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Or: The Green, Green Groceries of Home

So Wednesday night I’m chillin’, watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and, as per usual, Keith is talking about John McCain’s latest gaffe, and all of a sudden, he says: “In front of the cheese case at the King’s Supermarket at the Westgate Mall in Bethlehem, Pa, the Senator tried to clear up any confusion….” etc. etc. And I sit bolt upright, look at the screen, and sure enough, there’s McCain in the local supermarket right near my parents’ house!

This is the grocery store I drag my father to any time I need ice cream or potato chips or seltzer or whatever else I’m craving that my parents don’t tend to keep in the house. I know this store and the Westgate Mall pretty well. It’s barely a mall by today’s standards, just a little strip mall. The supermarket is not that super either, it just happens to be the closest one. When I go with my stepmom to do a real grocery shopping, we always hit the Wegmans that’s a lot bigger and much better, but a little farther away. Though it’s not exactly small, King’s is much more of a Bethlehem small-town grocery store, while Wegman’s is a megastore that makes its own sushi, espresso and focaccia inhouse – not the kind of store I grew up with, or ever expect to see when I visit Bethlehem, though it’s been open for several years now.

I still remember Schoenen’s, the little grocery store I went to with my mom a thousand times – a family business, much smaller and humbler – off the main streets in a little neighborhood on the way to my high school. I remember its little parking lot – maybe 20 spaces – along the side of the store, and the big church and associated church school across the street on two sides of the store. I never knew anyone who went to that church, and its little plaid-skirted students always looked very foreign to me; but my mom always ran into people she knew at Schoenen’s, and always chatted with them – sometimes a little longer than I would have liked. That’s probably why I remember the outside of the store better than the inside, because that’s usually where I was while she was chatting. She was friendly like that.

Schoenen’s is probably long gone now. Since my mom passed away, and my dad remarried and moved with the family to a new home or two, this King’s store has been my parents’ neighborhood grocery for many years. And seeing this little bit of home on the national news really got me. The same thing happens when I see the inevitable footage of Syracuse snow every winter on the news, or deco hotels I recognize from around town on old episodes of Miami Vice, and most especially when I see footage of New Orleans. I remember after Katrina seeing a particularly wrenching photo of the devastated St. Roch Market – I always used to drive crosstown to buy crawfish there – theirs was the best!

What is it about the places we’ve lived that even a glimpse of a grocery store there can so stir these feelings of yearning, longing and general tugging at the heart? I don’t have any brilliant or profound insights here, I’m just noticing how much these little sightings affect me, and wondering…. No doubt others have written voluminously on this subject, so maybe I’ll just read some of what’s already been written, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel here.

Anyway, back to Bethlehem: I’m sure anyone who watched the news at all this week saw McCain in front of the cheese, and I must admit there was a certain amount of snarkiness among the media towards the cheese. And I must also admit that I felt a certain amount of defensiveness on behalf of my hometown cheese. What did the cheese do? Did anyone ask the cheese if it wanted to be on the national news? I don’t think so! It was just an innocent bystander!

Days later, everyone in the media is still talking about McCain and the cheese, for example this from Olbermann last night:

“Rule #1: Always stay away from the cheese.”

I emailed my father to let my folks know about their grocery store’s fifteen minutes of fame, and he wrote back:

“Yes, I was at Weiss-Kings and the secret service arrested me because they heard me say I am voting for Al Obama. Could U send 25K for my bail? Otherwise everything is OK.”

My father has also determined that Obama is actually Irish: i.e. O’Bama.

While McCain has been touring a variety of food-related establishments this week, Obama has – well, if you’re breathing, you know where he’s been this week. But in all the coverage, I haven’t heard anyone mention how cute Obama looked in a yarmulke. (Is there a rhyme in there? Obama’s Yarmulke? Maybe Adam Sandler will write a song.) (Yeah, I know, cheesy).

So thanks Keith, for being the only commentator to be so specific about the location of the cheese, and making the campaign just a little more personal for me.

The Campaign Gets Personal – Episode 2

From my good friend and colleague, Annie Wenz – kayaking gypsy shaman folk nurse!

Hello Beautifuls!

I thought I’d send this out in case maybe just maybe some of you have in your hearts &/or pocketbooks to contribute to an absolutely wonderful cause/song camp for teens age 12-18, sponsored by “Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas & Texas Folk Music Foundation” (Our friends at The Kerrville Folk Festival)

The camp is SUCH an AMAZING gift! Many of these kids have at least 1 parent in Iraq, & most of them come from incredibly difficult situations. Music has been the perfect tool for bringing them together, building their self esteem, teaching them leadership skills & giving them hope!

They are actually the most diverse group I’ve ever worked with. (this will be my 3rd year teaching) They arrive from various areas around Texas not knowing each other, keeping to themselves, initially, shy insecure & out of their element. Within 24 hours, they stand arm in arm, cheering each other on, laughing, crying, sharing the joy of music & art. They are totally transformed.

Cost of sponsoring 1 teen is just $50 (but even part of that would be a huge help) Also if anyone out there just won the lottery, we are also in need of a “food sponsor”- that will cost $1500. (if not, we’ll just feed them bread & water & maybe some wild grapes & armadillos from the ranch 😉 )

This years music instructors are myself; Tom Prasada Rao; Donna & Kelly of “Still on the Hill” & Roy Wooten of Bela Fleck; Texas artists Frank Meyer & Bill Oliver, & Poetry instructors Tim Mason and Jena Gessaman.

It is SUCH an honor to share music with these kids. I know we are making a huge difference in their lives as we pass the torch of music & community.

If you are at all able to donate even a bit, please contact:

Jon F. Charles (Camp Director)
304 W. Ave B
Killeen, Texas 76541
(254) 699-5808 Ext. 106
(512) 525-9037 Cell
Deputy Chief Professional Officer
Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas

or Dalis Allen

Annie Wenz
Player of Harleys/Guitar/Piano/Drums/Indigenous Flutes

Stay tuned to this category, I will be posting more opportunities to do good in the world, and inspiring stories about people doing good deeds (unless those end up in my Inspiration Category! 😀)

Some Thoughts for Independence Day

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?” – Pablo Casals

“I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” – Abraham Lincoln

“We’re not made by God to mass kill one another… and that’s backed up by the Gospel. Lying and war are always associated. Pay attention to war-makers when they try to defend their current war… if they move their lips they’re lying.” – Philip Berrigan

“War is obsolete. We are not here to fight something or tear something down. We are here to be the example of what is possible. Any sane individual will tell you that violence is not the way.” – Buckminster Fuller

“Do not be preoccupied with killing the dinosaur. Rather, invent the gazelle.” – E.F. Schumaker

“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

“When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.” – Alan Paton

“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed –
I cast my lot with those who, age after age,
Perversely, with no extraordinary power,
Reconstitute the world.”
– Adrienne Rich

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” – Martin Luther

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

“Never give up, and never under any circumstances, no matter what, never face the facts.” – Ruth Gordon

“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“What would statesmen do for fun, if all at once the world was one?” – The King, The Little Prince – Antonie de Saint Exupéry

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelly, Pogo

Happy July 4th Everyone! Let Freedom Ring!

Great Words from Great Wordsmiths

“I am the strings, and the Supreme is the musician.” - Carlos Santana

“What a wonderful life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner.” - Collette

“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.” - Rabindranath Tagore

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” - Maya Angelou
July 2008