Magazine article The American Conservative

Business Class

Magazine article The American Conservative

Business Class

Article excerpt

A quarter-century ago my wife and I met Bill and Martha Treichler, Ed Harris, Bob L. ^LKoch, and John Rezelman >r lunch at the Avon Inn, a fading if racious hostelry in the Upstate New ork settlement hymned by William LC. Hosmer: "I would not, for a palace roud/And slave of pliant knee/Forsake a abin in thy vale/My own dark Genesee."

Over club sandwiches and ginger ale re spoke of...damned if I recall-but te animating spirit was love of our own abins (or tumbledown farmhouses) nd the history-haunted ground on diich we stood.

There would be more lunches, more alk, and a skein of localist explorations raven into the Crooked Lake Review, he Treichlers' homespun monthly. Bill nd Martha, who met at the proto-Beat Hack Mountain College in North Carolina (its anti-fight song composed >y classmate John Cage?), were the :0th century's exemplary homesteading amity, lauded by "grandmother of the ounter-culture" Mildred Loomis in Alernative Americas. They made Scott and Telen Nearing look like Kim and Kanye.

It must have been Providence-it lire as hell wasn't Woonsocket-that lelivered the delightful news that Ed Tarris's daughter-in-law Amanda has irranged the posthumous publication >f Ed's memoir, self-effacingly titled An Ordinary Life Well Lived.

Ed Harris, proud recipient of the American Concrete Industry's Dan iutter Award for "outstanding conributions to the concrete industry," ipoke in a voice shamefully excluded rom American letters: that of the iolidly middle-class man of business. 'Ton-plutocratic businessmen have îxcelled as poets-Wallace Stevens, Dana Gioia, Ted Kooser-but memoirists? Their lives are considered too prosaic for prose.

Upon Ed's retirement in 1980 he set out to record the events of his life, and he did so with wry clarity. Cheek-by-jowl with Ed's stories of fan dancers, roadhouse brawls, and midnight poker games with sepulchral coffin salesmen were his discoveries of the transcendent in the routine.

He was fascinated by Malcolm Cowley's account of an epiphany Walt Whitman had experienced in 1853 or '54 because Ed, too, had once seen God, or a simulacrum thereof:

Mine happened in July or August of 1939.1 was alone in the office of my employer, Fred J. Hines, who was supervising a pipe line job in Ovid, NY. I had finished lunch and became extremely sleepy so I laid my head on Fred's desk, sitting on his swivel rocker. …

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