On Wednesday morning The Wife comes to me and she says:
“Guess what we’re doing tonight?”
“If you say the word ‘Shakespeare’ this marriage is over.”
“That’s right. We’re going to Shakespeare’s!”
“YYYYYEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! Why are we going to Columbia?”
“I have a court conference. I will be at the Law School all day Thursday and Friday morning. You and Andrew will be on your own.”
First order of business when visiting the old Alma Mater is to contact Liz and see if she’s free. She wasn’t. So I contacted Kiran to see if she was free. She agreed to meet me at noon Thursday for lunch.
We left the Fabulous RROY Palace around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and arrived at Shakespeare’s around 8:30. For the Columbia-impaired, it is a little known fact that when The Bard retired from writing he moved to central Missouri and opened a pizza parlor. It was the best thing he ever did. At least it was the tastiest.
Shakespeare’s is not known for its speed, and the place is always busy — even late on a Wednesday night. To amuse myself I admired the “Batman riding on a pizza-loving Unicorn” card that was sitting on our table and listening to the nonstop hits of the ’80s that were playing over the loudspeaker. It didn’t amuse me long enough for the 45+ minute wait, but hey, it wasn’t like sitting through “King Lear.”
After dinner we made our way to the Hampton Inn at Stadium Blvd. and College Avenue. We had a very nice, large room. They had free HBO but the only thing on was Bill Maher, so we went to bed.
Thursday morning I was instructed to take pictures of The Son in his Mizzou gear at all the appropriate places. He cooperated for the most part. The campus had not changed greatly. Brady Commons and Memorial Union has been renovated and greatly improved.
The Quad was an embarrassing mess, but that’s typical. (Liz claims the quad is not usually torn up, but somehow it always manages to be torn up on those rare occasions that I visit). The McDonald’s on Lowry Mall is sadly gone. The Shack, that beloved dump of a bar that many an underclassman spent many a night because it was the only bar in town — and conveniently on campus — that served minors, was long gone. In its place is an alumni center and next to that is a bronze statue of Beetle Bailey sitting at a booth that is meant to represent The Shack. Apparently Beetle spent too much time behind the green door and that’s how he ended up spending the next 50+ years as a private in the army.
By the time we had made our rounds it was almost noon so we made our way to Brady where we were supposed to meet Kiran. Since we had made these plans via Facebook on Monday, and I had sent out no reminders in the interim, I figured by Thursday she would have forgotten. At 12:15 I got out The Wife’s cell phone and started playing with it and found Liz’s phone number and gave her a call.
“Roy, where are you?”
“I’m at Brady.”
“Ron and Laura Leigh are driving through town on their way to Kansas City and will be at Flat Branch Pub at 12:30. I can’t stay for lunch but I’m going to stop and say “Hi.” Can you join us?”
“I don’t see why not.”
Ron and Laura Leigh were two of our crew from the Columbia Years — 1980-1985. They now live in Florida. We saw Laura Leigh briefly when we went on the family cruise a few years ago but I haven’t seen Ron since college. The odds of running into them in Columbia on the same Thursday that I happen to be in town are pretty astronomical. Some would call it God’s will. Ron and Laura Leigh would call it Fate.
The son and I made the hike from Brady to the pub in record time. I walked up to Ron, shook his hand, and waited for him to recognize me. It took a bit. I look nothing like I did in 1984. Ron and LL were traveling with their friends Mike and Pam on a St. Louis/Kansas City baseball trip. Ron is a leftie who loves baseball. He’s the anti-George Will.
Pam took our picture so I could prove to Laura that I actually did have lunch with Ron, Laura Leigh and Liz. We then spent the next three-and-a-half hours sitting on the patio at Flat Branch. It’s not that the service was slow, it’s that we had a lot of catching up to do. Liz, who was only going to stop and say “Hi,” wound up staying the entire time. It was another one of those perfect moments in time that don’t come around too often. Even the weather was nice. The stuck-in-the-’70s background music got tiresome at times, but then they played “Big Shot” and all was well.
At 4 p.m. we broke up the party and The Son and I headed downtown to see what was new on Broadway and to make sure that Rock Bottom Comics was still alive. To my surprise, it was. It had moved a couple doors down and was in a smaller space, but it’s good to know that it’s still out there serving the needs of college nerds.
We walked back through campus on the way to the hotel and stopped in at Brady where Kiran was working the info desk. She had not forgotten our lunch date but didn’t get there ’til 12:30. I told her things worked out for the best and we had a nice chat.
That night The Wife had a dinner and so The Son and I made our way to G&D’s Steakhouse where I had the Gyro with Steak Fries and A1 Sauce and The Son had spaghetti. Afterwards we walked around the mall, which is one of the more confusingly laid-out malls I can think of. Went back to the hotel, nothing was on HBO so we watched the new “Futuramas.” I’m beginning to wish they hadn’t brought the show back from the dead if they’re just going to make crappy episodes.
The next morning The Wife took off and left us to check out of the hotel. We had our complementary breakfast, loaded up and turned in our key cards, then walked down to campus and did another walkabout before we were to meet The Wife for lunch. Inside the new Brady they have actually tried to recreate The Shack so we had lunch there. We had never eaten a meal in the original Shack because Lord knows why anyone would want to eat in such a dump. New Shack is nice but it lacks the personality and cheap beer of Old Shack.
Not that I ever had a beer there.
On the trek back to the car we stopped at The Wife’s old dorm and took a picture. It was in the lobby of that building that she agreed to marry me some 27 years ago — known to most of her family and friends as “That Day of Infamy.”
I earned two degrees from the University of Missouri, neither of which are doing me a damn bit of good right now. But I also met my wife there and that’s what made it all worthwhile.
That and Wednesday Night Cheap Pitchers at the Shack.