Vail Biff America column: Silent bidding, loud politics
“One of the blessings of old friends is that you can afford to be stupid around them.”
Peter Fitz and I are old pals with much in common. We are of similar age; both of us are from large Boston Irish Catholic families and both of us left that life behind when we moved west in our 20s. Decades ago, we spent a fair amount of time together and though we were never in each other’s close circle, there was always a certain kinship.
Typically we’ll bump into each other at some function. We’ll make eye contact, wave and eventually take the time to catch up and refresh each other on our respective jobs, wives, hobbies and newly acquired skis, bikes and injuries.
This winter, we met at a fundraiser where we both were vying for a particular silent auction item, something we both needed desperately — a certificate for a haircut and a psychic healing. It did not take long for the two of us to jack up the price well over retail. I would make a bid, go get my wife some wine and mingle, come back and there would be Peter Fitz’s name below mine with a bid a few dollars higher. This went on for an hour.
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They closed the auction and thanks to Pete’s timing, I was the highest bidder. He was there waiting for me when I picked up my voucher; we had a great laugh at my expense.
It was too loud to hear each other so we walked out to the lobby to talk. On the way, he handed me a bottle of bourbon he had just bought saying, “I like beer.”
Total political opposites
We caught up on what was happening in our lives, but in truth little has changed. As usual, with aging jocks, we shared our latest passions and pursuits while complaining of stiffness and shorter days. Then just before we parted company the conversation took a serious note.
Perhaps it was the beer, (Pete’s wife was his designated driver) or some life event I was not privy to, or possibly I caught Peter in a maudlin mood, but he put his calloused hand on my shoulder and said, “It is always good to see you. I wished it happened more often. You know, even though we are totally opposite politically and though you are wicked mental, I’m glad you are my friend.” I went to shake his hand and he lightly punched me in the stomach.
I was driving so I wasn’t drinking that night. But once I got home I opened the bottle my friend gave me and thought about our exchange. Certainly I was touched by Pete’s kind sentiments, and the feeling was mutual. But mostly I was surprised to learn that we were politically opposed, and that it could ever be a factor to overcome.
I never gave it much thought, but, if I had to guess, I would have assumed my pal was in my political camp. In my biased naivete I assumed, since Pete was a good guy, he must agree with my politics. But either way, all the other stuff I knew for sure about him transcended all that. Pete was funny, honest, friendly and good company.
When Peter Fitz and I met it was during a time when few considered politics. You were either a good guy or not. What united you with others was behavior, sense of humor and similar interests.
Now, granted there are weasels and freaks on both sides. But I believe that, by its purest political definition, there is less difference between the parties (leaving out social issues) as some might suggest. Most good guys and gals want the same things for our nation — security, prosperity, equality — with slightly different means to get there. And, if we let ourselves, then those on either side can see some value of the methods offered by the other.
The problem of this nation’s division is exacerbated by each of us painting the other side with the same brush as the most extreme lunk-heads we see, read about or hear in the media. Now, of course there is little debate that this is a result of the fact there are both ratings and political prosperity gained by dividing the sides into good vs. bad, kind vs. cruel, compassionate vs. not.
Judged by character
Pete Fitz and I (and most of the country for that matter) are not defined by our politics but rather by our behavior and character and compassion. Admittedly, this high-minded revelation on my part was only made possible by my recent psychic healing. Money well spent.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff’s new book, “Mind, Body, Soul,” is available at local shops and bookstores or online.