Recently one of my Facebook “friends” asked me what my birthday was since she said, “I fiddle in astrology.” I answered, cryptically, that it was the same day as Argentina’s Independence Day (look it up for yourselves) of 1942. Now, I have to say that I believe in astrology about as much as I believe in the six day creation story. But tens of millions of people actually DO believe in it. Heck, foreign and domestic policy in the United States was influenced by astrologers during the eight years of Saint Ronnie of the Ray Gun’s administration.
My friend’s request got me to thinking about an old high school classmate or mine, Robert Hand.
We knew him as Robbie back then. Robbie was our class “nerd” though the term hadn’t yet been coined. He was the guy with the plastic pocket protector and slide rule. While he was our nerd, he was one of us. He played clarinet in the high school band and orchestra and was in the Town Band. a mixture of school-aged and adult musicians, as well. We had some great parties at his house through our high school years. Nerd was just the position he held.
Robbie was a little strange, to say the least. His dad invented Arid antiperspirant and a mysterious but never marketed product referred to as “Fart Allure” which was supposed to make one’s flatulence smell like roses. His mom was a brilliant chemist in her own right, too. They lived in a big old house near Rock Harbor, and I remember one morning in the eighth grade when Robbie showed up at school looking as though someone had beaten him up. In a way that’s true. It seems Robbie believed he knew the route from school to his home, about a mile or so away, so well that he could walk it with his eyes closed. He made it for about a block or so before doing a face plant into a phone pole.
When we were driving age our friend, Fran Higgins, Robbie and I used to take Rob’s mom’s car out on some of the deserted back roads in town where we’d get Rob to put the car in neutral, red line the engine and then drop it into gear to lay some rubber on the asphalt. It’s a wonder we never dropped the transmission during one of our outings.
Not surprisingly, Robbie was our class valedictorian. I don’t want to take anything away from that honor but I also have to point out that we had a graduating class of only sixty students. Bob left Nauset Regional High School to attend Brandeis University, and Brandeis doesn’t accept ordinary scholars.
Rob’s dad was a bit of an astrologer and passed his knowledge on to his son. Robbie became a professional astrologer himself and made a stellar (pun intended) name for himself in the field. He founded the Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts (ARHAT) in 1997, an archive that publishes translations of ancient and medieval texts pertaining to the ancient/classical/medieval study of astrology. In 2008 he received the Regulus Award for his life’s work at the “United Astrology Conference” in Denver.
Rob also worked a couple of summers at my family’s restaurant, Philbrick’s Snack Shack, at Nauset Beach in Orleans, Mass.
Who knew back then what any of us would become?