Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oddfellows Secrets Exposed

Community Service With Parmesan

*Couple things . . . Go eat spaghetti Thursday, March 22nd at Community Connections in Enterprise. It costs 8 bucks, I think, but that comes with dessert, garlic bread and the warm glow of knowing you have done a noble deed, chipping in to keep a roof over the bargains at the Soroptomist thrift store (motto: saving the world one quarter at a time . . . not really their motto but it could be.)

Second thing: I never know whether it's spelled Soroptomist, or Soroptomists

Thirdly, it doesn't bother me too much.

Pretty Sure Don Swart Makes Up Spelling Bee Words

Muchas gracias to Zanni, Andi and Sue, the dominating force at the Rotary Spelling Bee last week where Oddfellows Rick Bombaci, Ralph Swinehart and myself were thoroughly trounced and humiliated.

Well, not humiliated. But we lost badly.

Our hope to take home the prize came crashing down. We have to pay for a super-expensive roof and it would have helped. Then, prior to the championship round, the finalist teams were asked what their charity of choice was.

(cue stirring movie music. Something with an orchestra . . .)

"Oddfellows, Oddfellows, Oddfellows" . . . all teams named the Oddfellows roof project as their charity of choice and the lights exploded like at the end of The Natural just because so much amazing was in the air and it was really just a nice moment.

So thanks to Rotary and the winning hospital team.

Now here's my last column, which touches on these matters of Oddfellows and Soroptomisteses' and roofs. Or rooves. I can't believe we lost a spelling bee.

And Furthermore: Chieftain column March, 2012

I have infiltrated a secret society in Wallowa County and worked undercover for the past year to expose the inner workings of the shadowy organization known as “The Oddfellows.” They advertise themselves as a fraternal organization, dedicated to community service. That’s a laugh. I’ve read The Da Vinci Code. I know all about these so-called brotherhoods, with their secret handshakes and hidden stairwells, treasure maps hidden in code on the facade of the courthouse. Ancient symbols. Tom Hanks. Unlikely plot twists. Oh yeah, sure I’ll join your “community service organization,” Oddfellows. Wink-wink.

I have been summoned to monthly gatherings in the underground lair of a basement chamber in the Oddfellows complex. It’s cosy. Entrance is gained by three staccato knocks, a pause, then rapping out the tune of “Chopsticks” with your knuckles. A member inside then grants access with the code phrase, “Just come in, you don’t need to knock.”

These meetings appear to focus on eating dinner and talking about how they need to raise money to pay for fixing the roof. Symbolism, I’m sure. Oddfellow Steve Arment demonstrates a gift for the dark arts of barbecued meats and interesting casseroles. Kim Phelps presents items from his pantry that are more of an anthropology seminar than a potluck offering. I suspect at least one of his cookbooks was authored by Druids.

This Phelps character seems to be the brains of the operation. Also Kendrick Moholt. And Don McAlister. I’ve heard those three routinely use Latin words to make jokes that I don’t understand, but I laugh anyway so as not to blow my cover. Richard Hobbs is also a sharp one. And Ralph Swinehart, aka The Engineer . . . Rick Bombaci, Arment, Getty ‘The Falcon’ Pollard . . . really all of these guys are the brains of the outfit. Which leaves me greatly outnumbered.

I haven’t learned a secret handshake yet, but I keep asking and the guys tell me they’ll teach me one but they have to make it up first. These layers of secrecy are impressive. Like an onion ring. I must somehow gain their trust and keep them from suspecting my plan to let the world know exactly what goes on inside that Oddfellows Hall. I’m juggling with fire. Walking a thin tightrope.

They claim their objective is to keep the Oddfellows Hall open to the public. This seems to hold up. You can rent the building, next to the Enterprise Library, for $10 bucks an hour. So they’re not getting rich there. Just trying to keep up with heating the place. Taekwondo, belly dancing and ballet classes, concerts and lectures have all taken place on the main floor. The Soroptomist thrift store downstairs is where the traffic in treasure and priceless artifacts takes place. This arrangement is curious, because rather than disguise the fencing operation, they openly advertise hours when valuable items can be purchased far below market value. That money is then laundered in a clever scheme where the Soroptomists donate it to good causes and give scholarships. On the surface this Soroptomist ring appears to be run by an army of tireless volunteers who work long hours to benefit Wallowa County. In reality . . . well, that appears to be the reality. 

I’ve decided to go public with my investigation because the Oddfellows are plotting something big. I can feel it. And they’ve been talking about it.

The Oddfellows are counting on a big payoff from a shipment of imported Italian substances to be repackaged and sold to the public. “Operation Spaghetti Feed” is scheduled to go down March 22 at the Community Connection building.

I say we play along with their little game and see where it leads. You can gain access to this Oddfellow and Soroptomist “Spaghetti Feed” and see for yourself what these people are up to. Here’s a code phrase to get you in the door: “psst . . . here’s a little something to offset the hundred-thousand clams it’ll take to fix up that building.”




Jon Rombach said...

It's so pretty here. You would like my world. We don't need clues or all caps or exclamation points or any of that. You should visit.