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Sunday, October 9, 2011

COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS

     trickle trickle we're in a pickle



Over the last year or so, Selma's coffee shop, Backwoods Bean, has been my pit stop when I go to town. I have to do everything that needs doing before going to Selma's, because an hour or so in there visiting with friends puts me in a spirit such that I don't want to go from there to walk through a grocery store for half an hour. I always go home in a good spirit when Selma's is my last stop. It's not just the coffee. Coffee can be got at Burger King. I know for a certainty if it weren't for the company in Selma's shop, I wouldn't be going in there. I have the coffee I like at home. It's the people that go in there that gives the place its spirit. Selma's spirit attracted all of us, and when we who were initially attracted to Selma found each other, we are now friends with each other. It's like an oasis for us. I like to go in at any time of day and see who's there. Someone I know is always in there.



Joe Allen Delp might go to Selma's every morning. Every morning I go in, he's there. He's one to listen more than to talk. And when he talks, he entertains everybody. He came up in the county in the time of redneck alcoholics. The generation before the first drug generation. Joe Allen came up in the time of V-8 hotrods, night racing, the Pool Room, beer drinkers and hell raisers. When he tells a memory from his hard drinking days, to me it's just another bunch of mountain boys, but to everybody else it's from the same as outer space. They can't believe anybody did like that. For Joe Allen, it was just what a man did. Joe Allen has his place at the bar where he stands that is his own. From there, he can see and hear everybody and not be in anybody's way. Except when somebody comes in from outside and wants to buy a bottle of wine or a cup of coffee to go. He steps aside and lets the transaction take place and he's back in his place. I've been told he visits people in the nursing home.



Joe Bunting was talking yesterday of getting a job teaching someplace else and finding somebody to rent his house. That was a shock. Joe is one of my favorite people in there to talk with. He's from West Virginia and teaches at the local community college extension branch from Wilkes. I think he's teaching history there, or something to do with passing the high school equivalency exam. I believe he'd be a good history teacher. A very good one. He reads serious books, history largely. He pays attention to what's going on around him. Joe will be a sore loss at Selma's. Everyone will miss him. Genuinely miss him, simply for who he is. I don't know that it could be said he's a lively conversationalist. It almost seems like that, but he's more a mindful conversationalist. He thinks as he speaks, or before he speaks. I think of Hazel Dickens singing West Virginia My Home. Beautiful song and she sings it right. You can hear her sing it on YouTube. It's so hillbilly, it makes Flatt & Scruggs' theme of Beverly Hillbillies sound city.



Cynthia, another WCC Alleghany extension branch teacher, is teaching Southern History and Appalachian History, as well as Western Civ. She's a small, wren-like woman, whose hair happens to be wren color, and she seems like she couldn't hold a class's attention more than a minute. That's just the seeming. The woman knows what she's doing. I sat in on one of her Appalachian classes and was impressed by the Cynthia I already knew, but didn't know could be so inspiring in an actually intellectual way. She's the kind of teacher you sign up for at a university hoping the class isn't full by the time you register. She can think up a test question too. She makes the kind of test question that requires some thought to answer. Cynthia sometimes works the coffee bar to give Selma a break or some time off. She, too, is part of the place, part of the spirit of the place. 



Dudley is indeed a lively conversationalist. He gets totally engaged, that includes physically, hands going, moving around, getting lost in a digression, all of it simply Dudley's form of speech. He's a professional radio voice, who made his living in broadcasting. When WCOK here was crippling along, he made commercials for the station. He taught me what I needed to know back when I started the radio show. He taught me a lot more than I needed to know, but it informed what I needed to know, gave it context. What I wanted to do with the radio show was live-on-air and not planning ahead the songs to be played. I found that what I thought I'd like to start the show with at home will often be different from what I'd choose at the station. At the station, I was in touch with my listeners. I liked to select the next song while a song was playing. Dudley helped me get comfortable talking into microphones and watching the clock in relation to songs played. Selma's is always lively when Dudley is in there. He's been away for a few weeks and people were asking, "Where's Dudley?" Now it's, "Dudley's back."



I don't think it's stretching imagination to say we're all open minded. When somebody comes in who is not open minded and some of us are talking as we do, they call us liberals. Eeek! A Liberal! All liberal means is somewhat open minded. I'd rather be a liberal than a blockhead. By blockhead I mean a block of wood carved to look like a head with a face. I'm so damn tired of hearing the republican propaganda about liberals! A liberal is also someone who likes democracy. Of course, now democracy is Left wing to the extreme of nihilism and has little more meaning than the word Peace on a Christmas card. These are the sorts of things we talk about when we talk politics. I doubt if half the people in there regularly would identify themselves politically a liberal, but about all would identify themselves open minded. By open minded, I don't mean open so everything that's in it falls out, the Reaganista definition of an open mind. I mean people who allow that there is something to equality among us human beings.



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