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Saturday, February 8, 2014


cynthia and double selfie as retired cop

A couple weeks ago Cynthia and I spoke of making a run to West Jefferson to have lunch at the Havana Café and see Selma again. Selma had the coffee shop in Sparta before Becca. Selma's spirit fills the air of this small restaurant of extra good Cuban food the same as her spirit filled the air at the coffee shop in Sparta. The aroma in the air is so Cuban you can almost see it, floating vapors in the air of scent from a Cuban kitchen, it surrounds you before the door closes behind you. We wanted to go last Friday but the weather was too intensely cold. The oppressive cold would take some of the fun out of it. We were looking for a fun time, not survival. The weather looked good for this Friday, so away we went. It was an excellent sun shining day over familiar highway I'd not been on in several years, highway I drove once a week for about five years. The drive was a good review of the landscapes and houses all along the winding mountain road, Hwy 18 from Sparta to Laurel Springs, Hwy 88 to Jefferson, then to West Jefferson. Cynthia goes another way from the way I drive to West Jefferson. When we passed my turn off point I was lost from there on. Everything had changed along there so much since I last drove the highway I did not recognize anything but the McDonald's M. It was my only landmark telling me where we were. She was going in from that end. The drive from there to the part of town we were headed to was unrecognizable from the McDonald's onward. It has been more than twenty years since I've been on that road. It's been a lot of years since I've been to West Jefferson. It was like I had never seen any of it before. I recognized a few spots, just enough to mark location. It is a pretty town now. The Havana Café is on the back street that faces the old railroad track, the road to the library.
selma and cynthia
As soon as we stepped inside I heard an explosion of "MAMI!" Cynthia and Selma fell into each other's arms for a big nurturing hug. It was joyous for both of us to see Selma again. And to see Ralph, her husband, the chef. He is aware of the subtle flavors in Cuban cooking. I can tell because his cooking makes me aware of subtle flavors. Selma's decorating is a simple suggestion of Latin ambiance in a place with a familiar American feel, nothing pointing its finger at the Cuban but the aroma in the air and Selma's Latin style. Though nothing on the walls is "Cuban," the interior of the small restaurant  is packed full of tables and there is no feeling of being crowded anywhere in the place. Chairs of a beautiful contemporary design, black seat and back, chrome structure; light weight, easy to handle, sturdy and firm on the floor while moving easily. They give the place a feeling of style. It is Selma's decorator's eye. The chrome chair legs enhance the floor with a pattern of faux tile. It's the floor that gives the place a Latin ambiance to accompany aromas in the air. With the kitchen beside the area with the tables, it makes the place feel alive. The atmosphere in the place is lively talkative people feeling comfortable liking their context. I was feeling good being with Cynthia. Her light-hearted spirit balances my deadbeat spirit. Like I interpret myself having crow energy, I feel Cynthia is wren energy. You might see a wren through the window land on the deck railing. It will look this way and that, turning every which way looking around, looking deeply, not just glancing, attention shifting in a mind that goes too fast almost to live with. Cynthia's mind is instantaneous, so she's very quickly bored.
on the left the kitchen, on the right the dining area
Cynthia's world and my world intersect just a little bit, such that we see each other every once in awhile by apparent chance. I'd not seen Cynthia in so long and hadn't had a quality visit with her in so much longer that we spontaneously decided to make the run to the Havana Café to see Selma and have some good Cuban cooking. I may have bored Cynthia out of her mind, but I felt comfortable with Cynthia the whole time. She once apologized for her driving, but I told her I'd not had an anxious moment yet. She was keeping it in the road to my satisfaction. She felt to me like a driver with good experience who knew the roads, never went into a curve faster than it allowed, nor too slow. She's a good driver. The whole round trip I never felt anxious the first time. I enjoy conversation with Cynthia. I've missed Cynthia and today didn't seem like quite enough. We talked about driving to West Jefferson again before too long. Cynthia is petite and vulnerable like a wren, too. I feel protective with her, like Steven Seagal said to a woman he was with in a gunfight, "If you want to get out of this place alive, stay with me." So heroic a thing to say. The same quotation came to my mind the day I sprung Jr Maxwell from the Sparta nursing home. Cynthia is from Asheville, has traveled all over the country, worked here and there. She came to Sparta to be the director at the Teapot Museum that was in its time of quick wane when it became apparent no money was coming from anywhere. Mr Vanity from LA who had a fortune in the teapots wanted the working class citizens of the county to fundraise fourteen million dollars to build his museum for his teapots in a time of rural Depression in America.. Mountain people didn't drink tea anyway, except for iced tea Southern style with plenty of sugar, and not from no tea pot. It didn't work out.
Since the time I said no to the world of the false, I've turned my focus inward onto my world, the people in my world. Cynthia is someone in my world I don't see enough of. My new awareness makes me want to give more attention to the people of my world I want to be around rather than the frauds in the media. Cynthia is a refreshing spirit for me. Makes me wonder about past life connection. I feel like we know each other better than we do. I've known Cynthia from the time we first met. She's in her world and I'm in mine. We went to see Ralph Stanley not too many years ago. It was a good show. She was teaching a course in the community college on Southern culture. Made me glad she could have a Ralph Stanley experience with her appreciation of the culture. Again, as I remind myself every day, I want to focus my attention on appreciation of the world immediately around me, the scenes along the highway, the restaurant, the car, Cynthia, Selma, I was feeling full appreciation. It was appreciation day for me, like yesterday was and the day before. I have tremendous more fun when I'm appreciating the people I'm among. I wanted to be with Cynthia today because she's someone I appreciate, respect, like an awful lot and feel comfortable in her presence. We're like inter-racial. Her world is not my world and my world is not hers. The coffee shop is about the only place our worlds intersect. That's ok. She's a huffin-puffin go-getter who gets things done, good organizer. I'm a donkey laying under a shade tree wearing a sombrero with holes in it for my ears to stick out, listening to reggae, Burning Spear, waiting for Babylon to fall. On the drive over we discovered we both like rum. It was a good day, my celebration of having Cynthia in my world day.
winter foliage


  1. TJ - this blog makes my heart smile! Thank you for introducing us to your friend Cynthia- she sounds delightful. You made my mouth water with your description of Selma's restaurant and I look forward to trying it if I'm every in West Jefferson!

  2. " I'm a donkey laying under a shade tree wearing a sombrero with holes in it for my ears to stick out, listening to reggae, Burning Spear, waiting for Babylon to fall."...I love this description of yourself...I can understand you and Cynthia being such good is the friends you do not see for ever and when you do they are still your good time lost between you...

  3. I like that...your "double selfie"!