“Aristotelian Nights” by David Daniel

Aristotelian Nights

By David Daniel

Eddie Hayward was one of my boys in high school. Big E we called him. An amiable goofball, he was tall and soft-bodied with curly brown hair. If he were an actor and still young he’d play lead in the John C. Reilly story. He was the only kid I knew in high school for whom condoms were more than just wallet stuffing. He’d had the same girlfriend since junior high. Along with the steady girlfriend and condoms, he had wheels. A big ten-year old boat of a Buick I think, or an Olds. It was long and maroon, I remember that much and, best part, it was a ragtop.

“Hey,” he told me one day, “if you ever wanna borrow it . . .”

I didn’t abuse the privilege. For one thing, I wasn’t an experienced driver and I worried that I might wreck it. Sometimes though I would borrow it. I’d go to his house, give him a buck and get the keys, then cruise over to pick up whoever I was dating at the time. By the way, if a dollar sounds cheap, note that gas was 30 cents a gallon.

Summer nights were the best. The car had a wonderful mellow rumble from the dual exhausts, which made up for the fact that the radio didn’t work. I wasn’t a very good conversationalist, so what I used to do was read up on something—Shakespeare, say, or the great philosophers—anything from way back in time was good. I didn’t know squat, of course. I’d skim an entry in the Funk & Wagnall encyclopedia set my folks had got, one volume at a time at Stop & Shop. I’d pick up some names and a rough timeline. My date and I would be cruising along by the bay, the night wind soft—top down, you’d feel the flow . . . air cool and secret in the low spots, salt-scented with the sea, and I’d spin it out, what little I knew mashed together with everything I didn’t know. “I’m very interested in the Aristotelian Concept,” I’d say. “You know about that? No? Well, what the philosopher said was . . .” Etcetera.

I don’t know why Aristotelian; Socratic was beyond me—all questions & answers—and maybe Platonic made it seem off-target somehow, like I only wanted to be friends. Mainly, I liked the way the word rolled off the tongue—ar-is-to-telian.  If I’d known then of Epicurus—party time!—he’d probably have been my go-to guy.

I was a bit of a budding Buddhist, too: which is to say I knew one ancient scripture—the one about life being like the reflection of the moon on the water. Which one is the true moon?

Did any of this work? Who knows? It’s not like now. Now everyone’s got a handheld Library of Alexandria and can check the facts. You say that Aristotle was Plato’s teacher? Sure about that? Neptune has how many moons? The most grand slam homers in a rookie year?

I miss those long-gone days of 30-cent gas and the soft Aristotelian nights with Ellen or Lorraine or Lesley in Big E’s convertible, the soft wind spanking halyards on the moored sailboats in the bay, fluttering my girl’s hair, moonlight on the water.

David Daniel, a frequent contributor to this site, is a prolific novelist and writer, and a former high school teacher.

24 Responses to “Aristotelian Nights” by David Daniel

  1. Chris O'Connor says:

    It is interesting to think of the information that is now so readily available, and whether there is something lost as a result. I too recall the Funk and Wagnall encyclopedia set. Book by book from the supermarket. A really enjoyable read.

  2. John McDonough says:

    Fun piece, Dave. We all should have had a friend like Eddie Hayward. And the Aristotle reference reminded me that last year I bought a copy of Plato’s “The Republic” for 50-cents from the Tewksbury library. I tried reading it but I think I’ll wait for the movie. And that thing about me saying you ruined my day with some story about a dog dying? I don’t remember that but it sounds like me. Sorry about that.

  3. Steve O'Connor says:

    Nice piece, Dave. Those days are gone and will ne’er come again.
    I remember reading somewhere in Emerson, “Our notebooks have robbed us of our memory.” God, what would he say today?

  4. PaulM says:

    “A big ten-year old boat of a Buick, I think, or an Olds. It was long and maroon, I remember that much and, best part, it was a ragtop.” Ragtop … real American talk.

  5. a says:

    What a beautiful, perfect story. Like something preserved in amber. That illustration is pretty fine, too.

  6. Patty G says:

    What Faustian bargain did Dave make that enables him to write, “the soft wind spanking halyards on the moored sailboats in the bay”?

  7. Judie says:

    Another great story, Dave. Eddy (that’s how he signed his name in my yearbook) was one funny guy. Skipping school with him one day was so much fun. It wasn’t in a car, it was in an ice cream truck!😀
    Keep on writing this good stuff!

  8. Judie says:

    Another great story, Dave. Eddy (that’s how he signed his name in my yearbook) was one funny guy. We skipped school one day – in an ice cream truck! So many laughs.
    Keep writing this good stuff!

  9. Chuck says:

    Great story.
    I remember .19 gas and the gas wars. Hell a dollars worth of gas, you could cruise all night
    I remember the submarine races at San Gregorio beach. Great fun on summer nights.

  10. Steamboat says:

    One can feel the breeze
    one can smell the salt air
    And steal a little light
    From the moon

    Well done my friend
    The ancients would agree

  11. Jason Trask says:

    Nice one, Dave. Instead of Funk & Wagnalls from the grocery store, my mother bought animal encyclopedias. Hell, if I’d had the F&Ws, I could’a been a contender.

  12. Jim Provencher says:

    Always a poet in the guise of prose, Dave Daniel delivers everyday news at our door!

  13. Carolina Crawdaddy says:

    Even Aristotle needs rock ‘n roll! Fix the damn radio and crank up the Short Man with TheTall Hair. Little Richard can get any girl’s blood boiling which might have been a benefit to Young Dave. Aristotle would have made for an odd match with great man from Macon, Georgia. But history might have just recorded that they shared a condom together. Eddie probably had a spare tucked in the glove box.
    Keep crankin’ Dave and keep this good shit coming!

  14. Dave Cappella says:

    Daniel conjures up Funk & Wagnall’s…the salient detail (one of so many in the remembrance) expertly capturing the tone of a long ago time in America. Pure poetry and damn fine writing.

  15. Dave Cappella says:

    Daniel conjures up Funk & Wagnall’s!! The salient detail (one of so many in this piece) expertly capturing the tone of a long ago time in America. Pure poetry and pure, unadulterated writing.

  16. Jack Daniel says:

    Well done Brother, you’ve still got it. A good coming of age story. I remember Eddie, he was one of the cool ones. I can picture the scene cruising along the South Shore. It was an innocent time. Little did we know the tumult of the war that would soon break on the scene.

  17. Pam says:

    Another clear memory. Cruisin, cheap gas, big cars and rag tops. Thanks, Dave for making smiles.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Rolling off the tongue is a good enough reason alone. Gives a guy confidence. I miss those Aristotelian nights too, along with the 30 cent gas, and I’d throw in the silence, and the truly golden sunlight in summer, and the smell of ozone after a thunderstorm. But what I loved most was “the soft wind spanking halyards on the moored sailboats in the bay, fluttering my girl’s hair, moonlight on the water.” Nice evocative trip down memory lane, Dave.

  19. Bill Griffiths says:

    Was it Laugh In who used Funk & Wagnall’s as a recurring joke? Somebody did back then.

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