to go home. My new “friend” was going to stay a bit longer, perhaps to contemplate the numerous things that must be done to transition to a full-blossoming friendship.
I avoided going into Friar Tuck’s for about three weeks. When I finally resumed going there after work, I was careful to avoid the part of the bar where the guy usually sat. I didn’t see him on my first week back. About a week later I saw him sitting in the same seat, thankfully conversing with someone else.
We never talked again.
Ken West, a former U.S. Army paratrooper, is president of Better Grip Media LLC and author of Get What You Want! Workbook… available worldwide on Amazon.com and other online booksellers. In the U.S. at http://bit.ly/alF9vp.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
I was taking a Saturday morning class at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. It was a public speaking class and most of my classmates were police officers, both local and state. They were taking this course as part of their educational requirements for promotion. They were a friendly group, yet I had no doubt that they would handcuff me and shove me into their police cruisers if I were arrested. Most were big, strong, and formidable.
Our assignment for this particular Saturday morning was to recite a small portion from a famous speech. I had chosen the last part of Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. Most of the cops were not particularly gifted in their ability to do dramatic readings. Many tended to speak in monotones, as if giving a police report.
My turn came. I got up, walked to the lectern, and glanced at my speech. I had triple spaced it and marked it up according to its high and low points for voice inflection and volume. I was ready. I loved this speech.
I almost knew my lines by heart. I began reading, making sure that I looked out at my audience as if I were talking directly to them.
“They tell us, sir, that we are weak—unable to cope with so formidable an adversary.”
Heads popped up. The tone of my voice and Patrick Henry’s words had their attention.
“But when shall we be stronger? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and a British guard shall be stationed in every house?”
This normally boisterous group was silent and still. There was tension in the room. Patrick Henry’s words seemed to mesmerize them. I raised my voice and paused at certain key moments of the speech.
“If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery!”
My voice was rising. “Our chains are forged! Their clanking can be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable—and let it come!”
I suddenly lowered my voice to a loud stage whisper. “I repeat it, sir, let it come!”
I had the rapt attention of my audience. They didn’t move a muscle except for a widening of their eyes. I paused to let the words sink in.
“Gentlemen may cry, ‘Peace! Peace!’—but… there… is… no… peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!”
I looked at the faces of these tough cops. They looked like deer caught in the headlights.
“Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!”
I had the feeling that my audience was about to rise up. They seemed tense, but remained still. It was time for me to speak one of the most famous lines in American history.
“I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
I said these last words making eye contact with one of the biggest and toughest cops. There was a pregnant moment of silence. Then everyone burst into applause.
Later, as the class was breaking up for the morning, the big and tough looking cop told me that my reading of Patrick Henry’s speech had given him goose-bumps. Some other cops standing nearby told me that it had the same effect on them.
It’s good to know that the power of well-chosen words, spoken with passion, can move people. Patrick Henry knew it, and delivered a burning fuse that ignited the American Revolution.
On that Saturday morning in Boston those cops and I felt just a momentary tremor of its power.