The end of my shift yesterday marked the first time in eleven days (and thirteen shifts) that I had a day off to look forward to. In fact, if I count the hours from the time I got off work until I have to go back tomorrow afternoon, I had forty-eight of them to do with as I pleased. Treasure, I tell you. Pure gold.
The landscape of my leisure has led me from one gathering to another; I have traversed my city finding friends. (Ginger’s out of town.) Last night, I sat on the porch of Parker and Otis listening to bluegrass music and sharing wine and cheese (thanks, Cherry) as I watched this little girl who was wearing a bow as big as her face dance with total abandon. She was awesome. Then there was the little guy standing next to his mom at the cash register when I went in to get more food who had azure blue eyes as big as quarters and wanted me to see the candy-filled car he had found while his mom was shopping. When she saw the car she spoke to him in German and I thought, “Man, this kid is three and already speaks more languages than I do.”
I got home about eight-thirty to feed pups and spend some time with them, but I had a promise to keep. One of the servers I work with at the restaurant also tends bar at The Green Room, a pool hall across the parking lot from our eating establishment and as we have left work for the last several days he has said, “Come by and let me buy you a beer.” So, about ten o’clock I walked the block to the bar and gladly accepted a Shiner Bock. Another person from the restaurant came in looking for someone to shoot pool and, since I had the next day off, I was happy to oblige.
This is no ordinary pool hall. It is a Durham institution, going back to Prohibition, and has this sign posted on the front door:
— drinks on tables
— beverages in or out
— facist regimes
— poor sportsmanship
And they welcome pets. There were three large dogs, unleashed and inquisitive, working the room the whole time I was there. The setting was completely different from the folks on the porch and yet, when I sat back and watched the groups of people playing pool and shuffleboard, or just sitting at the bar, the dynamic was the same: they had come to be together.
I got up this morning and took Ella, our youngest Schnauzer and lover of ALL people, to the Durham Farmers’ Market. She loves seeing all the people and dogs that gather to buy and sell everything from local produce to baked goods to chocolate. I let her make her rounds and then asked her to wait in the car while I bought some food. I’ve gotten to know a few people there. Some are suppliers for our restaurant. One woman sold me most of the heirloom tomato plants in my garden. Another makes awesome cheese. One of the guys I work with at the catering kitchen helps out one of the artisan bakers and made the lamb chorizo in the homemade empanadas (don’t think I didn’t bring that home for lunch). I bought some fresh ground pork and kielbasa from a young girl (working with her mom) who had all the confidence of a young Broadway star and appeared to love all the people as much as Ella.
I brought Ella home and wandered back downtown for the Bimbe Cultural Arts Festival, one of Durham’s traditions I have not yet participated in. Again, people were gathered together, this time around African dance and drumming and, of course food, which ran more along the festival and carnival menu than ethnic. I saw the Only Burger truck and my decision was made. Brian, the owner, is someone I had met previously, so he and I had a nice chat as his crew made my burger. I went back over to the stage area and shared a table with five elderly women who were happy to let me sit down, mostly because they wanted to know where I got my burger.
My morning shopping set me to imagining dinner (and this new recipe) once I got back home from the festival, which set me to whom I might gather around my dinner table. After all, this blog is called “Don’t Eat Alone.” I called Lori and Terry and they joined me for dinner. And a good time was had by all.
Tomorrow, in the hours I have left before I go back to work, I’ll head to church where, once more, I will be with a group of intentional gatherers, people I mean to be with. My peeps, as the kids say. (Those crazy kids.) Thank God.
In our work-a-day world, it’s far too easy to believe that the rhythm of life is akin to the opening verse of Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”:
I’m going to rent myself a house
in the shade of the freeway
I’m going to pack my lunch in the morning
and go to work each day
and when the evening rolls around
I’ll go back home and lay my body down
and when the morning light comes streaming in
I’ll get up and to it again
Amen, translated, means, “So be it.” Well, no. (Which is actually Browne’s point, as well, I might add.) The melodies that rolled out of the mandolins on the porch at P & O and the beat of the drums in downtown Durham sing a different song, as does the jukebox at The Green Room and the couple playing and singing on the grass at the farmers’ market and the hymns we will sing in the morning, and it is a gathering song. If we listen to our hearts and the rhythm of all creation (rocks crying out, trees applauding) the song we know best is one rich in harmonies, one that calls us together in whatever groups we can gather, for whatever reason we can imagine.
Now – amen. So be it.
P. S. — An added bonus. Here’s Jackson Browne talking about the song and singing it.