Looking at my glass I commented “it’s fairly weak”. He said, “yes, I know that” as you’d expect the most informed man in the world to reply.
He went on, “I believe every week around this time they honor a different ferry that played a major role in our history. That’s why they call it Ferry Week. It’s unofficial you know. I probably should issue a declaration about it. This year I believe it is the Harper’s Ferry that is being honored, the one George Washington used to cross the Potomac.”
I had no idea what to think being in the company of the most informed man. I sought clarification. I replied, “I associate Harper’s Ferry with John Brown.”
He said: “Jim!”
I looked around to see if someone was approaching. Seeing no one I looked back at him.
He smiled and repeated, “Jim!”
I hated to correct him being who he was but I really was cornered so I indicated to myself and said: “Matt!”
“No,” he replied, “It isn’t Matt – it’s Jim.” I said nothing. Did he know something about me that I didn’t know about myself. Was my name Jim and not Matt? How could that be, I wondered?
“Jim Brown,” he said. “Not Matt Brown.” I was both relieved and discombobulated. Happy my name was Matt; and confused why were were talking about Jim Brown. He went on, “Jim Brown couldn’t have been on that ferry if George Washington was.” I shook my head in the affirmative. Who could disagree with that?
He sat there content in his knowledge. He then said: “I bet you are surprised. Not too many people remember those things. He would’ve been a great football player.”
I nodded and said, “I always thought he was one of the best to play the game.”
He looked confused which wasn’t something I expected from him. He said, “What are you talking about.?” A little more hesitant and toning it down a bit (sorry Jim) because he seemed angry I said, “He was pretty good at the game.”
He slammed the diet coke on the table. I had no idea why he was so upset. He said, “He never played any games in his life. Like me, he didn’t have time. He had a full time job. You think we can be playing games? What kind of bull are you throwing at me?”
At that moment I wanted to be anywhere other than where I was. Confused I said: “I wasn’t referring to Washington but to John Brown.” As the words flew out of my mouth I knew I misspoke, I meant to say Jim rather than John Brown. It was too late. Unlike on Twitter I couldn’t delete what I said.
“It’s Jim,” he yelled, “It’s Jim Brown. Why do you keep saying John Brown?”
I should have kept my mouth shut but I tried to restore some dignity to my fallen self so I said, “Because it was John Brown who was at Harper’s Ferry.”
“I don’t care if he was – I’m sure lots of people were at Harper’s Ferry with Washington – his whole Army went on that Ferry into Virginia to stand up against that magnificent soldier Robert E. Lee. Everyone knows that and no one cares that John Brown was there.”
He got up and walked back toward his house leaving me alone. He paused, turned, and shouted back at me, “For your interest, I’m a better president than George Washington ever was. I’m the Lonely Warrior.”