The helpful calls and e-mails reminding the Magpie Mason to post information and photos of Masonic Week 2010 cannot go ignored forever (even though I haven’t even been home 24 hours yet and still haven’t unpacked the car!) Here is the first of maybe half a dozen posts on last week’s fun and frivolity. More to come this week and maybe next.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
A Tale of Two Cities
In previous years, this body of water on the hotel grounds was a bubbling fountain, but last week it was a tundra after 30 inches of snow and bitter cold winds knocked the Washington, DC area off its feet.
The Magpie Mason looks forward to Masonic Week the way a kid anticipates the start of summer vacation. It’s a few precious days of catching up with old friends from across the country and around the world, with countless opportunities to make new friends. Along the way, there are meetings, banquets, hospitality suites, private huddles, lobby networking, secret rituals, public embarrassments, cocktails, venal politicians, egos (both inflated and bruised varieties), and a parade of old white guys whose drawls make Strother Martin sound like Alistair Cooke. In short, a lengthy schedule of appointments (with inevitable disappointments) crammed into four days inside a Hilton.
My coverage of last year’s Masonic Week was entirely positive, but the same will not be said of what you’re about to read. The trouble began with snow, a form of frozen precipitation not unknown to the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, yet still capable of shocking just about everyone there into paralysis. Snow doesn’t hit that area either as frequently or as forcefully as it impacts the Northeast or other regions that are only a degree or three latitudinally north of the Mid Atlantic, but its appearance is not exactly one of the Ten Plagues of Exodus either. I mean, they have snowplows, and shovels, and boots, and gloves, and previous experience with snow. So what’s so confusing? The snow falls, you clear it, and you carry on with life as though it is possible to live with some snow on the ground, because it is possible. Okay, okay, in all fairness we’re talking about record snowfalls landing only a few days apart, but why must the recovery take so long?
What I’m cranky about is the cancellation of the two events that most drew me to Alexandria in the first place, plus some other discouraging events that require cautious explanation. The first event was to have been the “The Art of Initiation” at the George Washington Masonic Memorial. I was very fortunate to have been invited to take part in the planning of this event. Actually, that dates to the summer of 2008, when the original idea was to showcase the practices of Traditional Observance lodges for the attendees of Masonic Week 2009. This was to involve brethren from New York who would give lectures, and a lodge in Washington, DC that would exemplify Emulation ritual. So what happened? The Grand Lodge of New York withdrew its recognition of the Grand Lodge of DC just in time to kill the event, an eventuality resembling an act of God for its sudden and improbable freakishness. Fast forward one year, and this time the event is killed by an actual act of God: 30 inches of snow dumped on a city that wets itself when three measly inches are forecast.
Ever have the feeling the Grand Architect is trying to tell you something?
In February 2008 we sat at this table smoking cigars in the mild weather. No chance of that this year.
There is some vague, noncommittal talk of holding “The Art of Initiation” later this year, perhaps autumn, so maybe we’ll just get some locusts. Anyway, I doubt my New York brethren will have time to visit Virginia for a one-night engagement.
The second event called on account of snow was the annual top secret meeting of The Cabal* at Gadsby’s Tavern. We would have met Thursday at 12:30 p.m., more than 24 hours after the snow stopped falling. Despite that respite from the snow, it was not possible to get the tavern open for business, a situation so foreign to me that I still cannot believe it.
And there was more aggravation. The title of this edition of The Magpie Mason conveys cheeky innuendo understood completely only by myself and two other guys, but your imagination will work. And the final blemish on The Week That Was involves a childish anti-Semitic jape spoken proudly in unmistakable clarity in a group conversation in the middle of the hotel lobby. There we stood: myself, two truly distinguished VIPs visiting from Britain, several other fine Masons we all could look up to, and this other person: an effete little fop.
We were enjoying nostalgic discussion of things British, in the context of quality goods that cannot be had today, specifically a certain style of automobile, when Mr. Fop, in a conspicuously lordly voice as he tried to impress the Englishmen with his Grey Pouponness, says “Surely you know the Jew’s Canoe – the Jaguar!” I directed my eyes to the floor. Everyone else ignored him.
Now, first of all, every third-grade bully knows the proper usage is “Jew Canoe.” There is no possessive form, or any apostrophe at all. The little moron couldn’t get that right, so maybe he’s inexperienced at this, but the next time I hear something like that out of him, I’m gonna grab his little turkey neck and give him the lesson in manners his inbred alcoholic parents should have given him 30 years ago. The little priss will read this eventually, and I’m sure he is bright enough to recognize himself. Selah.
beautiful scenery outside the Alexandria Mark Hilton.
Oh, and did I mention the hotel bar was closed Friday and Saturday nights?
Sorry for the negativity folks, but venting is cathartic. (Perhaps alchemical?) I promise the forthcoming reportage of Masonic Week will resume in The Magpie Mason’s customary cheerful tone and optimistic outlook. The rest of Masonic Week 2010 was just fine. Or, in other words, “It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times,” but next time it snows, I stay home.
*There is no Cabal.