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Thursday, June 2, 2011


howard hodgkin, fisherman's cove

A drive to West Jefferson for lunch today at the Latin Friends Cafe. Have wanted to go there all through the last year. Rafael, Selma's husband, cooks Cuban food there. It's his place. A young woman from El Salvador was a waitress, and the other waitress a young woman whose parents moved to the mountains from Winston-Salem, her dad the "holistic chiropractor" in Sparta. I know him as one of the regulars at Selma's. I stopped at Selma's before going to meet Jim at Food Lion parking lot for the drive in one car to WJefferson and back. I wanted to drive. Haven't driven the road in quite awhile. There had been a period of well over 5 years that I drove that road every week. Jim had a span of time when he drove over there daily, if I remember correctly. For both of us, the highway itself was an enjoyment to see how different places have changed. He had not seen the concrete bridge over the New River where Hwy 16 dead-ends into 88. Not thinking, it had been so long, I made the turn to the right in Jefferson with 88 passing the old courthouse, to a stoplight where I had to wait to turn left. Just after that turn is a road that eases off to the right bypassing old town Jefferson that comes to a stop sign. Easy to make a left turn there.

We found the Latin Friends Cafe and parked. The camera was with me, but it never entered my mind to take a picture of at least the front of the place. Also, in the back of my mind remembering I was with someone as intolerant as a Baptist preacher---like the Groucho Marx song, "Whatever it is, I'm against it!" I'd get a lecture on ego for sure, and, again, would need to repeat that I do not care. I'd like you to see the two waitresses, charming girls, and the interior. The walls are 1950s knotty pine. A single painting hangs above the dessert bar. It had good feeling. Pear and apple and flowers in a vase still life painted by somebody's grandmother, aunt or mother. It was serve-yourself mini-cafeteria style. What you see is what you get. Good choices. Black beans. I love black beans. I ate them like it was cereal out of the bowl with a spoon. I figured they went on the rice, but I didn't care. I hadn't had any black beans in so long I saved them for last and ate them as dessert. In south of the border restaurants I always have to stress I want black beans, because their collective experience is that Anglos don't like black beans. They also know Anglos like cheese, which I don't. I like it, but in moderation and not smeared over everything and melted. Doesn't trip my trigger. I see cholesterol bomb.

Jim talked with the ElSalvadoran girl en espanol. She appeared to be enjoying talking Spanish with an Anglo, all the more when she learned he'd lived in Ecuador several years with peace corps and traveled in Honduras and Guatemala. I remember his return from that trip. Went to stay 3 months and was back after 1 month, more or less freaked out by the militarism of army vs rebels, lawlessness, the constant threat of getting blown away by a machine gun in the wrong place wrong time. The greatest grievance he felt was the our government created the civil wars in Central America to keep labor cheap for American factories, not to mention the United Fruit Company, the Halliburton of Central America in the time of the Reagan Junta. Look to who has the most to gain and all arrows point to United Fruit Company that pretty much rules Central America. Efforts for governments to unplug from American influence get death squads and collateral damage in abundance, Americans funding their adversaries to bring them down.

Jim understood what was happening back in her homeland from the Latin perspective. He talks with Latin people here from all over especially Central America. He and she both had a good time. He asked me once if I'd rather he talk English. I was enjoying what was going on between them. It wasn't flirting. It was simply two people, one 64 and the other 18 or so bypassing the generation gaps, the language gap, the nationality gap. He appreciated her culture and who she was, which isn't a regular thing in American small towns, certainly never to be expected. It must have been refreshing for her to be talking with an Anglo who didn't talk down to her or look through her. He enjoys the Latin people, has traveled in several countries in South America too, likes to speak the language.

From there we went to the Arts Council gallery to see whatever was showing there. It was a guy who paints landscapes with a dark-haired Barbie doll wearing a long white semi-sheer dress walking. Sometimes she's nude holding a banjo so the pubic hair looks like the banjo's shadow. First glance around the room was impressive. Upon closer examination they lost their zip. The trees, the upper half of almost all the pictures were done in the manner of the tv painters who paint a whole landscape in 30 minutes--you can too! No more wasting time painting. If you dislike painting that much, why paint at all? The lower part of the pictures, the ground level was painted with careful exactness. The woman never had any life to her or movement, not even breathing. In one where the feet were prominent, they were Barbie feet with red toenails. Most often she was flat. She had round features, but they had no depth, flat like one plane, like a cartoon. Once I said to my contrarian friend, "They're a bit sentimental for me." He said, "I don't mind sentiment."

The drive back from there was a riot. I set to telling him about a friend of mine who has been learning and living the natural law that everything comes back. When somebody does him wrong, he'll rage awhile and finally settle down and say, 'It'll come back to bite him in the ass," and be done with it. Case closed. No revenge necessary. The act created its own revenge that will come from anywhere. Jim made certain I understood the initial rage is ego. Of course it's ego. This is an American man trying to make his way in the working class, not a monk sitting cross-legged in a Buddhist temple in Thailand. It's not about ego, anyway. It's about dealing with shit that's given you to deal with. Jim started about what's good and bad, good and bad, good and bad. I said something to the effect that good and bad are determined according to conditions. What's good in one circumstance might be bad in another circumstance, according to intent and a host of other variables. Naw, it's either good or bad, black or white. There's nothing but gray between black and white. I said all the colors of the rainbow are between black and white. B&w are only imaginary poles.

That didn't set with him worth a damn. He wasn't going to accept that morality is relative. From there I'm told we'll never agree. I'm thinking: So what? Who needs to agree? I said, "There's all kinds of ways of seeing everything." It would be like being expected to agree with old man Tom Pruitt and his preacher brother Millard that the earth was flat. They didn't care that I didn't agree with them. Old time mountain people I've known understood that everybody has their own way of seeing. The college educated middle class doesn't see it that way. We're all to conform to one right way of seeing everything, the way we're supposed to, and everybody knows what that is. There's only one right answer to every test question. Give the wrong answer and you are Wrong. Fail. It's been my experience that everyday life is not about true & false, multiple choice, memorizing dates and names of generals. He can live in a black and white world like a Republican scientist (isn't that an oxymoron?) all he wants. I'll never convert.



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