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Thursday, March 7, 2013

I NEVER DREAMED I WOULD

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Had to go to town today to get a prescription filled. Of course, it had to be faxed about and no return fax had yet come after an hour. I hear that so frequently it's hard to keep a straight face when told. Just another weird aspect of living in this world. We learn when we're children not to get mad or worked up over such. It's like shooting the ocean. I just work here. Management works for the corporate boss. Corporation headquarters are in Milwaukee. You're welcome to call. Like all such inconveniences in our everyday lives, we pass them off as nothing. Just another learning experience: don't expect, ever. Now I have to drive to town tomorrow, after calling first to see if the fax came back. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. You can't do this without doing this other thing first, but before you do that, there is this over here that you have to sign and send off and wait for the return at the whim of people that don't care. We're living Kafka at the same time we're living Orwell. We're playing The Trial and The Castle in Animal Farm. All pigs are created equal. The first 42 years of my life, 1984 was in the future. Now it's 28 years in the past. It's curious to see a date so distant in the past that was unimaginably far away in the future when I was 7. I remember in the 6th grade finding it unimaginable I'd live to see the year 2000. That year too has passed through the present in the hourglass between the future and the past.

Waiting for the prescription, between turning in the canisters and picking up the new ones, I went to the coffee shop to see who was there and to swill down some warm brew. Looking forward to one of Selma's scones was my motivation to make the trip to town less utilitarian. The Cubans coming to this county are offering us some wonderful food in nice restaurants that are affordable. A lot of people are snooty toward the Cubans coming to the county, but I'm reminded of that quotation I see on facebook sometimes about disliking something you don't know anything about being a good example of ignorance. That's not near the exact words; it's memory of my interpretation of its meaning. I can't turn my back on good people just because their family heritage is a Spanish speaking country. Lord have mercy. My heritage is exiled English Quaker, a man of constant sorrow, and hillbillies from there on. A couple of generations in the city didn't eliminate any of the hillbilly, and that's a good thing. When I discovered mountain culture, I discovered the home of my soul. So somebody else is a kid growing up, suddenly you have to leave with mommy and go to America where they talk another language and you're a stranger, don't know any English, you're supposed to be in school and you don't know what any of it is about. You do the best you can, the momentum makes you conscientious, you do well and people accuse you of living on drug money when what you're doing is getting out of south Florida for a better place to live.

I never dreamed I would become somebody who frequents a coffee shop. I'm reminded of my grandfather in Kansas City going to Tony's bar, showing off his four year old grandson sitting on a stool at the bar next to grandpa. Tony's was grandpa's hangout. I have that experience now in a coffee shop. I go in, sit down, whoever is there is whoever is there. I never imagine who might be there. I like to go in and see who's there. It's always friendly company. I've seen a few that were not, but only in subtle ways they didn't think showed. A cluster of four, Joe, Tim, Bob and Guy were actively engaged in conversation. I gave them the nod of recognition, sat down and told Selma I need a scone. I never dreamed I would one day walk into a coffee shop and need a scone. The deal is, I never had such high hopes for myself. It had never occurred to me before Selma's coffee shop that I could enjoy having my fill of Kenyan coffee and a freshly in-house made scone with people I enjoy talking with. I did like a kid skipping rope with a kid at each end twirling two ropes at once, listening to what they were talking about, subjects we often talk about in new forms, feeling the rhythm of the 4-way active conversation, eventually fell into the rhythm and jumped in with whatever I felt worth saying. Every one of these guys I enjoy listening to and talking with, individually and in group. They're good people and I don't mean pious good. Selma is a good one to jump in and join the conversation. It's lively. I never dreamed I would see a scene such as this could take place in Sparta. It's like something out of a foreign movie. And sometimes I need subtitles.

I never get to spend enough time talking with Joe until today. I like hearing what he has to say on whatever the subject of the moment may be. We tend to survey what we gather from our various news sources and attempt to find a balanced way of seeing whatever it is. I suspect that's the thread that runs through all of us, looking for a balanced point of view. When Bob brought up republicans in Congress, like what's behind what they're doing, I said racism and he said no. We didn't argue. I'm saying when we have black this and that on television and gay this and that on television, all of it sympathetic, it doesn't mean the people not watching those particular shows, the majority, are over racism. Half our white population is racist. It wasn't long ago it was all racist. This is, after all, the South. Racism is not specific to the South. In the western states they hate the Native Americans, their version of the N word. It's only about having an other to hate. It's about egoism, me first, everybody else last. Unfortunately, that's what American individualism has come to in the post-1980 age of Narcissus. I don't think this means it has changed. It's always been like this. Denial is not as easy as it used to be. Television keeps us thinking everybody is prosperous and happy with an explosion on every corner and law enforcement keeping us safe from fill-in-the-blank. This was not what we talked about in the coffee shop today. It's my own digression. Though this is the sort of thing we talk about.

We all wound down at the same time, it seemed like, and all of us went out the door at the same time. It was at least an hour in good company. It is refreshing to be with people who are paying attention to the context of their lives, attempting to understand that which cannot be understood. It doesn't matter if it's about the Marx Brothers or Tibetan Shamanism, I enjoy good conversation between people who can listen as well as talk. This bunch today was a good balance of listeners and talkers. Everyone was heard and everyone felt free to speak. Bob had to go off on a cell phone journey to a corner to talk, the only cell phone interruption. And we didn't even talk about him while he was gone. By this time in my life I have found a good balance of people I know. About half my associations are with mountain people and about half with people here, like me, from other places. I like that I am comfortable flowing freely from one culture to the other. It is two different cultures. The early at least 20 years, maybe 25, I felt like I was on a bridge between the culture I came from and the culture I'm in here in the mountains. I remember a time ten or more years ago when I felt like I'd set foot on land on the mountain side of the bridge. Since then I'm of the culture in my heart as much as anyone born here. Now, it's not a pull this way and that, wavering between the two cultures. Now that I'm in one and committed to it, I find associations with people from off the mountain easier than ever.


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