It’s all up to you

Here is a selfie of me I took the year I am nomad roaming across the USA.  I am in Texas.  What’s the difference between being homeless and being “free-spirited” ?  I self identify with the adventure, not my financial ledger book -hahaha – well, anyhow I thought I was having fun! Soon after I get back to California I sit at dinner with a nice young lawyer who is completely intrigued by my ability to pick up and go.  I know he feels overworked, under appreciated, and worries that he may be missing the best years of his life.  But his job is well paying, stimulating, not the sort of thing his wife and family will appreciate him to quitting.  I am probably the only one at the table of six whose car cost less than fifty thousand dollars.  Bless their hearts, I have the distinct feeling that they envy me just a little bit.  I suppose I might point out that living without TV in a remote corner of the world, a house that doesn’t even have cell phone reception won’t suit everyone, but it isn’t appropriate to comment at the time.

Their hearts are tender and their eyes are open.  Curiosity cracks the staid smartness of city living.  We are sitting at SageBrush Annie’s in Maricopa.  If you’ve never had their award-winning wine, by all means try it! In wine is truth.  We drive down our mountain on a narrow winding road. As the sun sinks below the hills, cool air wafts across the dinner table.  Night swaddles the small building. The dim light inside faintly glows. I can’t help but feel intimate with these people, far from the madding crowd.  The evening is enchanting, and then it consumes itself.  Morning breaks the spell.  The refreshed travelers take themselves back down the I-5 to busy, busy Los Angeles with its noise, speed and technology – and I? I go on a hike hahaha.  Maybe you think I’m showing off.  I don’t mean to be absurd, sometimes I just crave to remind people – the choice IS theirs.

Choice? My sister-in-law posts on her Facebook page throw back Feminist complaints. I.e. The media is pushing anorectic thinness, the media is bad for little girls. . . There’s no TV in their home.  My little niece (and nephew) wouldn’t know “media” from a hole in the wall if my sister-in-law wasn’t so busy posting what’s-wrong-with-the-world posts.  I can’t help but wish she’d spend that same amount of time scooping up her kids and taking them to the park.  Or playing scrabble.  They’re only small once and for such a short time. This five minutes isn’t that five minutes five years up the road.

Choice? My former boss likes to say she’s “empowering me” when she was hands me a stack of stuff to do.  A joke but not a joke because in lieu of delegating tasks, she delegates projects.  I set my own priorities (within limits) and manage my own time.  I don’t work in the same method as her, I often get unexpected results, and that’s what I’m getting paid for: to be me, not her.  Having a unique perspective is a super power.

I suppose y’all know the reason why our key board is set up in its current display? Manual typewriters, the ones that pre-dated IBM Selectric, have arms that fling up and strike an inky ribbon imprinting the paper.  Those arms tangle with each other if one types too fast.  The current keyboard display is configured to slow down the typist.  Later models of the typewriter replace the arms with a revolving sphere.  Around this time a better arrangement of letters based on usage is configured – but typists have already learned to type. The newer keyboard never catches on.  I iterate, when you think of traditions you have to remind yourself that just because that’s the way it’s always been done doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly stupid. You are always free to chose anew.

I visit the new ice cream soda shop in Pine Mtn Club. I ask the owner if the ice cream is made with sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  She is eager to tell me all about her new business.  Her plan is to put organic coconut milk based soft serve ice-cream in her machine.  Wow! That sounds yummy.  I casually mention that when something is delicious, even traditional ice-cream eaters enjoy the fancy.  The owner abruptly switches tone.  Her eyes narrow. Her face hardens. “You must be from out-of-town,” she curtly observes.  I assure I am not. I’m from the realty office across the street, but she doesn’t hear me.  “I would lose my business if I didn’t continue to carry Thrifty ice cream.  You don’t know – ” she accuses. My back stiffens as her barrage of complaints continues.  What just happened?  She’s dissing the neighborhood with both barrels and I represent that remark! In fact she is the recent transplant.  I’ve lived in the mountain communities since the 90s.  Wow. I couldn’t help being reminded of this quote from the author of Moby Dick:

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. -Herman Melville, novelist and poet (1819-1891) 

I can’t imagine why she, this well-heeled carpet bagger, believes us local rubes won’t enjoy organic food, real ice cream, or rice milk.  Certainly everyone I know shops at farmer’s markets, eats whole foods.  Lots of people move out here because frankly they enjoy growing their own tomatoes, having an apple tree, hiking in nature.  Don’t ever assume that because people are poor they like eating over processed, highly salted, non-foods.  People may eat that way because they don’t know what their choices are, especially if they have grown up urban.  Ignorance of choice should not be confused with choosing to be ignorant.  They aren’t the same thing at all.

We don’t have to treat meat eaters, cigarette smokers or obese people as ignorant fucks.  With a bit of candor and friendliness we are far more likely to change the world.  Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I do have a theory.  It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if fast food places, food giants like Thrifty and McDonalds, aren’t attempting to get people addicted to their products.  Out in nature, out in the wild, we would never be exposed to such explosive sweetness as their products (real fruit smoothies indeed!) provide.  And the human body is hard-wired to sweet.  If having a sweet is cheap and easy, habits may be formed.  hmmm. Yes, I’m the one who used to weigh 200 pounds or more, who knows because I quite weighing myself at 175. ouch.  I didn’t lose the weight from the disdain of people like this new business owner.

Frankly, I lost weight after I finally escape the prying eyes of those criticisms made on my habits.  My habits change when I didn’t feel  defensive about them.  If you really want people to see your side of an issue don’t try to win the argument forcefully.  That shop owner shut me down to silence, but she convinces me of nothing.  I lost weight and changed my eating habits when I felt safe.  Follow the yogic principle of ahimsa.  Or as the AMA phrases it, “First, do no harm.”  I don’t suppose this lady needs to TELL people she’s selling frozen desserts made from coconut milk. She might let people try and see.  She also might have one or two organic ice creams amongst the Thrifty and see which flavors sell the most.  But I have a feeling that no matter what she sells she won’t make it if her plan is to talk smack about the locals to any tourist who will listen. . . eloquent profanity just rolls right off her tongue.

And you know what else?  In the same way the gentle young lawyer feels he can’t get away, my sister-in-law feels crushed by the glass ceiling, this woman will blame the environment.  Two years from now when she packs her bags, kicks the dust off her heels and relocates to Santa Clarita she’ll complain that no one can make it up there. I am not trying to candy coat the reality of a recession economy.  Restauranteur is a tough business!  I have seen more friends lose their homes than I wanted to.  Times are tight.  Believe me when I say I am not of the wish it want it have it ilk.  I’m of another tribe.  I start teaching yoga in the height of the recession.  A luxury product in a rural environment.  I am the first yoga teacher most of my students had.  Together we built a warm environment.

Do what you can with what you have from where you are, and your direction is hopeful.  I like hope.  How about you?

Talk again real soon!

Sat Nam