Middies & Johnnies, Oh My! — Because Mollie Ziegler has commanded it, I’m making note of Saturday’s St. John’s College/U.S. Naval Academy annual croquet match at the St. John’s campus in Annapolis, the quaint seaside capital of the ironically nicknamed “Free State.” The event is singular and must be experienced to be fully appreciated. For those of you who don’t know, St. John’s is a little liberal arts college devoted to a “great books” curriculum designed by the late pop-Aristotelian Mortimer Adler. While kids at State U are busy taking “Gynocentric Critiques of Post-Capitalist Logocentric Discourses” the Johnnies are reading Platonic dialogues to each other (naked?) and doing geometry straight out of Euclid, and generally keeping Western Civilization and The Canon alive. The average Johnnie is quirky, having decided that it would be a good idea to read Thucydides and dwell on the nature of Virtue for four years, rather than skip Gyno-Critiques, knock up sorority girls, and bribe NCAA athletes into throwing games.
Anyway, they do have organized competitve sports at St John’s, and as far as I know, the athletic program culminates in croquet. Each year, Navy comes to the St John’s lawn for a fierce best-of-five bout. It must have been exciting, but I couldn’t tell you because I was drunk. I did notice that all the St. John’s guys decided to dress like the Luke Wilson character in the Royal Tennenbaums, what with the headbands and sports jackets with shorts. Which cut a nice contrast with Navy’s natty white 1952 sweaters complete with a big golden letterman ‘N’, and assisted by pointless croquet caddies decked out like stewards from The Love Boat. But like I said, I was drunk, the croquet game being quite beside the point.
The point is that St. John’s alumni gather on the lawn, set up tables, fill them with little sandwiches, strawberries and lots and lots of booze, and get drunk. Or that’s the point I gathered from the experience. It should come as no surprise that St. John’s does not attract young inner city toughs yearning to read Herodotus in the original. The crowd is stunningly pale, and not only pale, but preppy beyond the bounds of taste. Some fellow in the party to which I had been invited (by Marnie Nicholson – thanks!) was wearing something like a pink checked shirt with a green tie, a navy jacket and navy pants covered with tiny green alligators or ducks or some such obscene icon of the country club. “Chipper! Oh, do fetch Heather! We’re taking the yacht for a spin!” You know, that sort of thing. Some Johnnies, having immersed themselves so long in the past, seem to pine for a bygone era when women wore white lace dresses, twirled white parasols as they strolled, and died in childbirth. I had forgotten the overwhelming WASPiness of the affair, and was forced to apologize to my date, a dazzlingly majestic young Belizian-Indian-Scottish-Japanese-American woman to whom I had utterly failed to convey the standards of attire. But it didn’t matter. She was still most beautiful and admired. And there was champagne. And it beats a College Park riot.