Eric Voegelin Society Meeting
—Boston 2002

The   Lighter   Side

Wednesday Evening

Joe Feeney came to town three days early, combining a real vacation with the Eric Voegelin Society Meeting. I won't say Joe is an "operator", but He managed to procure two box seats for the Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees—an impossible ticket because the game had been sold out for weeks.

Fenway Park Ticket

This was the first time either of us had been to Fenway Park and for Joe it was extra special because he learned to love baseball from his parents and his mother is still a baseball afficionado. I carried my wife's cell phone and we each called home from the park. Fenway Park is ninety years old—Joe says the oldest baseball park in the US—and "intimate" when compared to other parks. Here a stranger (who drove 150 miles from Connecticut to see the game) takes our picture against the backdrop of the upper decks.

Feeney and Wagner at Fenway Park


The EVS panels were to begin Thursday morning and I was torn between the duty to appear for the opening session and shake hands with Ellis Sandoz again, etc. and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail with Joe Feeney on the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") across Boston Bay. The Frigate is the oldest commissioned warship in the US Navy and dates from the eighteenth century. It is manned by naval reserve officers and a crew of midshipmen. It sails fully rigged with all canvas aloft as it was in the 1790's when Congress authorized it's construction to fight the Barbary pirates. It was undefeated in thirty battles at sea.

I had one last chance to join Joe for the ship ride. Thursday morning at 5:45 AM Joe stopped by the hotel room to borrow my windbreaker. It was rainy and chilly and Joe had come from the warm South without protective garments.

Eventually I felt duty-bound so I went to the first session. Ellis Sandoz was not there however to shake my hand. He was taking the opportunity to tour, I believe, John Adams' home. Ellis has written extensively about America's foundations and he too was called by a higher duty! Our handshake was postponed. Meanwhile, Joe was the only civilian to sail with "Old Ironsides" and he witnessed her firing a 21 gun salute. Here you can see Joe swinging by a line after having fallen from a yardarm with the Boston skyline in the background.

Feeney before the Mast

Feeney before the Mast.

Thursday evening we attended the Review of Politics reception at the Marriott and enjoyed the platters of salmon, shrimp and other delicacies. We had a chance to chat briefly with Walter Nicgorski, editor of the Review. Back in the difficult 1940's the ROP provided Voegelin with an important platform from which he could reach a larger audience. His influence continues in ROP to this day, the quarterly devoting space to symposia and book reviews on Voegelin and his scholars.

I took a nice picture of Dr. Nicgorski but the camera malfunctioned. I tried on two different days to take pictures but the camera malfuntioned each time and finally broke down altogether. Here is the proof of my good intentions. I cannot identify the man in green [Late breaking information from Walter N: The man in green is Charles Butterworth, Walter's classmate from U.Chicago and an outstanding medieval Islamicist.]:

Walter Nicgorski and Colleague

Joe Feeney found us a reasonably priced restaurant in Boston which is claimed to be the "oldest" continuously operating restaurant in the U.S., dating from 1826. It is called "The Union Oyster House," and boasts on wall plaques near the Oyster Bar that Noah Webster and other luminaries frequented the establishment. With low ceilings and hewn oak beams the atmosphere was authentic and gemütlich. The oysters were tasteless, by the way, but there were other good things to eat, but not for Thomas Hollweck, who made his dinner from a plate of the disappointing delicacies. Others in our party of ten ordered lobster and faired much better! Too late did I remember the old saw: "Only eat oysters in months containing an "R" ! Our hostess was a beautiful Roumanian girl. Only in America!

Dr. David Tresan sat next to me. He told some good stories from army days at Fort Gordon and one of the better mens' suits stories I have heard.

Here you see the diners showing various degrees of pleasure or concern:

The Union Oyster House

From left: Paul Caringella, Theodore Weber, David Tresan, Thomas Hollweck(inspecting an oyster) and Robin Seiler.


Friday morning Joe Feeney led Rhydon "Cash" Jackson and me to a notable local bistro, Charlie's Coffee Shop, for breakfast. It is famous in Boston for the Turkey Hash, which Rhydon gave an "A+" rating. On the wall there were framed and signed photos of Senator Kennedy and and presidential candidate Al Gore smiling with the waitresses and cooks. I noticed that the people in the photos were still the people that we saw. I suggested to our waitress she looked like actress Diane Keaton. She told me she hears that all the time.

We walked to the bronze memorial to Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad. They are magnificent sculptures that capture the pathos and courage and pain of black emancipation. Seeing these larger than lifesize figures reinforces Hans Sedlmayr's dictum that sculpture, unlike painting, necessarily honors the human form.

