On First Encountering The Custodian
The big black car made a stylish and somewhat illegal U turn that placed it in front of Child Harold's. A very large man stepped off the curb and into the car. His driver hit the accelerator and zoomed through the traffic.
We arrived at a Thai place a few minutes later. I had been only 45 minutes late in meeting The Custodian, which was remarkably close to being on time for me. He was visiting from Boston for the weekend and was gracious enough to accept an invitation for dinner and drinks.
The first word that comes to mind, on meeting the man, is voluble. The man can talk. He began talking the moment he sat in the car and did not stop until five hours later, when he was dropped off close to his brother's house. I held my own, of course - I am no slouch in the talking department - but his torrent of words shock and awed my humble attempts into submission.
The Thai place did not permit cigar smoking, which we thought was horribly narrowminded. Sam and Harry's was right next door, but we felt the crowd a bit too snooty for our patronage. Fortunately, Ozio, one of the premier cigar bars in the area, was right around the corner.
We had met in Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle area. The Custodian was down from Boston to visit his brother. The street was alive with beauty and youth celebrating the city's unprecendented streak of good weather. We had mid seventies weather with zero humidity. Men in white shirts escorted women in little black dresses and heels. It was a grand evening to be out and about.
We headed to the second floor bar, which was quiet in the early part of the evening. Custo came armed with a fistfull of Avos and a formidable knowledge of Scotch.
The Scotch. Oh yes, the scotch.
He had the bartender pour us each some 12 year old Macallan, which he explained was a good mid-range Scotch, and would be pleasing to the inexperienced palate. I agreed. It was superb. We fired up the Avos and settled in for the night. Custo knew exactly which town produced this fine Scotch, and pointed out the subtle tastes: peat, and oceans and sunshine. Or something like that. His years at Princeton had certainly not gone to waste.
After this he had the man get us a Laga Vulin. No more open bottles, so the barkeep procured for us a brand new, unopened bottle of the stuff. As the bartender showed us the bottle, and pointed out that it was the good 16 year old stuff, The Custodian's face beamed as one might have imagined an early Christian beatified saint. There was a glow from within.
Now this, he said, large hands animated in the dimming light, is a real treat. It was produced in a town close to the ocean. Taste the different kind of peat, the seawater, the iodine. And indeed, one could.
A block of a man. A wall that moves.
I do not have a small frame. Nevertheless, The Custodian dwarfs me, much as the QEII ocean liner dwarfs its pilot ships. He is a large man.
When he was in fighting trim and working out five times a week, he was 240 lb. Good lord. I can't imagine him having gotten down to that weight. He is a block of a man, huge, graceful. He is the sort of man the professional football recruiters would look for on campus.
Never anything to write on when you need it. How to improvise.
We discussed the culture of E2. He discussed some of his favorite nodes and noders. His knowledge of military arcana is vast. He's also plugged into the E2 music scene. I took dictation a great portion of the evening, as the word torrent of recommendations washed over me lilke the thumping bar music. I wrote on napkins and business cards, whatever was at hand.
I was close to asking to write on the hand of the lovely looking woman to my left if paper ran out. Your arm. I want to borrow your arm. Her boyfriend may not have understood, but I had the Custodian sitting next to me. Would he really make a fuss if the Custo stood up and asked for the date's arm? We're writers, dammit. We write. It's for a good cause. Now hand over your girlfriend. We need more writing material.
I scribbled furiously: authors, titles, music. I couldn't keep up with the pace. So much to learn from this man. I was stuffing napkins into my pockets before they were lost to the bar's water puddles.
We stopped only when the bar was overcrowded, and the music forced us to scream at each other. It was not the sort of ambiance conducive toward really deep discussions on quantum mechanics. So we settled and we left. Thanks for the Scotch, Custo! You're a great mentor.
This is what happens when two grown men are left unsupervised by female companionship
We're both huge BMW fans. He's got the new model 5 series. I've got a six year old car which is showing its age, but still looks good. His car's got all the slick i-Drive nav and radar features. Mine's got a kickass music system. He was fiddling with the music knobs. I had Tiesto's In Search of Sunrise 5 Disc 1 on. Tracks 5 and 6 were perfect dance tunes, big bouncy soundy things with dance beat hooks. We rolled down the windows and opened the sunroof. The volume was comfortable for us, but was not nearly obnoxious enough for the Dupont Circle crowd.
I put my hand on the volume knob and looked over at him.
"Do we dare?"
His response was, of course, perfect.
"We dare, sir. We dare. Let the decibels rise to enormous levels."
Up went the volume.
Two big guys in a big black car, heads bobbing in unison, cruising the streets of Washington, D.C. on a Saturday night.
paraclete notes: "Lagavulin's just the one word, and if you liked that, you should try Laphroaig. The Macallan is similarly gorgeous, and might I recommend to you my personal favourite scotch, which is Bowmore. It's a fantastic one, a bit less peaty than most, but it encompases the best of the subtle flavours of the North, and the 'smack you down like a train' flavours of the south."
We suspect her of knowing her way around the oak and trim.