Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 24, 2016--Midcoast: Peggy Pays A Visit (Concluded)

"Back in New York no one would eat anything recommended by Paula Deen who's an out-and-out . .  ."

"That's not the way things work up here," Dan said, remaining calm. Peggy fussed with the knot in her Hermes.

"So just how do things work up here, Danny?" I wasn't sure if Peggy was being condescending.

"Well, how do they work down there in New York?" Dan said firmly but without attitude.

"Among other things we pride ourselves in being tolerant. No restaurant person I know would have anything to do with the likes of Paula Deen."

"Well, we're pretty tolerant up here too. Maybe even willing to give someone like Paula Dean the benefit of the doubt. She was mortified by what she said and apologized profusely. No one you know in the Big Apple ever make a fool of themselves?"

Peggy didn't have a ready answer to that but pressed on, "I look around this diner and what do I see?"

"You tell me," Dan said.

"Well, Danny, everyone looks like you." She paused to let that take its full effect.

"I hope not," he said, "That would be a sight for sore eyes."

"I mean," she leaned closer and this time in a sub sotto voce whisper said, "Not a person of color. Not even one working in the kitchen washing dishes."

"I'll let that stereotype about who might be washing dishes pass. But, yes, Maine has very few minorities, if that what you mean. 'Round here in the Midcoast even fewer. So by that definition of yours it's true were not diverse. But," he added, "that's not the only way to think about it."

"Well, how do you folks define it up here? The rest of the country . . ."

"Let me cut you off right there," Dan said, "'Cause there's no 'rest of the country.'" He made air quotes.

"You're losing me," Peggy said. "On CNN, on MSNBC, in the New York Times, even on Fox News which I assume you watch, that's how they talk about diversity."

"Your rest of the country is not all the same. There are lots of local differences. I remember talking with Rona and Steve back in May about the election and how we agreed that we have to be careful making assumptions from our limited individual perspectives. I quoted someone I heard on CNN, which I watch, who said that he asked at a dinner party in Manhattan how many people had been to Paris and how everyone raised their hands. Then he asked how many had visited Staten Island. He reported that only a handful had. It's just a ferry ride away and pretty much no one had ever been there."

"Well, I have," Peggy said, "And couldn't wait to get back to civilization. But return to your claim that Maine, in spite of who I'm seeing here, is diverse."

"I'll say even more so than your downtown New York."

"I'm all ears," Peggy said, cupping her ears.

"What you're seeing and being blinded by, if I may say so, is skin color. Not that I'm minimizing the importance of that but it's only part of the picture. Even liberals would agree that not all Hispanics or black people are the same. You also have to look at how much education people have, the kind of work they do, what they read. But Im not just talking about that though that's an important way to see the diversity here. We may look the same in part because we all dress more or less alike--basic clothes, informal, and all that--but you'll see what I mean when I tell you about who's in the room."

Peggy swung around in the booth to see who Dan was talking about.

"At the counter from the left is an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in feet and next to him . . ."

"Is he the one who now smokes salmon?"

Dan smiled but continued, "Next to him is a retired science teacher who taught at the Lincoln Academy for 30 years, then there's Jimmy who makes a living these days as a clam digger. That's John who is a former accountant in New York City who runs a very successful steel fabricating business who has clients around the world, especially in Europe and the Middle East. Under that overhang next to the air conditioner is a minster who runs the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. His wife, right next to him, is a major fundraiser for a variety of social service agencies. At the next booth is Al, a former contractor who is now a graphic designer and book publisher. You may have seen one of his own book of photographs at the bookstore in town."

While Dan paused to catch his breath, Peggy said, "And what about you? What don't I know about you?"

"By comparison I'm boring. I was a lineman for the local phone company for 35 years. Now I build wood boats. But are you getting what I'm trying to say? I could go on with who's here right now but don't you already see how diverse we are? Beyond appearances?"

"I am seeing that," Peggy said.

"And here's the big point--"

"What's that?"

"How we're all here having breakfast together. This is a place where people from all sorts of backgrounds are comfortable with each other. Know each other in many cases all our lives. Those with a lot of education and impressive careers and others who are just getting by working two, three part-time jobs."

"I must admit where I go for coffee in the morning there isn't much of this kind of diversity."

I jumped in, "When we're in the city we go to the same place for breakfast and though we love it there, pretty much everyone agrees with everyone about politics--everyone's for Hillary--to movies to restaurants."

"That's my final point," Dan said, "How right now in this room there are people with very different perspectives--of course about politics, but also about religious beliefs (or non-beliefs), what constitutes friendship and love, childrearing, favorite books, the importance of money. You'd be surprised what we talk about. And, disagree about. We know how to do that. We have to be good at that because we need each other, have to live more or less comfortably together."

"I must admit . . ."

"Don't let me mislead you. This isn't paradise here. There's also a lot of nasty stuff. A lot of family abuse, too much drug usage, some people cheat the system and lie to get public assistance. Fortunately, we don't see too many of them at Deb's. But they're here too. Some just up the road. But we try to be civil with them too." He shrugged. "They're our people and we have to want the best for them. And, if we can, be helpful. There's a lot of that. People helping out."

"Well Danny," Peggy said, "You've given me a lot to think about. And as to these two," she didn't turn to us, "back in the city I'll tell Meg not to worry about them." She let out one of her patented laughs.

"But one more thing," she said, "You mentioned politics. Don't tell me you're voting for Trump?"

"I'm very conservative, as you probably heard. That's true, and under other circumstances I would be open to that, but thanks in part to many conversations over coffee with them," he winked at Rona and me, "like you, I have a lot to think about."


Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home