Friday noon I found myself detached from company and looked about for a place to have lunch. I was wandering in the vicinity of Gourmelli's al fresco cum atrium faux jardin dinning area when lo, I espied familiar heads behind the potted plants. It was then that I realized that the Voegelin Board of Trustees was in solemn conclave and I dasn't approach the table! Ambassador Palouš was with them but he likely had security clearance.

The Board of Trustees Lunches at Gourmelli's

From Left: Ellis Sandoz, Thomas Hollweck, Paul Caringella, Jürgen Gebhardt and Ambassador Palouš.

I ended up at the Marriott's excellent mezanine Sushi bar. "What you want eat?" I pointed at someone else's plate. "O.K." I don't know what it was but it was fresh and delicious.

We decided to explore an Italian eatery Friday evening after injoying the fine reception put on by the Claremont Institute at the Marriott. I would guess it was the same caterer as the one that took care of the Review of Politics. We had hoped to join up with Dr. Bob Cihak and his April bride, Mary Lynn, for dinner, but somehow missed them. Here is a shot that just catches them in lost profile during one of the sessions:

Bob and Mary Lynn Cihak

The Canadian crew from Montreal arrived on Friday headed by Maben Poirier who was a panel discussant. He was accompanied by David Beam and two former students of Maben: a present colleague, Dr.Herminio Teixeira, and Sakis (Dionysos) Agiomavritis, a doctoral candidate at Carleton University. We ended up dining at Davio's on Boylston Street, a multileveled converted brownstone with real al fresco dining for those who wished it. The food was good and not too expensive. Our waitress, was, of course, Norwegian!

Herminio comes orginally from Oporto, Portugal and Sakis from Greece. Here is a photo of Herminio, Maben and Sakis taken after a panel session.

Poirier and Colleagues


Rhydon and I held up the American end of things, but the conversation seemed to move in the direction of Canadian politics, Canadian identity and other topics about which we rather smug Americans know too little.

David told us something about an insightful Canadian political scientist named Grant and something of the work of the Thomas More Institute. Mostly adult education and they actually read books! After reading the TMI prospectus I couldn't help thinking that if I knew those books I would have a pretty good education.

We heard from Herminio some hair-raising stories about poverty and murder in Rio and Sao Paolo in Brazil and an American nun who plunged in to relieve the sufferings of children.

One practical bit of information I discovered is that Maben collects fountain pens of all types and periods. As soon as I got home I sent him an old Parker pen. If you have an old fountain pen lying in a drawer, you could do worse than send it to Maben who would appreciate it as you or I would not. His mailing address is:

M.W. Poirier
P.O. Box 464
Hudson, Quebec
Canada, J0P 1H0


Saturday morning Rhydon and I breakfasted at Gourmelli's al fresco garden restaurant in the atrium of the Marriott, just as we had on Thursday and did again Sunday. We always had a waiter named Pradeep,which means "light." He humored me by bringing Tobasco or some other Louisiana hot sauce and Worchestershire to put into my tomato juice, together with an unpeeled banana on a plate so I could set to work using a knife and fork (Theory: European eating manners lead to longer meals and better digestion—knife in the dexterous hand, fork in the other, and you are allowed to play with your food, like piling things onto the back of your fork.) Rhydon being a young man had the usual lumberjack/farmer breakfast.

Pradeep may be a computer science student (They don't cross half the globe for our liberal arts!) but when I asked him, he said he was a stand-up comedian. He would have been a good one, too.

A somewhat different group for dinner Saturday evening included Rhydon Jackson, James Bruton, James Galloway, Robert ("Robin") Seiler and Max Arnott. We wandered up and down Boylston Street looking for a Vietnamese restaurant, or something similar, and eventually found one. Jim Bruton had been a US Army Liason Officer in Viet Nam for a couple of years and was able to order off the menu for the rest of us who needed help. It was reminiscent of San Francisco last year, when Barret Dolph took us to a "Chinese" Chinese restaurant and handled everything in fluent Mandarin. Max and I remarked how we missed him this year.

Then we walked back on the lamplit streets toward our hotels. Somewhere along the way, Jim Bruton stopped to give us a demonstration of Tai Chi, while Jim Galloway called out the names of the movements for us as Bruton performed them("tiger's neck","dragon's tail", or some such terms). While Rhydon, Max, Robin and I watched by lamplight, passersby slowed to observe and in one case, we were sure, a man hesitated, unsure whether he should stop and join us as an additional observer.

Here you can see Bruton demonstrating as Galloway describes the moves to us. Passersby move past carefully. Robin Seiler watches in his best "Royal Guards Armoured" posture:

Tai Chi by Lamplight

From left: Jim Galloway calls out as Jim Bruton does Tai Chi. Robin Seiler observes from the right.

So Sunday morning we ate breakfast, said our goodbyes, "hope to see you next year," and then we rode to the airport and flew home.


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