Friday, December 17, 2004

Meandering

I think I’ll just meander today. Christmas day is coming and there’s not a lot on my mind except what I should get Nancy for Christmas. Hopefully my ramblings will make some sense to you.

Nancy and I took a nice day-trip to Kansas City yesterday. We began by having lunch at Lidia’s. If you’re ever in Kansas City I highly recommend it to you. It started with the most incredible vegetable soup I’ve ever had. That was followed by an absolutely wonderful pasta dish, especially the ravioli filled with cheese and just a hint of lemon. As soon as I took the first bite my eyes rolled back in my head. “Oh, man,” I thought. This food is almost too good.” I haven’t had Italian food that good since we lived in New Jersey.

After that very delicious and leisurely lunch we spent about an hour in Westport doing the type of shopping Nancy loves most – antiques. It’s her environment. So, we went from shop to shop, Nancy picking up a bauble or two and me along for the ride. I’d occasionally see something that appeared to me interesting, but each time I asked for the price it would be something like five, six, seven, or in once case nine hundred and fifty smackeroos, which I’ll talk more about it a minute.

I always find these trips amusing. It seems like my eye catches the most expensive pieces offered. What’s that called? Champagne taste with a beer wallet, if I’m not mistaken. But then I think about it. Do these shop owners just see me coming? As soon as I enter the shop I wonder if the sellers and merchants don’t inwardly clap their hands together with glee and say to themselves, “Oh this is an uniformed buyer if I ever saw one. It’ll be list plus about fifty percent for him.”

Not knowing a thing about antiques is a real disadvantage. When a fella’, who I assumed was the shop owner, saw my interest in a small wood etching of what appeared to me to be a couple of German farmers commiserating about the weather or disobedient wives or some other topic that interests farmers, he asked if I’d like to know more about it. I told him that I did and he opened the case. “Looks quite old to me…..Maybe 18th century…..Oh yes…..It may even be older…..Looks like it has worm holes…..That says it’s old for sure.”
“How much?” I asked
“Only $950.”
“Is that all?” I feigned shock that something “so old” would cost so little.
The shop-owner responded to my skepticism. “I’d like to discount it a bit for you, but as old as it is I can’t really do this piece justice.”
I slowly retreated. “I’ll think about it.”
I spent the next few minutes observing Nancy just wandering around. She decided to buy a candle for about twelve bucks. As she was paying I told her about the wood etching. “It’s probably very old…..Maybe 18th century…..And it may even be older…..I think it has worm holes…..That says it’s really old, doesn’t it?.....I’ll buy it for you if you like.”
Well it’s a good thing there aren’t two “marks” in the family. Nancy’s response to my generous offer was, “Nah, that’s okay Slick, I’ve got this candle and that’ll be enough for today.” I’ve learned over time how to translate this little “Nancyisms.” It was her way of saying that the candle was about as old as the etching and it was a whole lot cheaper.

From Westport we made our way to the Plaza, Kansas City’s trendiest neighborhood. It’s about as close as Kansas City gets to looking like the Big Apple, where, in one form or another, it’s a demitasse followed by a demi-portion, followed by a very big bill. Something that might cost ten dollars here in Emporia will cost about thirty on the Plaza. But, as they say, you get what you pay for. Here in Emporia things are down home. It’s a fellow senior citizen at the door of Wal-Mart greeting the customers with the usual, “Welcome to Wal-Mart. Can I get you a shopping cart?” On the Plaza you’re greeted by “yuppies” who consider you a client rather than a customer. And, most important of all, they give you ambience. It all reminded me of an anniversary meal we had at some country club on Cape Cod a few years ago. It was one of those places where a guy is addressed as “the gentleman.” So it was “Would the gentleman care for an aperitif? Would the gentleman care for the wine list?” As I heard the words “Would the gentleman” I kept looking around, wondering “Who she’s talking to?” I found out when our new age “server” handed me the bill. I opened it delicately and nearly went into cardiac arrest…..three hundred and twenty big ones! That was about twenty bucks for the food for two and three hundred for the kind words.

Well that’s what the Plaza is like. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Twenty bucks per purchase can buy you a lot more these days than you might think – a tickled ego and a French lesson. A real bargain, wouldn’t you say?

