Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On tennis

Meet (probably Dwight) Porter. He is employed in the US State Department (and if it really is Dwight, he would later become the US ambassador to Lebanon). It is September, 1957. Porter has a tennis appointment, on Tuesday. This might be Tuesday 24 September, but more likely it is Tuesday 1 October. Porter is supposed to meet his tennis partner at 11:45 in the lobby of the “big building”.

This is what I know.

It is not specified which building it is, nor the name of the tennis partner, since he is the anonymous scribbler on the back of a document regarding US Near East policy. His little memo to self regarding a mundane (I assume) tennis appointment has been saved for all eternity in the State Department archives; and collected by a random, Norwegian researcher looking for something else entirely.

It is the time of the Edsel, a car that has recently been introduced to the American market. Porter does not yet know – no one does – that this car will become a symbol of failure. Perhaps porter bought an Edsel, perhaps he rode it to his tennis appointment.

It is the time of the Little Rock Crisis – where nine African American students were prevented from attending a racially segregated school in Arkansas. President Eisenhower intervened, and this is today considered to be a very important event in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps Porter read about this in the paper the morning he went to play tennis, or perhaps he discussed it with his tennis partner.

Porter might have gone to New York a few days later. If he did, he might have seen a brand new Broadway show, called “West Side Story”. If he liked it, he might have guessed that it would become one of the world’s most famous musicals.

When I come across these personal interventions in the otherwise formal and professional documents it is difficult not to let the thoughts fly. The historical context gives endless opportunities for my imagination to weave a story for the anonymous men who all of a sudden become persons. Unfortunately, I can’t really afford to do so at the moment, since I have a deadline coming up. Blogging is about the last thing I have the time for.

So, this poor blog will once again have to be neglected for a while. I shall return. I promise. If nothing else, to report on (possibly Dwight) Porter. I’ll let you know if I find any further tennis appointments.


TreeX said...

Apparently a quite significant part of the policy for Vietnam was agreed on at a tennis match in Saigon...

M.J. Nicholls said...

Farewell, fair Norwegian scribbler.

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