1 May 2022
Vol. XII, No. 4

May 2022

In Memoriam: Theodore Florenz Balk

August 1949—April 2022

“We are a little piece of continual change, looking at an infinite quantity of continual change.”B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life

“Ted Balk at Greenville Yoga.” (Photo: Josh Norris.)

“Will and Ted Balk.” (Photo: Elizabeth Boleman-Herring.)

“Will and Ted Balk.” (Photo: Elizabeth Boleman-Herring.)

From Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: In April of this year, we lost two close friends here in Pendleton, South Carolina, where the three of us make our home and where Weekly Hubris takes shape every month. One was our neighbor, a woman who, when we met, I christened “Demeter,” as in the Greek goddess of the Earth, of agriculture, of the harvest, of fertility, but also (and this is key) of “divine order.” When Davie Kirkley was in her garden, and we could hear her voice ringing out across her stupendous gardens, all was right with our world; all was divinely ordered. And now, she is no more and, in the heart-splitting beauty of the South Carolina spring, we begin to mourn her. We also lost, this April, my closest friend and confidante of this new century’s second decade (and an early Contributor to and Assistant Editor of Weekly Hubris), Theodore Florenz “Ted” Balk. Ted and I met very late in life (both his and mine), but we became, almost at once, inseparable friends. We adopted one another in spirit, and were in almost daily contact from the week we met, over sweet tea and meat-and-three, at Clemson’s Esso Club, discussing, first, Yoga, and then, everything else, till the day he died. Ted was a monument on my landscape; an immense presence, both literally and figuratively. He leaves behind here in South Carolina a grieving family; devoted and fortunate Yoga peers and students; and his brother, Contributor William A. Balk, Jr., and I at Weekly Hubris. (Our May 2022 issue of Weekly Hubris is our love letter to Ted.)  

“I have lived a majestic life”: BKS Iyengar’s dying words. (Photo: Josh Norris.)

The author at Greenville Yoga.

Dispatches from The Esso Club

How Did I Get Here from There? By Theodore Balk & Liz Delaney

CENTRAL South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2022—Having recently attended my 30th Yoga class—the 30th Yoga class of my entire life, I should add—at Greenville Yoga, I thought I would share some thoughts about the experience and what my new practice has meant to me. (I will allow ego to intrude a little here and say that I am proud that these 30 classes were attended on 30 consecutive weekdays, over the brief period of about six weeks: I took up Yoga with passion and perseverance.) First, let me say just a little about who I am (though I hasten to add that I do not view myself, most days, as simply the sum of my infirmities). I am a 63-year-old American man, obese, with a history of high blood pressure that is fairly well controlled with medication. I have lived an almost entirely sedentary life for the last decade or so. My right shoulder was injured long ago, and I have pain and restricted movement on that side. I also suffer from mild arthritis in my knees and hands, and am prone to attacks of sciatica. Poor me! Immediately before the seemingly random events that led me to Greenville Yoga, I was entertaining the thought that I had let myself go so very far towards decrepitude, and was so tired and depressed, that I would never, in this incarnation, have the will to bring myself back to health. I was looking forward to a gradual decline into probable alcoholism and an early death or (worse, in my mind) disability due to stroke, heart attack, diabetes or any of the other myriad illnesses to which those in my sad state of repair are susceptible. I’d pretty much given up, and was facing the long slide down. And then, on a day like any other, I was sitting at one of my favorite watering holes, drinking iced tea and talking to close friends and to the waitress/bartender, also a good friend, when a couple none of us knew approached and we all struck up a conversation. This wonderful discussion covered many topics, from food (she is an author and was writing an article on local restaurants) to politics to local history, and on and on.(Read more . . .)

Gustave Doré’s “The Hoarders & The Wasters.”

Gustave Doré’s “The Hoarders & The Wasters.”

Weekly Hubris

“The Hoarder With Six Hands,” By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

PENDLETON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2022—Some stories—true ones—take a good long while to tell, and even longer to write. In the case of my husband’s and my friend, a hoarder (just one descriptor for the man, among many, many sterling others), I didn’t know, for the longest time, how the story (his, ours, mine) would play out, let alone end, and I didn’t want to write about the ending if it weren’t a happy one. We would speak on the phone, Theodore and I, and I would ask how the surfaces in the new house were doing. Was he letting papers pile up again? Was he creating replica collections of never-to-be-read-again books, or containers, or unopened mail or, simply, grocery store bags? Was the new house in any way beginning to resemble the old house? In other words, how was Theodore’s story playing out? I met Theodore (which is what I always called him) in the summer of 2012. Dean and I were taking a nostalgic road trip through a state I used to call home, and I was writing a little series of essays about barbecue. I’d forgotten one small, crucial detail about Southern barbecue joints, though: most of the very best ones are only open a few precious days a week, as the entire cooking process is so arduous and artisanal. Dean and I had arrived in one town noted for its smoked pork only to find all of my favorite restaurants closed, and one of them out of the pig-cooking business entirely. Thank heaven, though, that while the place was no longer barbecuing ribs, it was open, and serving up other edibles, so we stayed and sat a while over our “meat and three”. . . and, in the process, made the acquaintance of Ted Balk, a vivid, engaging former engineer in late middle age. (Read more . . .)

