Come Here and Go Home
by Pat Piper
I was standing in a bar on the lower Eastern Shore, swilling a beverage and watching Oprah with four other guys. You know, just another routine day in October. Everyone was concentrating on the TV, where some woman from Kalamazoo who had just gotten a new life by taking a class from Dr. John Gray when I had to ask a question.
"Why," I queried, "is the Eastern Shore capitalized?"
"I mean, it isn't a state."
"Let me put it this way," I continued thinking maybe I just wasn't being clear, "I live on the western shore and we sure don't capitalize that. See what I'm saying?"
All eyes remained on the lady from Kalamazoo, who was now in tears and being held by Oprah.
Being a bright guy I figured one of the four would answer during the next commercial. Or when one of them said, 'give me another.' And that gave me an idea.
"Give me another," I said setting my empty bottle down. The barkeep had been avoiding the entire scene by drying the same glass over and over out of the line of fire.
"You're a come here." It was the man farthest from me. He wore a Benchmark Dogfood cap, and his eyes glared while taking a drag off a Camel without the filter. I didn't know what he was talking about but, being the bright guy, a come here seemed like a good idea. So I walked over to him.
Nothing. He was focused on Oprah. So were the other three. Obviously a lot of John Gray fans were in here.
That's when he spun around and faced me.
"Come here," he said slowly. The bright guy in me started wondering what kind of bar I had walked into.
"That's what I did," I explained.
"No, you fool. I'm telling you that's what you are. You're a come-here." He took a hit off the Camel, which by now had disappeared in between a fat thumb and forefinger.
"What's a come-here?"
The whole place erupted with guffaws. Even the bartender stopped drying the glass long enough to slap his knee.
"A come-here is a person who has come here," he answered. "And it's obvious you're not from here."
"Yeah," I said, "I noticed that too." I had to think fast here. "And that's why I asked the question about the Eastern Shore."
I was getting The Stare from everyone now. The room was getting cold.
"You saying you wouldn't capitalize it?" It was the guy on my other side. His hat said "Perdue."
"Look," I said slowly, "I could clear this whole place out in under a minute. I've done it before, and you ladies aren't anything compared to the situations I've been in during Viet Nam, Grenada and - (and I was running out of names) Brooklyn. You want me to keep going?" Clint Eastwood said something like this one evening when he found himself outnumbered in a San Francisco warehouse. It worked for him.
I looked around the room. All eyes were on me. Even the bartender was watching. Even Oprah was watching. So was her in-studio audience. And I came to a conclusion: it wasn't going to work for me.
That's when the man with the Perdue cap put his hand on my shoulder. "Look son," he began, "I taught Freshman English at Yale for 20 years, and in the very first class we did a review of proper nouns. Eastern Shore was on that list. It's still there. You know what a proper noun is?"
"I learned that in first grade on Tangier Island 53 years ago," said the man with the dog food cap. He shook his head and looked at me. "Guess you didn't."
"I learned it, but not in first grade," I answered. My mind was centered on a few moments earlier when I thought it would be fun to walk into a strange place and make new friends and come away with a better understanding of The World. Wasn't gonna happen.
"So," the Yale professor asked, "what do you think now?"
"Well," I began, "I think you've proved there are 51 states."
"You're a smart man," he told me. He turned back to the television where Oprah was wiping a tear from her eye, again. It was time to go. Heading out the door I heard what had become a familiar voice. "But you're still a come-here!"
The place exploded with more laughs and cigarette-induced coughing.
And I knew right there I had a better understanding of the world.
Pat Piper, who has just published Powerful Prayers, his second book with Larry King, reflects from Rose Haven.
| Back to Archives |
Volume VI Number 44
November 5-11, 1998
New Bay Times
| Homepage |