The Debating Society

When younger, I was not known for my snappy comebacks, sarcastic salutations, or pithy badinage. It wasn’t that I was boring; just inexperienced and lacked the experience needed to elevate me to the level of my peers. By way of contrast, they were all medal holders, college-educated, and more than a bit full of themselves.

But the habitus of the Folkie Palace – its ingrained way of dealing with the world- was one of continual debate, argument, and discussion. Having learned in college courses to compare and contrast, they now could take this technique to ridiculous levels.

Much of the evening debate was over Giant Imperial Quarts of Narragansett beer. Debate and argument are thirsty work. Throats become dry. Unfortunately, there was a tendency for the debates to extend long enough into the night that supplies of lubricant would need replenishing. Long past midnight, these sessions would continue.

One morning, after a particularly boisterous debate, our conclave of genii decided to review their notes and continue the topic. But, regrettably, the letters became scribbled and illegible after a page or two. So, after consideration, they decided to borrow a tape recorder for the following get-together.

The following Friday, they carefully prepared. Beer. Yes, Food, Yes, tape recorder, Yes. They began as always. Feeling their way with preliminary statements, carefully developing logical pathways for exploration, and slowly building into the more dramatic disputes they were particularly eager to explore.
Long into the moonlit night, they continued till the last discussant passed out over the final Giant Imperial Quart. He declared himself the winner. His last conscious act was shutting off the recorder.

Sometime late Saturday morning, after the group returned from the Tarry and Taste with coffee and donuts, a sober group rewound the tapes. They eagerly listened to the earlier arguments, discussion, and carefully reasoned debate. Then, somewhere beyond the second hour of the tape, things changed, arguments slurred, slowed, and there were occasional outbursts of raucous laughter. By hour four, a grim silence had settled over the group as they listened to the unmistakenly drunken hollering and yelling.

Someone leaned over the recorder, silently shut the machine down, and ripped the tape from the reel. In moments all the evidence was at the bottom of a trash barrel, and a sober and silent group quietly made their way down Grove St. to the Harvard Gardens, where they morosely drank in silence for an hour.

Eventually, someone quietly opined that they’d never do that again, to which his neighbor promptly corrected him to wit that never was much too indeterminate a time frame. Finally, across the table, a third maintained that as it was, a non-reproducible event never was, in fact, correct. Eventually, everyone had chimed in, and without the benefit of notes or recordings, the habituees of the Folkie Palace Debating Society began another Saturday night.

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