Buy local. Eat seasonal. Hug a farmer. Kiss a chef. When the economy gets tough, we love our neighbors, right? As mighty “Agent Orange” Monsanto poisons our bodies with abused cattle, chickens, and ugly carpet, we turn to each other and clasp hands in unity. WE SHALL FIGHT YOU WITH OUR ORGANIC GARDENS! THE CHICKEN WE PUT IN OUR POT WILL LIVE IN OUR BACKYARDS! BASIL IS THE NEW PARSLEY!
It’s all a lovely idea and great mantra to live by. Facing shrinking 401-ks would be easier if people could be nicer to each other, right? Put on your best John Belushi: But, nooooooooo.
This morning, I am disillusioned. The older I get, the more I want to get in a red time machine and go back to the peace-love-and-Woodstock of the ‘70s. I know I can’t and I know I have to put yesterday behind me. I need to get on down the road.
Oh, yesterday? Let me back up.
You know how you get when you are really busy and things pile up and you feel like the earlier you get up, the faster you fall behind? You spend weeks (months?) trying to climb to that mental plateau where you can lie low on cool flat ground and let a soothing sense of accomplishment wash over your soul. For a day, an hour, a minute, you might take a deep breathe and feel good about yourself.
Sometimes in your salmon-like frenzy, just before you get to that sweet spot, something little jumps in your way and you freak out in the darkness. It’s always a little thing—a car cuts you off; a waiter forgets your wine; your husband switches the channel just when the jury reaches a verdict on Law & Order. Whatever, you snap. Like a dragon.
Yesterday, I snapped. It happened at a fruit stand in Eustace, Texas. I’ve passed the place twice a week for five years on my way to my family’s home in East Texas. I used to know the farmer that ran the place. He must have sold the business or died.
Yesterday, I was coming back with some East Texas goodies for a Father’s Day celebration. I’d picked herbs from my garden and had a cold bottle of East Texas Semillon from Kiepersol Estates—all I needed was a bunch of Noonday onions and a bag of local tomatoes. What a groovy gift—so earthy, so hippie, so now.
I stopped at the shack in Eustace. I took one look at the tomatoes and knew they weren’t grown in the dirt of Texas. They were shiny and yellowish red, not dull and blue/red like “ours”. They were nestled in a rustic woven basket with a handwritten sign—you know they misspell on purpose! “Tomaters, $5.50” I asked the guy where they came from. “Texas,” he said without looking up. “Where in Texas?” I asked in a distinctly bitchy tone. “I dunno,” he said with a sneer.
Then I heard a dog scratching from the inside of a trailer sitting in the hot sun near the shed. “Is there a dog in that trailer?” I asked. “I dunno,” he hissed. He lit a cigarette and blew smoke in my direction. I walked over the wooden trailer and tried to open the door. Not only was it locked, there were no windows and the poor thing was crying. As I readied to chew the sneering dude’s ass out about the dog, I looked down. There was a pile of fly-infested cardboard boxes stamped “Tomatoes: Product of Florida.” And I snapped. Hoohah! Flip City.
Yes, it seems small. Eustace isn’t Iran and the poor guy is just trying to make a buck–he has cigarettes to buy. But that three minute exchange took a big bite out of my heart on so many levels. I hate it when that happens.