Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday Party @ Naval Lodge #4

This past week I was out of town to the Virginia area, then coming back to a sick wife and everybody and their brother trying to have all day meetings before they jet for their 2-3 week winter vacations, I haven’t had the time to properly update this blog. I see that a lot of activity (mostly negative) has been going on, I won’t comment too much on it. Everything has been said, and after attending all day meetings both last week and this week, I really get agitated when someone just repeats what someone else has already said.

First my apologies to Gingerman as we tried to get together my schedule was not allowing me to receive his phone messages and we missed each other. So my sincere apologies, sir.

I did however have the opportunity to travel and visit Naval Lodge #4 in historic Washington D.C. and it reaffirms to me that really all things Masonic is local, to be honest out of all of my lodge visits this one left me with some strange emotions. I want to be careful and tactful when writing this as not to come off as judgmental or disparaging of the brothers of Naval Lodge #4, but honestly I didn’t receive the warmest welcome, but there were many contributing factors.

This was their annual holiday party, I asked the secretary specifically if this was a closed affair for lodge members and he wrote me a very nice e-mail back stating that it was open to everyone and that I was more than welcome to attend. Feeling a little apprehensive all week about the visit coupled with the stress of the trip (it wasn’t a fun one), I almost didn’t go. But then I remember that visiting the other two lodges that it made the world of difference for me during the trip and all of the friendly brothers I met during this time. So I got a taxi from Arlington to D.C. and joined the holiday party.

I won’t rehash the history of this lodge, considering there was an NPR story done and the lodge has a very nice website, so if you are interested in reading more about the history of this lodge, be sure to check out the link above and on the side bar.

I arrived really early, like they were still bringing up food to the lodge room early, which is on the fourth floor. I offered to help and picked up a couple of trays. I figured it was the least I could do. After taking the food upstairs, I wasn’t greeted by anyone, I saw brothers talking and some working feverishly to set things up so I made my way to their “lobby” (I don’t know what you would call it really). I stood there feeling more and more anti-social. I think this is because I wasn’t feeling up to barging in on conversations and introducing myself, in hindsight maybe I should of. So I stood there for another 10 minutes feeling the urge just to bolt, and would of if I didn’t pay for a cab ride out to turn around and pay for another cab ride back. After a while the Worshipful Master came out and greeted a prospect that just arrived about 5 minutes earlier. I then introduced myself at this time, trying to break the ice. He was very friendly and greeted me with a warm smile. The secretary then came over and greeted the two prospects (another guy showed up) and then greeted me. I paid my $10, they then broke out the magic markers and name tags, and asked us to write our names. I want to say for the record I hate name tags, especially magic marker ones. So here I stood and the two prospects were talking to each other, so I walked around for a bit.

Their lodge room is really big; I mean it’s about the same size as my mother lodge room (which is the largest I have been in, before now), and about twice the height for the ceiling. I took a couple of pictures with little success and came back out to the “lobby”, where one of the prospects left and the other one was standing there looking like an extra from “Animal House” during pledge week at the Omegas complete with name tag and “what do I do now?” look. I went over and introduced myself, he was a nice young man that apparently researches potential lawyers for the law firm he works for, to make sure there would be no conflict of interest. We talked for a bit, he then said he wanted to look around.

So here I was standing around again, all by myself, thinking “Now I look like the Animal House extra.” Brothers and their wives and children started to trickle in some would say hello in passing while rushing off to see who else is there, others would walk past me and sometimes would utter an “excuse me”. I again nearly bolted, but thought “Not only did I pay for a cab ride out here, but I already paid for dinner, I have to stay.” I figure I would find anyone that wasn’t already in a group and go talk to them; it has to be better than standing around like a teenager in front of a 7-11.

I found the other prospect in the lodge room standing there, and I went up and introduced myself to him. This guy had more questions than I could count “are you a 33rd?”, “are their any younger 33rd masons?” I mean, the guy had a lot of questions, we talked for a while I would answer his questions about the lodge, but always gave the disclaimer “I’m from Texas so it might be different here.” I found out later that he turned in his petition in June, right before the lodge went dark, and still hasn’t meet with his investigation committee. He was told to come to the party and meet with his investigation committee; he was hoping to get his first degree before Christmas. I asked him if he knew what the delay was, and he shrugged his shoulders.

More and more brothers where showing up, and I noticed that this lodge has a much younger base than what I have come to expect, sad but true. The WM then called for prayer, prayer was given and then there was a mad rush for the food. With the Lodge Room emptying out (the brothers converted it into a dinning room), I tried again to get some decent pictures with no luck again, I think there is something wrong with my camera. I then made my way back to the dinner, just wanting to grab food.

Was behind the WM master again and he was nice and friendly again, but really he is one of two brothers that said more than “Hello” or “excuse me”. I sat down and ate with the new prospect and tried to explain the relationship between the appendant bodies and the blue lodge. Later a brother from the lodge sat down, Brother Jim who I believe is deployed to Iraq this week as a detention officer. We had a great conversation and we discussed some of my research. He was a nice guy, and I felt better after talking with him.

Then Santa Clause came and gave the children in attendance gifts and the brothers of the lodge started to congregate and pictures were being snapped, and I just decided to leave. I came, I ate, and it was time to leave. I got a cab and rode it back to my hotel.

Now I don’t want anyone reading this to take it the wrong way, but I felt like I just crashed a company party that I use to work at. I don’t honestly know how else to describe the situation. Was it my fault? Maybe, I wasn’t in the cheeriest mood. Was it their fault? Maybe, they seemed to rarely greet anyone except those they knew, and that didn’t seem to be a guarantee either.

Maybe it’s culture, maybe it’s the hustle and bustle of a holiday party, but I didn’t have that feeling of brotherhood when I left that night, and that bothered me more than anything.


Royce Myers said...

That sounds awkward brother!

I hope we never let that happen to another brother in our lodge; as Sr. Deacon, I won't let that happen if you visit us. (Unless you're a real tool.)

From the North Eastern Corner said...

I know exactly how you feel. Unfortunately all too often when traveling to other lodges I have felt the same way you did. Apart from my blog, in person I am a man of few words. I am not very apt at creating conversation and have had much trouble getting camaradarie on my visits past "hello my name is....from....lodge". I have a lot to say if prodded, but during visits it seems brothers sometimes forget about the brother visiting and stick to those they are more familiar with. I think I have had better Masonic conversations in than any actual lodge I have visited.
From The Northeastern Corner

Gingerman said...

I would have loved to meet up with you, and maybe another time it will work out. Meetings is meetings, and there's never enough time. Glad to see you had fun!