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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Peanut, Samuel, and All of the Rest of Us

I am in a Bob Evans restaurant as I write this.  Bob Evans is the quintessential "American" eatery.  I am in this particular Bob Evans in the community of Bellefontaine.  Bellefontaine is in Ohio.  It's fame claim is that it was the first town in the United States to have concrete streets.  I don't know much more about it than that, so please don't ask.

Most of the folk around me are not noticing the "quint-essentialness" of the place; they just live here.  They're all talking about the county fair. "Have you been yet?" questions are being asked of our young waitress.  She seems to know everybody.  Bob (not Mr. Evans) who is sitting at the booth next to me has been greeted by our waitress and by pretty much everybody else.  Pats on the back and arm as hostesses and waiters and waitresses pass by.  Bob is wearing bib overalls. He's alone. I think his wife must have died. I think she must have died years ago. No one seems surprised that Bob is picking up a "to-go" meal as he waits, munching a blueberry muffin and sipping a cup of coffee.  The coffee is probably black. 

"Back straight.  Keep your hands to yourself.  Mind your manners."  Those words, from the booth behind me, enter my consciousness, followed by this question to our waitress: "Been to the fair yet?"

Our waitress hasn't yet been to the fair, but she is planning to go this Saturday.  Saturday evening is the tractor pull and she will not miss that, she says.

I am betting Bob will be there too.  His back will be patted, as will his arm as people pass by, grappling to find a seat for the county fair's big event.  I hope he'll be sitting with someone.  It would be a shame if, with all the people he seems to know, he sat alone.  

An elderly couple greeted folks sitting nearby.  The lady's granddaughter's hog placed third at the county fair.  The seated couple congratulated them.  They'll be at the tractor pull.  

For my part, I decided to enjoy the senior menu here.  I am "55+"  as the menu states.  It also states the senior menu is for "the smaller appetite."  It seems to associate "people of a certain age" with a desire for less food.  That, sadly, has not yet happened for me, but I am the youngest of this "+" group, so perhaps that will come and I will be able to say "no" to the offer of more bread.

Bellefontaine, Ohio is surrounded by corn fields.  There is a horse farm down the road.  The farm offers weekly Christian camps for children. Both of my children are there for the week. They ride horses.  They clean stalls.  They make new friends too.  They also have daily Bible study and devotionals.  

Here's what they do not have: they do not have TV.  Nor do they have texting and IMing. They have neither electronic games nor devices at camp. Those devices are turned off and at home. Praise the Lord.

I am in Ohio at the home I inherited from my mother.  My mom died five years ago.  My husband and I have decided, instead of selling the house, to rent it.  We're a bit nervous about this new venture, but, my father's voice keeps coming to me.  "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," he often said to me when I was frightened to try something new. I'd more often than not go ahead and just do the scary things so I'm going to add "rent-the-house-scary-thing" to my repertoire of "I-went-ahead-and-did-it" list.  I hope I add it to my "I -went-ahead-and-did-it-and-I-am-glad-I did" list instead of my "I-went-ahead-and-did-it-and-what-a-mistake-THAT-was" list.  

Different people are now seated at what I have come to think of as "Bob's Booth." The woman is chatty.   She probably didn't want to cook this evening--tired of the record breaking heat and cooking in it--so she's happy, happy, happy her husband agreed to take her to Bob Evans for dinner.  The man, like my dining neighbor Bob, is in overalls.  He must have years of communication practice with the woman.  A well placed "ummmm" from him--whether an "ummmm" of agreement or an "ummmmm?" of puzzlement--launches her into another story.  Both of the stories I have heard have been quite interesting.  She's got a gift for gab.  He may or he may not.  I can't tell. He hasn't said much more than the afore mentioned "ummm."  They do, however, seem--on this warm Ohio summer's evening--a perfectly happy couple.

I note all of this because my primary residence is in a different kind of quintessential "American" community.  I live in Miami, Florida. To my knowledge, in Miami, there is no Bob Evans. Not one. We do, however, have Pollo Tropicals.  I and my family, like here in Ohio, often go out to eat in Miami. I go out for Cuban food a lot.  Cuban food in Miami is the quintessential experience.  My children think the Pilgrims and the Native Americans set out black beans and rice and puerco asado in addition to the sweet potatoes and turkey.  They also must think that a "cafecito",  a "colada," or my personal favorite, a "cortadito"--sweet, rich Cuban coffees all-- would follow that elaborate meal; would accompany the pumpkin pie. Maybe it did. 

If I eavesdrop in Miami like I am doing here in Ohio, I would have a different experience.  I'd probably be hearing Spanish.  I'd have to pay attention.  Unlike English that lazily drifts into my head as I type, with Spansh I must stop everything, put down the fork and focus.  

There aren't many Bobs in overalls in Miami.  There are, however,  Roberto's in guayaberas.   Sometimes the Roberto's dine out with their wives.  And it's the Roberto's of Miami, not their wives, who have a lot to say. Probably they wouldn't be talking about tractor pulls and granddaughters' hogs winning at county fairs. They'd probably be addressing the latest outrage in Cuba.  There are, sadly, a lot of outrages.

It's their wives who supply the well placed, "ummmm" or "ummmm?"

My waitress--her name is Kristy--has returned to refill my coffee cup.  I politely refuse. I've enjoyed my meal and my musings seated at the booth beside Bob's booth. I am grateful to the Bobs (both Bob of the Booth and Bob of the restaurant), my waitress Kristy, tractor pulling men and boys; and hog contest winning granddaughters, for providing this sweet and simple time for me.  I am thankful, too, for Christian horse camps and for children riding horses there--Peanut and Samuel for my children Lana and Ben--and, in such a place, learning of the power of God.

I am not, however, so grateful for the Ohio coffee.  My Cuban coffee--my cortadito--simply cannot be replaced.

Breath deeply, my dear readers.  And smile.

6:23 pm edt          Comments

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