Thesis Part 12

And so it was that the summer of 1970 found Spartan Pete not racing in the T.G.I.C.T. with his team of all-divorced Swedish chess experts, but instead convalescing in Santa Cruz, California, his right tendon having been sliced open–for reasons unknown–by a beautiful French socialite. Pete spent most of July in the exclusive Kerner Bachelor Athlete Sports Medicine Sanatorium (motto: “Never will our food contain saltpeter, always will our nurses be fetching”).

Oddly, perhaps, Pete felt content. He spent most of his time wheeling down the polished corridors of Kerner’s Joe E. Lewis Knife-Wound Wing with a transistor radio on his lap, flirting with his nurse and listening to Team Gustav’s progress in Europe. His Swedish friends eventually finished the race in a respectable fourth place, and Pete left Kerner with a clean bill of health, although he did suffer from a severe limp for the rest of his life.

Not long after his release from Kerner, we asked Pete about the cause of his limp. We asked, quite pointedly, about that strange night in the village of La Tenatrice with that strange woman. What happened, really? Did she drug him? Was she a psychotic, a sadist, a grifter? Had she robbed him or was she innocent? Was he, perhaps, to blame? Had he done something wrong? And then, the larger questions: Was it all worth it? His time with Team Gustav, the optimism he instilled in those broken men, the life he had begun to build, was it all real or was it just a fantasy? There he was, undone and scarred by a malicious act, his profitable cycling career and the promise of international fame come to an end. Was he bitter? Was he angry? Did he feel he’d been treated unfairly? In short, did he still believe in himself and the universe at-large? The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the mysteries of which began this yarn, had risen its unfathomable head yet again. If all things decay and fall into disrepair, if all hopeful things can sour, and if all lovely things can wilt, where then, Spartan Pete, is your wisdom and your optimism? Give us an answer to the whole kit and caboodle.

We were at a downtown lunch counter. Pete ordered liver and onions and we sipped coffee. We placed a recent copy of the French society paper, La Folie Quotidien, in front of him. We wanted to get a reaction out of our friend. There on the page was a photo of a beaming and smiling Kitty Piraeus, sharing a romantic dinner with a blandly handsome would be-matinée idol.

Pete stared at the photograph for a bit, and then handed the paper back to us. He smiled and lit his pipe, and then Pete gave us what we might call a koan, and what you might call the overriding moral of this long-winded tale. “You raise some good questions, kid.” he said, “But you know, I’m as confused as you. And I got the wounds to prove it. Nobody likes being a fool, but frankly, that’s what we all are–from day one until check-out time. The only positive aspect to this entire situation is that life is far too short to wait for answers.”

In our next episode, we return to the present day and to the Golden Circle Doughnut Shop to discuss some of the ups and downs of contemporary rock music.


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