“Stop that, Richard! Just stop it!”
Caught completely off guard, I stammered, “What? Stop what?” Bob had just offered to give me jar of homemade plum preserves.
“When someone offers you something don’t hem-haw around. Don’t play this false humility crap, ‘Oh, I couldn’t…’ or insult me with ‘You shouldn’t…’ When I offer you something, say yes or no. Say, ‘No thank you.’ or ‘Thank you very much.’ Cut the bullsh*t, Richard! Say what you mean for god-sake.”
We had been driving down Lake Street and Bob got us talking about food by recalling what a perfect blueberry pie he’d had the night before — “all blueberries, none of this gelatin sh*t.” We retrieved some mutual ground by agreeing that we shared a special passion for raspberry pie as well as plum preserves.
No sooner had we fed the parking meter and entered Global Market when Bob was back at me. Bright booths representing crafts from Tibet, Chile, Central America, Scandinavia as well as all sorts of locally produced organic meats, cheeses and fresh fruits and vegetables populated the Market. An overdose of vibrant colors and distinctive aromas danced all around.
We shared our delight and personal preferences. I expressed disappointment that some of the shops were shuttered.
“D*mn it, Richard. Don’t do that!”
“What? Don’t do what?” I blurted defensively.
“Stop looking at the negative! That’s not going to do you any good. Stop commenting about the shops that are closed. Look at all that’s going on, not at what isn’t! Look at the great stuff inside even if the shops are closed.”
One thing we did not see at Global Market was a good piece of raspberry pie. Here was my opportunity to reclaim some semblance of balance and equanimity after Bob’s piercing — though fair — admonitions!
“I know just the place — Turtle Bread! We just had raspberry pie there last Sunday. Terrific… the best!” Off we went with nearly two hours left on our prepaid parking meter.
We hadn’t even placed our order when I know I’d scored big time. “Love this place, so much better than the bland, uniform, generically orchestrated Stabucks or Caribou. This place has life, character, personality, distinction.” I relished Bob’s approval.
He continued, “Look around, this is the world! I don’t even feel sorry for those two guys in their white shirts and ties — at least they have the good sense to come to a place like this!”
Though I’ve known Bob for a while now, each time we are together reveals something beguiling and compelling.
I knew about his 70-plus years of struggle with drug addiction. Today’s revelation was his five years in federal prison associated with his drug use. The transparency of his sharing knocked me off-balance once again. Of course, I blurted out something totally inept.
“Wow, I’ve never been in prison. So, what was that like?” This time Bob entertained my stupidity and awkwardness but seemed to shift to a wholly different psychic space.
“You learn to mind your own business! You keep your mouth shut. You see trouble, you turn and walk the other direction.”
Ouch! Now, I felt tables turned. Just as he had admonished me about expressing gratitude with a clear yes of no, or had chastened me to celebrate the manifest beauty all around, I wanted to blurt out, “Bob, don’t do that! Stop that!”
I restrained my urge to tell him that is no way to live. This will wait for another time. However, I returned with a whole new insight into why Bob would be so appreciative of all the Global Market symbolized and for the depth of human connection he savored at Turtle Bread.
We began as two men entering conversation best as we are able. Two men, though with very different addictions, backgrounds, spiritualities and perspectives made an effort to talk — community happens, understanding deepens, appreciation expands.
We discover we are vastly more alike than we had ever presumed or allowed ourselves to imagine. Still, we each have much to learn that only someone other than ourselves can teach.