The Vespa, the nun and the sad pig


You gotta hear the story about the Vespa and the nun. I can barely do it justice because I’m not telling it aloud in a voice rich with hickory, history and this sort of sweet-natured wisdom I guess you could call enlightened hickery.

But I’m seeing a visual representation of what I’m trying to describe here in that menu from Mike and Jeff’s Old School BBQ,up the page from Jeff’s home telephone number (which you should only ever call to place an order, not to be an asshole), in that fanciful pig that’s their trademark. Because the cartoon pig isn’t just adorable, he’s also worried. His ears are wilted, his little arms hang slack and he’s definitely not smiling. As you wouldn’t be either if you were a pig who only just heard, as I did at M&J’s yesterday, that none of those ribs on the menu belonged to cows. “We don’t barbecue the cow here in South Carolina,” I learned. “That’s Texas. Here in South Carolina we only ever barbecue the pig.” I’ve got no problem with that, but that pig on the other hand. . .

Anyway, it seems there’s at least one nun in Greenville, SC who pursues God’s work on a little scooter she parked just outside a downtown pool hall. I don’t think she was in the pool hall, but that Vespa was there, right in the path of some teenage art school students sprung loose for Friday night, putting the finishing touch on a rambunctious week of boarding school life.

Not the Vespa I'm talking about, but I guess she could be a nun somewhere. In my dreams.

Another Vespa with what I’m guessing is a very different owner.

I didn’t go to art school, let alone boarding school, so i can’t really say what they did to aggravate their painting teacher, let’s call him Jim, who unlike the nun was up in the pool hall, working the table right next to the front window. Which I guess he wasn’t looking through when the kids gathered around the scooter and came up with a kick-ass idea.

Or so it seemed until the nun saw the empty space where her scooter used to be and called the cops. Who made fast work of tracking down the missing Vespa, and also the kids who had zoomed off upon it. So blue lights and a siren whoop or two and then the scooter was right back where the nun was still standing now in the company of shouting cops and no-longer-carefree kids. And this was when Jim, the art teacher, finally did look out the window.

“I thought maybe I oughta go downstairs and do something,” he told a colleague later. “But then I’m thinking, fuck no, I’m not going down there. I’ve been taking shit from those kids all week long. I had a shitty week because of them, and now I’m drinking a beer and shooting pool. Why should I go down  and deal with that shit?” The  shook his head and snorted. “Fuck that. And fuck them, too.”

The next week of classes went a lot more smoothly.

MORE TO THE POINTSC-Governors-School-for-the-Arts-and-Humanities

I had a great couple of days in Greenville. Scott Gould and everyone else I met at the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, faculty and students, were crazily smart and cool and when I asked the creative writing students to write about a song they loved and what made them love it so much they all came back with more or less stunning little gems that were better-written and more insightful than nearly everything I see in Portland’s semi-regular newspaper. Not the least of them being the girl who came back with a piece on “Thunder Road” which basically transformed my sense of the song’s conclusion. And it’s not like I haven’t heard that song 10,000 times over 35 years or considered its contents in what I thought was some depth.

You don’t have to mourn for the future or arts and letters.Thanks to the folks at the SCGSAH — and a lot of other youngsters we’d be wise to nurture nearly as much — it’s fixing to get even better.