So I returned from my cross-country adventure about ten days ago. I've intended to write, but my head is a little spinny. So many experiences, both large and small, and it's been hard to focus on one and be coherent. I've been very emotional, too. Yesterday, at Taza de Cafe (the best coffeehouse in NW Denver, btw), I was showing Burke some photos from Arlington National Cemetery. I had never been, and I learned about a week before we landed in the D.C. area that Tenzin Denghkim (whose cross seemed destined for my hands at Camp Casey on the Quad, see posts from March '06) is buried there. I was telling Burke about seeing a funeral procession -- horse-drawn carriage, military band, 21-gun salute, the mother walking behind her son's flag-draped casket in a broad black hat and tea-length gown. I broke down. Sobbing. Why is it that when I see such a moment, my heart breaks into a shard of sorrow for the family, another for the person whose last moment was filled with violence, and thousands of painful splintering jagged shards reminding me that my government is creating and perpetuating hate "in my name." But others see the same scene and say, simply, with head bowed but without a tear or a pang of responsibility, "Freedom isn't free."
The family that hosted us in Leesburg, Virginia, were absolutely wonderful. They had the cutest dog I've ever met (and that's saying alot) -- a Cocker Spaniel/Golden Retriever/Beagle mix that seemed to have springs for legs. [hopefully a photo will be forthcoming] He was all that golden color, with short hair around his back and sides but whispy hair, like fringe, around his stomach and between his toes.
I had a nice kitchen-table-visit with Patti and her 8-year-old son. Patti told me a story of them watching a TV program about the Sistene Chapel, in which she asked her son, "What do you think would be different if Michaelangelo had painted Jesus as a dark-skinned Middle Eastern man?" His only answer was a shrug. But the next day, when she picked him up from school, he said that he'd been thinking about it, and had decided that if Jesus wasn't shown as a white man "there wouldn't be a Klu Klux Klan." Out of the mouths of babes.
I've been sharing this story a lot since I came home. It speaks to me on several levels. We must plant the seeds of critical thinking in others, so that they may reflect upon history/herstory and not blindly accept the winner's accounting. We must recognize that our world becomes us -- what choices can we make that invite others to a dialogue, rather than divide us and shut down dialogue. And neither of those thing require anything more of us than talking with our friends and family. The seeds of loving kindness will sow themselves, if only we dare to blow them into life.
I ate one of the most spectacular dinners ever at the Beruit Restaraunt in Toledo, Ohio. I couldn't get enough of their cold bean salad, flavored with sage, or the roasted artichoke hearts. I put this food upon my (narrow) pedestal -- with Dali in Somerville, Mass, and Cafe Brazil in Denver -- as the best meals in my life. And as a serious foodie, this is my nudge to you to divert your own road trip to Toledo. They have an amazing art museum (free admission), and a minor league baseball team with a great logo (the Mudhens).
We were there at the Beruit with Tarek, a Lebanese American and a Toledo native, who told us about his trip to Beruit last year with delight. I woke up yesterday to the news that Israel had declared war on Lebanon and had already begun the destruction of Beruit's infrastructure. My first thought was of that wonderful food, and of the joy in Tarek's eyes when he described going "home" for the first time. And I want it to become law that, before a politican can send off the missiles or send in the troops, he be required to eat the food native to that place. And if he smiles in gastronomic delight during the meal, he is REQUIRED to stand the fuck down. Food is a culture's way of expressing itself. There is no culture without people, so killing the people is like rotting their uneaten food. I'm sorry, but The Dude cannot abide. Food is the greatest beauty -- it is universal (everyone eats) yet it has such diversity (compare land-locked Russian to coastal Brazilian). I know that not everyone is into food as I am, but I really don't understand. I mean, I get that cooking is a lot of work, and not everybody wants to COOK the food. But doesn't everyone want to EAT good food? And so, doesn't a person need to respect other cultures, if only so that one can get a chance to TASTE its food?
The only culture I can think of that has pretty crappy food -- food that is so bad, it would be no loss to the world if their culture was no more -- is ...
Who Would Julia Child Bomb?
(and no, it wouldn't be American fast food -- Saint Julia *loved* In-n-Out Burger)
Paul Proudehome for President?