When I was a freshman at a small liberal arts college in upstate NY, scrawled chalk marks would mysteriously appear on campus. They would say “Lodge” followed by some future date, say, “10-3.” I found out from my knowing, sophomore roommate from New York City that the graffiti referred to what was known as a Lodge Party. Apparently, some defunct fraternity owned an old camp out in the woods, where for a minimal cover charge, and with no ID necessary, kids could drink as much beer as they could swallow. So I went. I don’t remember how my friends and I even got there, or how much it cost, or how we got home. I only remember a large, rough-hewn wood structure that kind of resembled a rustic Adirondack camp, a beer truck with actual taps sticking out of its side, and a shit-ton of mud. The Nike racquetball shoes I wore to Lodge in 1985 must be enshrined in the Beer-Piss-Vomit Hall of Fame somewhere, which is to say that they were unwearable after that night.
I’m not telling you this story to warn you against the dangers of underage drinking, although those dangers are quite real and probably even more dangerous now, almost thirty years later (I mean, I just saw a Red Cup Living display in Bed, Bath, and Beyond last night for chrissakes. That’s right: you can now buy reusable red cups, or shot glasses shaped like red cups, or twinkly lights shaped like red cups, or wastebaskets shaped like red cups that you can puke in after you drink too much out of your dishwasher-safe goblet that’s shaped like a red cup).
What I’m really thinking about is the word “lodge” itself and what it implies: secret societies, ancient mysteries, hidden-ness, olden times, old camps in the deep woods, green moss growing on damp rocks, odd creatures, green men, ghosts, stories, firelight. I know this word also invokes maleness, exclusivity, and privilege. Skull and Bones. Masons. Knights of Columbus. Rosicrucians. The idea of the lodge probably goes back to the Norse gods, the Vikings, the Knights of the Round Table, the Celts, the Saxons, the First Peoples.
I was thinking these thoughts as I was swimming in a pond near my home at dusk last night. I was alone, a member of my own secret society. I was thinking about the books on cryptography I read as a kid, about the secret notes my friends and I used to write to each other, penned with lemon juice and only decipherable when held up to a candle or bright light bulb that sometimes turned the note brown and almost set it on fire. About code rings and x-ray specs. About Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio. About the The Secret Three, one of my childhood favorites that tells the story of three boys who form a secret society by passing messages back and forth using a bottle thrown into the sea.
I thought about starting my own secret society, one that would swim in the pond with me. I would come up with a name and chalk the invitations randomly around my town. Only the initiated would know what they meant. “SP/7:33” I’d be like Fox Mulder, taping a masking-tape “X” to my window when I was in danger and in need of help. Only a specially-chosen few would be privy to my covert missives.
Who would join me if I did so? I promise there would be no secret handshakes, no Fifth Degrees, no flash mobs, no oaths, no burnt offerings. Ladies and gentlemen of all persuasions would be welcome. We would just swim. Swim and talk and enjoy the sun setting over the water, the water sometimes as warm as a cozy bath, with the birds in the trees and the sunlight’s last dance on the leaves. The silence. The stillness. We would form our own lodge in the deep woods, out of branches and pitch and peat and dead leaves. We’d summon the spirits of Special Agent Dale Cooper and Henry Thoreau and Jim Morrison and Dean Moriarty and Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath and Pocahontas and Sacajawea. We’d find a home outside of society’s grasp. We’d be beholden only to ourselves. Our membership would be small, but closely knit. We’d see each other in the street and say nothing, not even acknowledging one another with a nod or a wink. But we’d know who we are.
So. Let’s do it. Let’s meet at the Black and White Lodge. Because when we meet, there will always be music in the air.