7 Days and Counting.

In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from.
- Peter Ustinov

I went out to dinner tonight, to catch up with an old friend who waits tables at a posh Seafood place in North Macon. You know the one.

I chose my clothes with only minimal thought. All black. Combat boots and battle dress uniform pants, a T-shirt with a block print slogan slammed across it (WHEN I WANT YOUR OPINION I'LL BEAT IT OUT OF YOU). I was not going out to make any good impressions.

I ate alone, chatting with my friend whenever her busy evening (an 18 top at three pushed-together tables near my own quiet booth) would let her stop by. We shared stories of our lives over the months that have passed since we saw each other last. I told her about the house. She told me about the new boyfriend. I teased her about being off the market. She teased me about being on the same. It was pleasant enough. We've missed one another, in the way old friends do, but we've both been busy. Perhaps later, in the fall, we'll finally catch up the way we should.

She told me about the fellow waitress that had been 'checking me out' (a term from the current vernacular that I find somewhat odd. Am I a library book?) and I invited her to send the girl (who shared her name) over. We chatted amiably enough but the spark wasn't there and I didn't manufacture it. If I see her about Macon perhaps we'll strike up a conversation, she seemed like an interesting girl.

And when I left I bought a few books, then smoked a Vanilla Djarum and walked around the open air mall where her restaurant is located.

The spaces in the mall that are not yet occupied are covered with giant nylon signs. Anything could be printed on them. The mall could have chosen works of brilliant art, or bold statements made by famous men (or both. Guernica, anyone?). Instead, the signs merely depicted life-size representations of completely generic shops. One a men's store, full of timeless suits and devoid of logos of any kind. The next a generic restaurant bar, with people sitting at tables and the lifeless, airy feel that it seems only a modern American restaurant can capture on its worst nights.

I finished Orson Scott Card's Empire today, and while the book is nothing special constrained as it is to be the kickoff to a 'media franchise', the tone that Card sets in the epilogue is worth considering. He speaks of a divided America. Rural and Urban people each feeling the others are fanatics and that their own way of thought is the only true path. Scary stuff.

I mulled over the absence of passion in America and wondered how much longer we'll let our politics get more vicious while our tastes get more mundane.

Can we really survive if things don't change?

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Saturday, September 06, 2008