B-sides and Backslides

Guess what I received in the mail today all the way from Singapore…

This book was sent to me by a lovely lady named Damyanti Biswas whose blog Daily (w)rite  focuses on subjects of far greater import than mine.  She’s also a acclaimed author whose work seems to span many genres.  And (as if that wasn’t enough) she is the force behind We Are The World, in Darkness, be Light, a group of bloggers from around the world who inspire to restore faith in humanity through stories of hope. 

From time to time, Damyanti also hosts guest bloggers.  Recently the title of one of those guest posts caught my eye.  Dear Writer: Are you a Good Scavenger?  Here’s a teaser:

Conversations overheard and snatched. Tying down the balloons of scattered thoughts. Finding a wry insight into an unusual sight. Turning over an image for a pun. Decoupling couplets. Allowing a rhythm to run rings round your head.

They’re the poetic equivalent of doodling, writing exercises you do to limber up. – Felix Cheong

At last, I thought,  another writer for whom a cafe is a place to eavesdrop!  Another writer who sees a stranger on the bus and can’t help imagining where they’re going and why.  I responded that I when I scavenge thusly, I feel like a vampire wantonly taking what is not mine. I guess he liked that comment because Damyanti sent me an autographed copy of his book (with a very nice note from her).

B-sides and Backslides is a collection of poems which Mr. Cheong wrote between 1986 and 2018 and put on the back burner.  We all have those pieces we’re sure aren’t good enough. But we can’t quite throw them away because either we may be wrong or because we hope at some point to have the wisdom and skill to figure out what they’re missing.  And so with that in mind, Mr. Cheong has “remastered” his early pieces “for contemporary consumption, complete with my own version of liner (linear) notes.” 

(don’t know what this hashtag means though, do you?)

Anyway, thank you Damyanti and Felix!  I’m sure I will enjoy the read!

The Fruit Stand Guy

This post was inspired by Dan Antion’s recollection of an event during which people were compelled by compassion to sacrifice for a stranger.  I thought I’d try to carry on the idea.

Not my gang but much the same.

I’ve known many people who’ve made great sacrifices of their time and energy to help others.  One couple, I’ve known longer than I care to admit, organized a monthly dinner for fifty to eighty seniors who were living barely above homelessness and it wasn’t one of those cafeteria-style soup kitchen deals.  This was a sit down meal with waiters (us), real silverware and china.  And we made everything from scratch: green salad, meatloaf, mashed potatoes (with gravy) and corn. We served each course separately and always ended with a generous piece of sheet cake topped with an inch of icing and those fancy little rosettes. Then we did the cleanup.  Although the seniors always thanked us profusely, it was the couple who organized the event, buying all the food and then distributing left-overs to homeless shelters, that deserved all the praise.  Although they no longer have the time for the senior dinners, they still manage to be the most generous folks I know. 

But what needs highlighting in these troubling times are those unexpected events that give a group of people the opportunity to go out of their comfort zone to help a someone they barely know. I have to admit, when I sat down with this theme in mind, my mind went blank.  I thought oh no, that can’t be right. Certainly those of us who’ve been around for a while should be able to recall many an instance of spontaneous compassion.

And then, luckily, this story came to mind.

My daughter lives in a beach town north of San Diego, which, for those of you outside of   the United States, is a city from which you can see Mexico.  It also has a large port and therefore a huge Naval presence. Whenever we visit, I always insist we stop at a tiny market along the coastal highway that sells produce and the best tortillas available in the States. They also have a variety of speciality foods used primarily in Mexican recipes, and, homemade fruit pies. The clerk is a young man who is slight of build but generous of smile.  The regulars address him by his first name.  Let’s say that name is Juan.

One morning a post appeared on Facebook, shared by my daughter, that Juan had been detained by the immigration officials.  Apparently he’d been pulled over while driving home and then arrested, not because he was here illegally but because his papers weren’t in order.   Then he was taken to a detention center for an unspecified amount of time. I don’t know who did it  the owner of the market or one of the regulars but someone had created a GoFundMe to raise money for a lawyer for Juan.  So that evening, after talking it over with the hubs and determining an amount to contribute, I went to the GoFundMe site, credit card in hand. 

Guess what folks? I was too late.  They’d already raised almost fifteen thousand dollars.  More than enough for the lawyer and so the site had been closed.  After a week had passed, I heard that he’d been released but was too traumatized to return to work for awhile. Makes you afraid to imagine what all those detained children are going through. 

Anyway, that’s my story.  I hope I can remember more.  I really do.  How about you?  #TheBestinPeople is something to pass on and so I have.  Thanks Dan.