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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A DAY IN SPARTA

anthony gormley, field, 1991
(I've seen this--they all have faces and they're looking at you)



This was a good day to feel the love for the people of Alleghany County. It started in the coffee shop where this great big feller said, "I'm glad I don't fly." I saw in my mind's eye him flying over like a buzzard and shitting, hoping he was not over me when he did it. I said, "So am I." He didn't know what I meant, and doesn't think enough of me to care what I meant. Fact is, I said it because I knew he didn't care what I meant. He went on talking like I hadn't said anything, like I knew he would. He brings to mind a cousin I grew up with, big man, drives a dump truck, smokes a cigar and can't help but sound like everything he says is bragging. It's a form of ego. But I don't care about that as anything but an identifying set of characteristics. We all operate from ego, some of us do it with a little more finesse than others and some of us are all-out bragging all the time. I've even come to the place where I see language as infinitely complex possibilities for saying, "I want." I've come to believe that's all we ever say when we speak. The Australian Aborigines, before they were slaughtered and subdued, forced into a mold of white-man culture with no place in the culture, said the Creator gave us our voices for singing praises, not for talking. Isn't it so,when all we essentially say is I want. Seems like the best thing would be to say I want one time and then be silent for the rest of one's life. No, we have to say it over and over. "Look at that yellow Camaro with the black stripes on the hood and top!"

Met some people from California, here visiting Mitzi Biggins, an interesting couple from rural northern California, which they said is not so very different from here socially, just uniquely its own culture, like here is its own culture. I was sorry I had to leave once we set to talking. I had the BROC meeting at noon. This happens every time I go into the coffee shop in the morning before lunch with my BROC friends. I set twenty minutes to twelve as the time to leave, quarter til if I'm enjoying conversation. I never leave at twenty minutes til. I twist and squirm inside for five minutes wishing I could stay longer, then have to head out the door. It didn't come to me until later, but when Elgin Hatch, the PhD from California who studied white people, came to my house to interview me in his study of Sparta, he told me before he opened the car door I belong in northern California. Northern California is loaded with people just like me. He affirmed it even more adamantly when he entered the house. Here in the coffee shop was one of my neighbors in spirit, first one I'd ever met.

Then to the Kanpai restaurant, the new Japanese restaurant in town that is slowly catching on. It was strange getting a fortune cookie with a Chinese message in it. China and Japan are not allies. Who cares about that in pop culture? The young Japanese (or Chinese?) waiter came here from New York. He's been here about a year and doesn't get Sparta people at all. He's about like I'd be working at an American restaurant in Tokyo. Though I would want to explore and learn the culture. He's not curious about Sparta people in any way. I said to him, "I see so many Japanese movies that when I come in here I feel like I'm in a Japanese movie." He gave me the ah-so look that says I don't understand what you said, but want you to think I do. He said, "Thank you." In Sparta. We have a Chinese restaurant with Chinese people here from New York. We have four Mexican restaurants with Mexicans from Mexico running them. The one the Anglos go to is American Mexican slathered with cheese and brown bean mush. The other three are for the Mexican community, where you find the actual Mexican food, and where only a few Anglos go, the ones unafraid of being seen with the wrong class of people. Since the Sparta Restaurant went out of business more than 20 years ago, there has not been an American restaurant in Sparta that could make it. Northside and Southside diners have been gone several years. The Anglos are in a Depression and the Mexicans are working steady.

We had our BROC meeting waiting for the meal. It was a lively meeting, as usual, with Agnes Joines the head knocker. Agnes is so full of the life spirit she holds everyone's attention while she's talking. She'll interrupt two of the men she sees talking while she's presiding and tell them to pay attention. It's like a friendly family, a family where nobody quarrels. In that way, I'd say Agnes and Ernest more than likely made a happy family when they had kids in the house. When Agnes gets in your face quarreling, she's done when it's over. She's not in a huff refusing to speak for a day or two. It's never like that. She told me she got in Bob Bamberg's face earlier at the Chamber of Commerce. I know what it's like, she's done it to me. I saw Bob later in the library. I said, "I hear you had an Agnes experience." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Agnes Joines in your face." He broke out laughing, "Oh, Agnes!" It was one of two great honors of my life that I can think of when invited to join up with BROC, Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission. I sit at the big table of several smaller tables placed end-to-end with friends now of several years, people I respect as high as I can respect anybody. Every one of them is the kind of people I'm glad to have in my life. It warms my heart to be among them.

From the Kanpai I drove to the library to pick up the new painting of Jr I'd put in the library for a month. I wanted people who knew Jr to have a chance to see it. It's part of my ongoing campaign to keep his name alive in the memories of people who knew him. I told him some time before his mind went away that he will not be forgotten in his county. I spoke with Doug at the desk for awhile, waiting for the suicide bereavement meeting to be over. I went in after seeing Bob Bamberg come out, and saw Julia Simmons, Mrs Santa Claus, an English woman here from King, NC. She's light-hearted and lively, involved in this and that, very involved. Her husband plays Santa Claus in stores and around. She was doing something about how to deal with losing a loved one to suicide. I'm sure it would have been interesting, but I don't fall into that category. I've known people who have done it, but not close enough to give me trauma. I like Julia and we hugged. Norma Richardson was there. I gave her a hug for all she'd been through. What she has been through would take a big, long book to tell. I only know a teaspoon of the ocean of her life, but what little I know gives me a great big respect for the whole human being she is. Norma is one of the people in my world I hold way high up, and not unrealistically. Saw Kate Irwin on the way out, another woman I respect way up high, stopped and visited with her awhile. When I see Kate I feel tremendous respect.

On the way home I stopped next door to show Allan the painting of Jr. Wednesday is his day off. We visited a few minutes, talked about one thing and another. I came home and took a nap. Full day in just a few hours. Good feeling day all the way along. Sartre said hell is other people. I say heaven can be other people too.

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