Safe to roam (and fatten up) another day.

Dispatches from The Esso Club

“The Wedding Day Pig Whisperer,” By Theodore Balk

CENTRAL South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2022—It had been a while since an opportunity to spend quiet time sitting with a pig had presented itself. So, when Jeff asked, I quickly accepted, even though it meant missing my regular Saturday morning Yoga class. The occasion was the celebration of the second birthday of Jeff and Lesslie’s son, and my good buddy, JB. They were going all out, as is their wont, with a party including four generations of family as well as 50 or so close friends. When possible, in this part of the southeastern US, the central focus for a big party of this sort is the cooking of a “whole hog.” Jeff was doing a hundred-pound pig (45 kg), which takes around twelve hours of close, if not constant, attention, and he needed help. I got involved in the pig-sitting when Jeff realized that the day of JB’s party was also the day their newborn second son, Will, was to be christened and baptized. He may have thought his wife would understand his “having to stay with the pig,” but Lesslie was having none of that, and thus the call went out to me the day before the party. As I said, I jumped at the opportunity. I would really have minimal responsibility. I just needed to keep an eye on things, and make sure the gas burners stayed lit and the cooking temperature remained in the proper range for the several hours the family was at the church for and luncheon following Will’s ritual anointing. Everything went smoothly: the family came home, and I left and came back later to a wonderful celebration with a diverse crowd of friends varying in age from infancy to their upper 80s, which included four generations of JB’s and Will’s kinfolk. A fine time was had by all. The pig was devoured in its entirety, accompanied by a large quantity of beer, beans, mac-and-cheese and other fine comestibles. The numerous young among us ate and played to exhaustion, as did the older folks, with everyone finding the proper time to fade away, to sleep or go home. All of this put me in mind of the time, four years earlier, when I was asked to be the pit master (that’s a technical term for the chief cook and bottle washer at a pig cooking) for a major barbecue for the reception following Jeff and Lesslie’s wedding. (Read more . . .)

Just about its only attractive feature was the price.

Dispatches from The Esso Club

“The Cotton Bale & The 20s Chevy,” (As told to) Theodore Balk

CENTRAL South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—1 May 2022—The car was distinctive in many ways. It wasn’t new, that’s for sure. It was a mid-1920s-model Chevy that had been just about completely stripped down. The old four-cylinder engine was running on only two cylinders. The vacuum fuel feed system wasn’t working, so you had to manually add gas as you drove along (more about that later). There was hardly enough sheet metal left on the body to say it had ever had a color but, if you had to guess, you would probably go for black under the rust. Just about its only attractive feature was the price. I got it for four dollars from an old handyman/laborer who thought he had already gotten all the good out of it working in downtown Augusta. I had turned 16 that February, hadn’t had my driver’s license long, and this was just too good a deal to pass up. My best friend Hal borrowed his mother’s car and dropped me off near Grady Carpenter’s store on Central Avenue to close the deal. He followed me to make sure the Chevy and I made it the three miles out to the farm, which was near the Boy Scout camp on Rae’s Creek. I figured we could use the Chevy as an all-purpose vehicle around the place, and that’s what we did. (Ted’s Aside: Readers who are familiar with The Masters golf tournament held annually at the beautiful Augusta National Golf Club may have heard references to Rae’s Creek, which runs through the course. The farm in this story was located just a few miles from the site that was to become Augusta National, and bordered on famous Rae’s Creek.) Now, you need to understand the nature of our family’s new home. In the middle of the Depression, Dad bought 40 acres with an old farm house that he had a contractor fix up after we moved in. We started with an outhouse in the yard and a hand pump in the kitchen. The contractor installed indoor plumbing, but the house was still drafty and we had a single wood stove for heat. In the winter, there might be ice in the toilet bowl in the morning and the exposed copper pipes under the floor were prone to burst. Our family moved here from “The Hill” section of Augusta in 1936. The move wasn’t made entirely for economic reasons although, in those times, everyone was aware of the necessity for thrift, and we could grow most of our own food in the country. (Read more . . .)

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