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Saturday, November 27, 2010


backwoods bean coffee shop

Went into Selma's coffee shop, Backwoods Bean, on Main Street, also known as Hwy 21---there are no signs on Hwy 21 calling it Main St---it's just understood, like it's understood in Sparta that it's safer to jaywalk than to cross at the intersection the lawyers call Suicide Corner, because the intersection is 4x more dangerous than jaywalking. The middle lane assists jaywalking in that the walker can wait for the second lane to clear instead of having to make the whole stretch in one go. One can jaywalk casually in Sparta, but walking across at the intersection is an anxious time all the way, looking at every possible direction a car can come at you, from behind and in front at the same time, right turns and left turns. At the intersection, it's best to run.

Heading into Selma's coffee shop, I saw Wendell Rowell and his wife Sue, who are here from South Carolina and have a weekend / holiday piece of land in Pine Swamp that was once a part of Sherman Scott's farm. Sherman's parents lived on the next farm up Waterfall Road and sold it back in, I suspect, the early 60s and moved to Pine Swamp. Sherman died possibly 25 years ago, and the farm was cut up into lots. The parade I'd forgotten about had just ended. They were walking back to their car after stopping in the art gallery store between the Jubilee and the library's used bookstore. They passed in front of me as I stepped onto the sidewalk from the parked car. I said, Wendell. He stopped on a dime and turned around. It really was him. I hadn't seen him in a year and several months and he had a fur-lined hat on for the cold and a big coat. I figured if I spoke his name and he turned, it would be him. If it wasn't him, he'd keep on walking and think I was talking to someone else.

It was good to see him, and I'd not yet met Sue. Only met Wendell once, maybe twice. He has a blog, Bear Bottom, which is what they call the mountain place. The website for it is: . He started it with intent to keep an irregular journal of times in the mountains, pictures of the baby, and pictures as the baby grows, telling the story of family good times in the mountains. Part of the point is to give his grandson something tangible along the lines of a journal that tells him about his grandparents as well as his own growing up. Too few of us know our grandparents as humans instead of demi-gods we look up so highly to they lose their humanity.

Remembering when one of my grandmothers was in her 80s telling me about a rather major event in her life in her 20s I'd never heard of and certainly never imagined. It turned out she quit loving grandpa about 20 years before I was born. While she was visiting with me, talking about it, thinking about it, she concluded, after thinking it over and talking about it at length, "I think I really do love him." It was spoken from within, like thinking out loud. I've been happy for that moment with grandmother ever since. It was one of our best of many moments. It rounded her out like a Shakespearean character whose nature and ways you feel you know, instead of a flat, cardboard character like they're putting up in stores to make you think you're seeing somebody, then you see it's a photographic image on cardboard, and you can't miss what it's advertising. Effective, advanced advertising. Puts you through a subliminal mental maze, albeit very simple, where the product becomes the center of attention in a way you can't miss it.

I believe I got in touch with Wendell, curious to find out where these people live and who they are. We corresponded for several months by email, on and off. One day while I was staying at Jr's and they were up here the weekend, Wendell took a few minutes and came over. We sat on the porch at Jr's watching the cars and trucks go by on Hwy 18 in Whitehead, and the crows. I felt like either one of us could have talked the whole time nonstop, though we divided it rather evenly, giving each other a chance to get something said too, maybe an hour. Jr's porch was a great place to visit, a very comfortable place. I've spent many an hour sitting out there with Jr hearing him tell me his life.

If I remember correctly, and I probably don't, I think I found his blog one day surfing for Alleghany and/or Sparta blogs. Bear Bottom came up. Reading in it I got the impression the place was somewhere nearby, going by his descriptions of driving from there to someplace, or the landscape in a picture. I became curious where this place was; plus, I liked what he was saying, sounded like someone level headed. I tend toward level headed people. They're easy to keep peace with. They tend to like peace, like I do. When somebody takes out their emotional twists on me, I tend to start playing with the car keys in my pocket.

Or, if I misremembered, another possibility is that he read my blog first and wrote me about something I'd said. That feels a bit more like the way it happened. From there, I checked out his blog to see who this person was. One or the other. Let's say it happened both ways at once. As in life. I was happy to meet Sue today. Now it's like I know them, instead of just him, curious all the while to meet her. These are people I feel comfortable and happy with. They're not playing mind games, such as one upmanship, and he doesn't scratch around like a rooster in the company of another rooster looking for a chance to fight, translated play masculinity games, I'm-a-bigger-man-than-you, or among the better educated, I-know-more-than-you-do. None of that. I feel so at peace when I meet people who aren't up to some kind of game, positioning themselves into the superior role. That's when the keys go to rattling and yelling to me in their language only I understand: Let's get outta here now!

We were standing in front of Selma's window talking. After awhile, Sue noted the perfect mirror image of the courthouse on the glass. We looked at it a moment in awe, actually, of the beautiful image it made of the courthouse. In the mirror image the wires that run across the front of it were nearly invisible, enhancing the beauty of the courthouse. Wendell and Sue needed to get going before they froze into ice statues, being from a warmer clime, and this the coldest day so far and windy. I went to the car and picked up the camera. Hence, the image above. Went into Selma's and had some coffee from Kenya with more good company and good conversation.


1 comment:

  1. TJ, It was great seeing you Saturday. Susan was genuinely delighted to meet you having read your blog for so long and hearing my discourse about TJ. If not for your blog I fear she may think I had just imagined you. Peaceful is good and a nice way to be thought of. I certainly try to be peaceful and I do enjoy the quiet of it. We'll connect via email soon and we hope we get to see you in a few weeks. Ready for some more good conversation.