Our afternoon ended with a few purchases. I bought a couple of books, “Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way” by Pope John Paul II. The other was “Can a Smart Person Believe in God” by Michael Guillen. Nancy got a silicon doo-dad that she’s now using to make cookies. Silicon apparently is quite heat resistant, which makes it quite nice to place the silicon doo-dad on the cookie sheet, drop cookie dough on it, and then throw it all in the oven. This saves her from having to scrape the cookies from the cookie sheet. Ah, will wonders never cease.

The drive home was quite pleasant, filled with memories of a wonderful thirty five dollar meal at Lidia’s, about forty dollars worth of trinkets, and about fifty dollars worth of books. Not a bad day at all. It was nearing sunset as we got on the highway south. The red glow of the sunset, painted against the bare branches of the few trees along the route home, seemed to beckon us home. We didn’t say a lot; we just basked in the ride and our quiet companionship. I spent most of my time thinking of the silhouette God was painting just outside my window. I wondered if it might even be possible for me, in these quiet moments, to open the window and peel back the layers so that I could see the Artist face to face. I came to my senses and realized that while I couldn’t peel those layers back I could find great comfort in the idea that one day those layers would be pulled back for me and I would see the Artist face to face.

This morning I began reading Pope John Paul’s book. While I’m not a Roman Catholic there’s much that I admire about this man. We Americans love to delude ourselves by believing that communism fell because we armed ourselves to the teeth and bankrupted them. Actually it was men like John Paul and the “insignificant” Christian communities of Eastern Europe, armed with faith, who were the real movers. John Paul’s words, heard and heeded by those hungry for the freedom to express their faith in Jesus Christ, spoke to me as well:

“When I spoke about this (Courage) on June 12, 1987, at Westerplatte in Gdansk to Polish young people, I spoke of that place as an eloquent symbol of fidelity in the face of dramatic challenge. There it was, in 1939, that a group of young Polish soldiers, fighting against decidedly superior and better equipped forces of the German invaders, faced grave danger as they bore a victorious witness to courage, perseverance, and fidelity. I referred to that episode, inviting the young people to reflect, above all, on the relation “between being more and having more,” (my emphasis added) and I warned them: “Having more must never be allowed to win. If it did, we would lose the most precious gift of all: out humanity, our conscience, our dignity.” In this vein, I encouraged them: You must make demands on yourselves, even if others don’t make demands on you.” And I went on to explain: “Each of you, young people, will experience a Westerplatte of your own: responsibilities that you must assume and fulfill, a just cause, for which you must fight, an obligation, from which there can be no withdrawal, no running away. A system of truths and values that must be “upheld” and “defended”: a Westerplatte in and around you. Yes, defend these things for yourselves and others.”

I reflect even now on John Paul’s powerful words. I think of the materialism that seems to be choking the life the Church in America. I think of the fact that it is rarely condemned, or questioned for that matter, these days. I think of what I wrote a few days about what I see and others see in evangelical Christian young people here in America. I wonder, no I actually fear, seeing that so many have opted for “having more” instead of “being more.” It seems to me that it’s the illusions that are shaping those who have opted for the opulence of the world. Can you imagine that? They’re being shaped by an illusion. Something that, by its own essence has no shape at all is shaping them. Eminem and Tommy Hilfiger have got them by their throats and they’re choking the life out of them.

Well, I’ve meandered. Over fifteen hundred words now. I’m told now that people’s attention spans can’t handle that. That is, “Give me something that catches my eye and it will get my attention…..and you’d better be quick about it…..I have money and I need more stuff, so I only have a minute or two before I get out there with the other clients…..I’ve got cold hard cash and I need a bit of ambience, not a sermon.

I’ll let you, dear reader, piece this together if you care to. It fits together. It takes a bit of work, but it does.

2 comments:

Guy said...

Phil,

Thanks for your meanderings. Whether or not you realized it, you've done a wonderful job of putting many things into perspective for me.

Bonnie said...

Oh please, meander some more! I thoroughly enjoyed your marvelous tale (which flowed quite nicely, I thought); thank you!