Everyone should have a place where there is no pressure to impress, a place where the ladder of life is askew

Pascal kept the cookies in a Jack Daniels ice bucket, a vestige of the bar where he once worked.

I would give it to me, and having it in hand meant I would eat way too much of it of course. It was his way of spoiling you, making you the center of attention. He kept a colorful selection, ginger nuts (their spice made the tea tastier), fig rolls, rich tea for dieters, and some sort of cream sandwich. He had raised two grown children, and even though they were long gone, he always kept a parent’s necessities close at hand. Always carrying a few bandages in her wallet and keeping a cookie mix in the cupboard.

While he was in the kitchen making tea, I would lie there and bathe in the ambiance of old furniture, old wallpapers, old cups, old albums and old silence . The silence of the clock brought me back to my grandmother’s house on Ram Street, and the smell of Cardinal polish. It’s funny, when you sit in silence, different things are revealed; odors prevail, and minor sounds; like our breath, and the gentle machinery of a rotating clock, even the sound of silence itself. Disturbing thoughts were wrestled to submission by the dim light and silence of Pascal’s inner sanctum.

Somehow he managed to not smoke while I was there, which was no small feat for a man who smoked sixty a day. Marlboro Lights, bought from Finnegan’s stationery store, and nowhere else! Pascal prided himself on pedantic observations. “Newspapers and queers go hand in hand. You see, when people buy the morning papers, they also buy their first cigarette, so the cigarettes don’t stay on the shelves for long, they are always fresh!

He had given up ambition, that is to say that for others, his own were stored as an unwanted nuisance. He lived vicariously through the ambitions of others; a sort of cheerleader, albeit insightful and knowledgeable. I was fortunate and honored to benefit from his support. It gave me the confidence to come to Pascal to help.

He once asked me to listen to one of my albums through his carefully assembled stereo. This was no ordinary unit, every part had been researched and handpicked. The Cyrus One power amplifier, an Audio Technic turntable with a diamond needle, and a specific cartridge, which he sometimes changed to adapt to the Opera, I lost sight of everything.

“What? Want to listen to one of MY albums?

“3 Minute World, to be exact.”

“Why?”

“I would like to share this experience with you.

“Does that sound good on that stereo or something?” “

“Yes, think so.”

Earlier he told me that he had (naively) suggested playing the album to another Wexford opera fan, they said ‘Why? ” too much. I knew the madman, he bragged about his opinion, and felt that it was always necessary to have one. I don’t go looking for trouble and never ask people to listen to me, especially not the guy in question. It is better to like your own tastes and let others like theirs.

When Pascal spoke of opera, he had all the subtle nuances of a good wine. One version would be too slow, and another would not be slow enough. Luciano Pavarotti’s voice was fine and Placido Domingo was not even a tenor.

Everyone should have a Pascal, a place to go when you need to hide your head. A place where there is no pressure to impress, a place where the scale of life is crooked.


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