Grand Lodge, a downhill biking adventure

I attended the 151st Oregon Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows last week. It was held at a casino, which struck me as ironic since gambling was once grounds for expulsion. I hated the thought that we were supporting a business that was created for the purpose of profiting from greed and stupidity. Like I told Peggy, sure I’ve chased women, done drugs, gotten drunk, am crazier than hell according to the DSM, and never been great at holding a job either; but, by god, I’ve never gambled. If the preachers are right about there being sins of omission versus sins of commission, then it makes sense that virtue runs in the same directions.

I took my new bike to the convention, and rode it during breaks. The first day, I got a kick out of screaming down a hill that overlooked the casino. I passed a cop in a curve, but there was good visibility and no double lines. I then swung through a large truck stop and wove my way among the slow-moving eighteen-wheelers like a fighter plane among bombers. Next came a stop sign, but nothing was coming, so I didn’t slow down. I was traveling too fast to make the first turn into the casino parking lot, so I gracefully arced into the second. Large yellow arrows pointed in the opposite direction, but no one was coming. I biked right up to the doors of the casino and had just wheeled my bike inside when an angry policeman came running in after me. As he outlined my many offenses, I realized that he must be the same cop I had passed, and that he had been trying to catch up with me the whole time. His list grew tedious, and if I had not been in fear of a ticket, I would have asked if he was always so negative. He let me off with a lecture, leaving me to suppose that casino towns must be the opposite of speed traps. Whereas the latter are looking to issue tickets, the former make their money by leniency.

I didn’t enjoy Grand Lodge, but neither did I didn’t hate it the way I did last year when it was held at a grungy Holiday Inn surrounded by freeways and parking lots. Having my bike and being in a small town both made a tremendous difference, because, after several hours among people, I have an urgent need to be alone and stretch my legs. I have but little to contribute to Grand Lodge, but my home lodge keeps sending me, and I keep going.

Oregon’s outgoing Grand Master was the first woman in the United States to serve in such a position. Women were only allowed to join the lodge within the last ten years, so her rise was truly meteoric, and would have been impossible had she not grown up in an Odd Fellow family and worked as an employee in the Grand Lodge office. She was kidded about being the first Grand Master to kiss the brethren on the cheek, but I never heard a serious word against her.