Saturday, March 11, 2017

Slovenia, Sioux, Stef and Spring Rolls

Another deeply satisfying workshop with 40 Philadelphians (and some from New Jersey) giving up yet another Saturday to serve their student yet better. A day of deep thinking, deep feeling and deep listening and all rose—or should I say descended—to the call. One of the highlights for me was exploring the Slovenian song Marko Skace in six different modes. (I skipped the Locrian mode because it was too close to home—that’s what we’re living now, a weird scale with an unstable drone. Note to self: Future blog!) At the end, I commented on how Marko passed freely between the borders of Dorian and Phrygian and no one asked for his papers and everyone was refreshed by it.  

Over by 1:45, I had a lot more of the day to myself and thought about wandering down the strip mall in search of a movie theater. Had the good sense to ask first and the hotel clerk (bless her heart!) advised me to drive. Walking to my car in the 28 degree weather minus another 10 or 20 with wind chill, I was grateful for her advice. Found the mega-plex and randomly chose a movie with a good time and the credentials of Ben Kingsley in it. The Ottaman Lieutenant. Stunning scenery in western Turkey, attractive male and female leads, but an entirely forgettable movie. And then came the Herculean task of finding a restaurant.

Ruby Tuesdays, the most upscale of the lot, was entirely packed and that left McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts and Wendy’s and other fast-food affairs. So down I drove the four miles back to the hotel vainly searching for a one-of-a-kind restaurant with a dash of local character and once more, as has happened so often these past 25 years, I felt the chagrin of what we have become. A country that allows convenience to over-ride character, bright lights to overpower nuance, speed to overtake savoring and ugliness to reign over beauty. And somehow all of that is connected to what happened in November. Of course, this is not a critique of the Philadelphia suburbs, it is part of the nationwide epidemic of malls and franchises found everywhere that have lowered the aesthetic standard and the population has acclimated without noticing. Which makes me even more determined to keep the bar high in my workshops with material worthy of rising to the sublime view at the top and/or descending deeply down to its heart.

But lo and behold, I saw a Vietnamese-Thai restaurant on the other side of the street and did a quick U-turn. Oh, joy of all joys! Thai Tom Kha Gai soup and Vietnamese bun with a Thai iced tea to top it off. Heaven for this traveler! D├ęcor not amazing, but the food was good and the folks who sat next to me in the booth commented to me how interesting it was that I was writing in a journal. With a pen! On paper!

From that opening, I found out that the fellow also wrote and had a blog about Native American issues, being of Sioux Heritage himself. How could we not talk about the pipeline and you-know-who and yet another broken treaty? And so the meal passed yet more pleasurably as strangers had live conversation about something of importance. Along with plenty of humor. That’s the way traveling used to feel before everyone buried themselves in the text messages to people they already know. A simple human exchange, strangers passing in the night. I liked it.

And so the Slovenian song and the Sioux and Spring Rolls. What would this country be without immigrants? One unbroken strip mall of Wendy’s and Dunkin Donuts without relief?

And now it’s me alone in the hotel room with the carrot of a Warrior’s game on TV, watching Stef and his many non-European teammates move the game up to the next level. People, can we just deport all the good old boys and have them rot in their own republic of Republican blandness, a place no tourist would ever want to visit? They can pat themselves on the back and laugh their ugly guffaws and flaunt their riches to each other and leave the rest of us the hell alone.

Meanwhile, go Warriors!

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