• Looking for America

    American flag

    I guess I have a woke look about me, I guess especially when I wear a bright blue shirt. Yesterday I attended a light lunch featuring the mayor of Pindrop, PA, a nondescript but sprawling suburb of Philadelphia. He was there to speak about the future of Pindrop, which intrigued me.

    We don't have a quaint, evocative town centre like many boroughs in this scenic county. I knew better than to complain about the municipal buildings, all contemporary brick rectangles spread on a road in the midst of residential subdivisions. At least they're close together, though you can't see the post office from the road until you've passed by. I always end up pulling into the wrong place and then sighting it from a distance.

    A first-world issue when most of the rest of the world is in harm's way for one reason or another.

    Anyway, the mean age of the mean audience at the light lunch was about 80, so I felt young-- the only people younger was one man at my table, someone's son brought along for the light lunch and to spend time with his parents, I guess. Also, the mayor's assistant and the mayor himself, bordering on old age but certainly not the spry 87 he claimed to be.

    I say "mean audience" because the minute I sat down with my light lunch (sandwich, Doritos, and a bottle of water), a woman at the other end of the table introduced herself without a smile and promptly complained under her breath about a commercial by Biden claiming that he was handsome-- afterwards once he'd listed his accomplishments of course (my note-- I saw the commercial last night). Then, to no one in particular she stated flatly that she was for Trump. I sat there benignly. I didn't have to add that I was woke and had different inclinations.

    The others, men, introduced themselves in a more friendly fashion. We ate and then the mayor was introduced by someone standing on the wrong side of the room, scarcely audible.

    Then the polished pol said some appeasing words or other, about how long he'd been in office, nearly 30 years, and his lively assistant added that she'd been working for him nearly that long. Stability. He made some general remarks about how safe we were and what a diverse community Pindrop is-- Muslims, mosques, temples, churches--he specified several denominations and rolled his eyes around and his assistant clarified synagogues loudly. Then followed words about how few immigrants there were, even in the City (that's Philadelphia), a good thing. I looked around the room for people of color and there were none, though we have a few in my apartment community, including a defiant black woman next door to me who will say nothing beyond "hi" to any of us, overly cheery. For a time she had a "Black Lives Matter" banner on her balcony and after Christmas for some reason hung a wreath on her front door--every day is Christmas? 

    A Q&A followed: too many potholes in the road, the nearby moribund and depressing mall where a gym and a church will relocate now that it's in new hands. The gas station right outside my complex that's been closed since I moved here in 2020 just ahead of Covid-- a depressing sight that puts off people coming to visit, in search of more scenic views on this most scenic road in Pindrop. There's an ice vendor next to it that's open 24/7.

    More conversation including much interpersonally despite the mayor's presence among the tables. The audience was stimulated. I had to sit with my back to my table to see the mayor and apologized to the man sitting next to me who said something like "Honey, it's fine--you'll face me when I become mayor!" 

    I left immediately after amid a roomful of animated people chatting away even though the mayor tried to block my path, having mumbled about liking people even if they're politically opposed. Mumbled in passing.

    So why was I in such a good mood? I went home and emailed a neighbor who is one of few here who agrees with my politics. She promptly called me to thank me for the laughs and told me she never attends "these things."

    So why was I in such a good mood? I needed to get out, sunk past my knees in an impossible freelancing project. But more than that, as Simon and Garfunkel sang so many years, I realized that I'd gone to look for America and found it, happy in the small-townish folksiness, used to sticking out like a sore thumb among groups. Despite the politics and being a Martian yesterday, I'd found what I'd gone to find, a folksy down-home pol and likemindedness and community.

    Need I add that in 2020, the minute that Trump lost, defeated by absentee votes from our City, you could hear a pin drop in this community? Then a lone young man had the nerve to stand in my courtyard and cheer. I had turned on Schubert's Ave Maria and listened to it in a daze for an hour, well aware of the conflagration that would follow but stealing an hour to breathe free, the daughter of immigrants on all four sides, stealing an oasis from these hard times, harder and harder by the hour, the Doomsday Clock ticking closer and closer to 12.

    Nothing like escaping for an hour, every once in a while.

    Escaping for an hour.