Charlottesville is an enchanting Virginia college town graced by the neoclassical architecture of the university’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. I flew there with two friends, the talented photographer Jonathan Becker and the Vietnam Special Forces Silver Star winner Chuck Pfeifer, all of us close buddies of the deceased. It was the memorial service for Willy von Raab, scourge of drug dealers and illegal immigrants while commissioner of customs for eight years under Reagan. The humorist P.J. O’Rourke and I were the two speakers, and after a rousing ‘America the Beautiful’ we retired for an afternoon of southern hospitality and University of Virginia co-ed watching.
This is not woke, I know, but neither are heterosexuality, beauty or grace — or Christianity, for that matter. Charlottesville brought back memories of careless sunlit days lounging around the frat house drinking mint juleps and writing love letters to Sweet Briar girls: Mary Blair Scott, Ellen Hurst, Natalie Farrar, three beguiling sultry southern belles, now in their late seventies or even early eighties. Believe you me, as they say in the Bronx, jejune Oxford evenings à la Sebastian Flyte had nothing on us — zero, zilch. The South Was Right! Best Price: $21.38 Buy New $36.15 (as of 10:45 EST - Details)
The rituals of spring are ever present in Virginia: the cherry blossoms and the magnolias, the pretty girls in their shorts on Fraternity Row, the famous serpentine walls and the imposing Rotunda of Mr Jefferson keeping one’s mind off the horrors and ugliness of big American cities. If only we could go back in time. That’s an old lament of mostly old people. But sitting in the cafés you sat in 60 years ago does concentrate the mind on how lovely youth once was.
How confident we were that life would be a fantastic adventure shared with a myriad of beauties. The honor system that was observed strictly by everyone on and off campus made it easy to be a young adult. There were no scams or hoaxes, no phony accusations of rape or vile language, none of what makes students today so exasperatingly limp, woke and looking to take offense. No one talked about identity or empowerment; only freaks swore. Wearing a coat and tie was not mandatory but everyone did so. The only one in my class who did not was George Finn, excused by his peers because he had fought in Korea.