Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Strip-Mining the Suburban Archaeology #5: The Royal Order of the Lampshade Caribou

For many years I have held a strange fascination with lodges. You know: The Masons, The Knights of Columbus, The Elks Club. There's more, but you know who they are. My Dad was a Knight and my Uncle still is a Mason. They never shared many details and that fueled the mystique and charm for me. My fascination has run so deep that I even invented my own lodge: The Royal Order of the Lampshade Caribou. This isn't a real lodge organization, but one I invented for my twisted illustration purposes and do enjoy revisiting time and again. The irony and comic value in the name are obvious but also evokes married man-folk indulging in manly vice, free from the scrutiny of their women, long what I've supposed goes on within the hallowed halls of men's lodges across this fine nation of ours. A little reprieve sans judgment or bar tabs at the end of a long, hard week of bringing home the bacon and maybe even saving the world? I dunno...the romantic in me likes it better than the clich├ęs of secret, mystic rites and cloaked cult ceremonies. In my world, cocktails, cigars, poker and darts...these were the items on the agenda at any given monthly meeting. Or so I thought. And who knows, the truth may still remain somewhere between the two.

However, while chatting about the old days with my next door neighbor, 80 year-old World War II vet Mr. Nelson (who my wife lovingly refers to as Mr. son and he have a cool relationship...hope you get the reference.) he let slip that he was a Mason. And not just a Mason, but a Shriner and former Grand Potentate as well. Needless to say his stature with me grew 100 more points right there! As we discussed my oversimplified interpretation of lodges and their secret inner workings (and my Lampshade Caribou illustration work), I began to realize some significant additional coolness to the Lodgely-legends I had built up over time in my mind. While he made no contradictions (or apologies) regarding the presence of suds, smoke and poker filling his or any other lodge, he was quick to point out that the hard work and world-saving valiance of these men didn't end with the day job. These guys give to the community and the world like nobody's business.

My column would've ended right there, but my wife reading over my shoulder (god love her) thought me sexist for not giving a nod to newer crops of women's organizations like her Women of Today. What? You guys don't just ogle male strippers and drink sangria on those once-a-month outings? I guess I was wrong about them too. (I'm hoping the world can hear my tongue nearly scraping the skin from my cheek, right?) Groups like WOT also bundle well-deserved social camaraderie with selfless, tireless community activism and inspiring beneficence.
These organizations have played pivotal, earnest, often overlooked and certainly misunderstood roles within their communities for generations; spanning back in some cases well over a century or more. The Shriners for instance - through their hospitals and circuses - have made no less than Herculean leaps in providing free medical care to children in their communities to the amount of millions of dollars a year in fact. I tip my hat, or rather the fez, to you gentlemen (and good ladies). Aye. I'll drink to that.

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