UserpicThe Chautauqua Lecture 4

As a result of having to share a life with a rootless and restless philosopher, Brenin became not only a highly educated wolf – the recipient of more free university education than any wolf that ever lived – but also, I suppose, a rather cosmopolitan wolf, moving with me from Alabama to Ireland, on to Wales, England, and finally to France. Here is a memory that is recorded in Running with the Pack: the memory of a run that took place a few days before we moved from Alabama to Ireland.

This is a run of sadness…

… a run of times that have gone and will never come again. This is a run of fear: a run of times as yet unknown. I will soon, in a few short days, be putting Brenin on a plane to Ireland, and quarantine, but at this moment he floats along beside me as we run through the early morning streets of Tuscaloosa. I was twenty-four when I moved here, fresh out of Oxford, and starting my first real job. I began Oxford-style. I went to work in blazer and flannels. I ended up grunge: t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops and a ponytail. I didn’t anticipate my first job turning into a seven-year party, but sometimes things have a funny way of turning out. After seven years, over a hundred rugby games, thousands of tequila shooters, and more 25c longneck beers than I can number, I am ready to leave Alabama. When I arrived here, I was younger than many of my students. So, it was perhaps not particularly surprising that I found my way into the University’s student rugby team, and the rather surreal sub-culture that surrounds it. But before I knew it I am thirty-one. I’m too old, and the party has moved on. There is only so long you can turn up at student parties – even student rugby parties – without it getting first a little sad, and after that a little creepy. I suspect I have already transgressed the borders of sad, and want to get the hell out of Dodge before I cross over into creepy. No one comes back from creepy.

It is an early Sunday morning. We had a game the previous day, followed by the inevitable festivities, and so I am running off the party of the night before. My memories of those streets are pallid. In this respect they are not inaccurate, for the streets were also pallid. Once the blinding white porched-and-pillared abodes of respectable southern gentility, this part of town has been taken over by the students of the University of Alabama, and the houses are grey and cracked and peeling from all the young lives that have burned brightly within them. But my memories are pallid and peeling for another reason. They were made in a time when I had little need for them. Age is not, in fact, the destroyer of memories; that belongs to youth. Age is the preserver of memories, the reverer of memories. The memories I make become stronger as I get older. The memories I made when I was young are sickly children.

Running with the Pack


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