It was a beautiful summer day and the plan was to buy some new swimwear for my girls at the local giant box store. I decided to leave the girls at home and make a fast trip. The plan was, in out and back home before they even noticed. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed it was fuller than is usual at this time of year. It was summer and the town usually is empty. Not thinking too much I drove around a little then found a spot. It was curious that I did not see anyone leaving the store. All I saw were people entering. It was a little eerie, but I needed the swimwear for our trip to the YMCA pool.
The sun was shining in all its wonderful summer glory and the heat was oppressive. I dashed into the store and was hit with an Arctic front. I felt as if my nose and fingers were about to freeze. I complained to myself as my usual. The store was unnecessarily cold. I pulled my hat down over my ears, flipped up my hood and pulled the zipper all the way up. It was not a great improvement. I continued on my way. I took the direct route to the toddler section and proceeded to seek out my target apparel. The search was frustrating. There were just too many options. I just needed a purple and a blue swimsuit in toddler sizes. Why are there twenty different colors and shapes. I finally narrowed it down to two of each, then noticed how quiet the store became. I took a sip of my Rockstar and looked around and noticed that the shoppers around me seemed to be in dazed. They seemed to be looking into empty space. I called to the lady that had suggested the swimsuits I finally settled on. She seemed not to notice me, although she was standing two feet away from me. This was frightening. I reached out and grabbed her arm but she still did not respond. I became terrified. I pinched myself, it was painful. I checked for my pistol and it was in place. All the shoppers in my area were in the same daze. I continued deeper into the store and it was the same everywhere. Suddenly, the store started to warm up. It felt as if a bonfire had been lit.
I made eye contract with an older gentleman. He did not have that same dazed look, but he was hiding under a display and beckoned me over. Reluctantly I walked over and joined him under the display. In hushed tones he started to explain to me what was happening. “Have you ever wondered why the stores in town are so cold in the summertime?” He did not give me a chance to answer. I suspected he knew more than I did. He continued, “because it is harvest time.” He noticed the puzzled look on my face. “It is a long story.” He started to moved and I just followed his lead. He was crawling on all fours and I followed. He hid under another display then started to point to the back left corner of the store. For the first time I noticed that the ceiling of the store had a tract system. In the corner a small panel opened and what looked like a four-armed claw device was suspended from the tracts. It started to moving followed by another. I lost count. In a few minutes the claws were lowered to floor level and then hoisted people to the ceiling and routed them to the right back corner of the store. The roof opened and they disappeared. I was confused since no one was struggling. “The cold is for preservation. We are dinner.” I heard but was too stunned to react. It was over before I could compose myself . The lady beside the display looked down and said, “did you lose something.”
I looked around and the man was gone. She asked again and I was still too confused to answer. She walked away and I just sat there. “What just happened.” I looked at my watch and it had only been twenty minutes since I left the house. I was in the store for twelve minutes. I saw the bruise on my arm from me pinching myself. I had swimsuits in hand. This was not a dream. I walked to the cashier and paid. He did not seem concerned or frightened. I walked out of the store. What just happened?
There is a calm that overcomes you at the oceanfront. I’m not sure what it is, but the warmth of the air and the taste of salt does it for me every time. It is time to go but I stay. I stay to watch the procession of nature pass and bid good night to the warmth of the sun and welcome the light of the stars and the moon.
The hard chair against my back and the calm roll of the waves as the orange hue of the setting sun blankets the water is like a dream. Have you relaxed on an almost empty boardwalk in early spring? The winter air is not quite gone, the air is still crisp and the crowds have not yet returned. Only the true believers are here. A few merchants are welcoming the even braver shoppers. The candy store behind me is open and I can smell the sweet and delicious aroma of freshly made toffee. The mix of toffee and ocean salt transports me to the deck of an old-time tall ship with sails bellowing in a tropical breeze.
The chill in the air reminds me. I am in the cold north sitting on a long wooden ocean front boardwalk. The boardwalk is only about twenty feet above the sand and not far enough from the water’s edge. Occasionally I hear the crash of the ocean against the pylons. It’s a reassuring sound and reminds me that nothing lasts forever. This boardwalk, like the others, will fold into the depths of the ocean one day. It reminds me of my gift, my curse, everlasting life. Yes, I am immortal and unhappy. The first thousand years were magical, but the continued cycles of making and losing friends becomes more painful with the passing centuries.
So, whenever the blues get too deep I retreat to the oceanfront sunset. It truly is a magical time and place. It’s a place between life and death between light and dark, and I am transported just long enough to forget.
Have you heard that America is an exceptional country? If you have not, I am here to tell you that she is. American exceptionalism is alive well and is the truth. Nowhere in the world can you find this mix of people, tolerance and acceptance. We have become what some of the founders imaged and others opposed. We have become a multi ethnic democracy. We have become a beige nation without many of us noticing. All the talk about white, black and brown and we have not noticed the beiging.
Our pop culture has long ago beiged. We still call it white or black, but outside of these borders others call it all American culture. America is exceptional because we have come through the birth with scars, but we have not been disfigured. We have survived the process as a whole. Where else in the world is this blending happening, more importantly where else will it be allowed to happen?
In spite of the economic challenges we will continue to be the place where the ambitious, hard-working and talented want to make their home. The last hump is to prevent barriers being established. I will posit that those who would establish barriers have already lost. They just have not realized it as yet. America continues to be exceptional because she has an open society and allow all to have access to the means of success. We may not score the highest in all areas, but the goal is not to be the best in every category, but to be competitive in all.
We may not realize it but one of the strongest pillars of America’s continued success is its safety net. The shortsighted and self-centered among us are trying to disassemble the safety net, but they will not. They will not succeed. They will not succeed because American success is dependent on the willingness of the talented to risk all, knowing that the country will not allow them to fall without a net. Truthfully the net is just above devastation, but there is a net. Success is not guaranteed, but we all believe we will.
We all believe, because we see it happening daily and we know what is needed. Hard work, total commitment and that quest to attain the American Dream.
Yes we can!
Sitting here in Starbucks people watching and wondering if I have been dropped into a different world. It seems I am the only person not living in the big leagues. There is an orchard of i-devices everywhere. Each person with at least 2 i-devices while I am spoiling the orchard with other stuff. Additionally a sea of designer glasses and well-tailored outfits engulfs the room. In spite of it all I continue to hold my head up. I am floated a cup of plan coffee and I am thankful.
I feel like a mouse that has been invited to eat from the main table along with the family of the house. As I scan the room my smile gets bigger and I am not noticed. I continue to smile, because I can. I smile because I am living the American dream. I smile because in spite of all the bad, the American dream is still alive and attainable. I smile because America is living up to her potential.
I am hopeful and confident that the bigots have lost. I am certain of their demise and although there are many losses to come, there are more lasting victories ahead. I smile because I am confident that the America my princesses will come of age in will be a more perfection union. I am happy because MLK’s dream has arrived. This progress cannot be reversed. It is here to stay. I am smiling because of sacrifices made. I rejoice because my ancestors made a positive contribution. I am smiling because we the people are creating a more perfect union. The state of our Union is strong, confident and agile.
Why are you smiling today?