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One Little Piece of Holy Ground

April 9, 2010

This past Thursday night I met up with an old co-worker who, after being laid off from our company about this time last year, ended up being unable to find another job in New York and eventually was compelled to move back down to Florida, where she’s from, and in with her parents. I was in Orlando on business, and so I gave her a call and let her know I was in town. We decided to have dinner, at Epcot.

We took the monorail to the park and chose to eat Mexican, at the San Angel Inn. After some wandering in the wrong direction—and with much sneezing and sniffling on my part, my allergies in full bloom, and with a 14-minute, “circle-vision” film about Canada intervening—we got directions and went south of the border.

The replica Aztec pyramid, within which the San Angel Inn is housed, contains a replica Mexican market peddling sombreros, tequila, and blankets, and the like. At the back is the San Angel Inn, whose tables seem to be set underneath a vast night sky, with (another) Aztec pyramid and a smoking, red-rimmed volcano off in the “distance.” It was somewhat hokey, the set-up, but was not without its charms.

We were seated and caught up. I drank a virgin lime margarita. My friend drank a passion-fruit margarita. We ordered tacos for dinner from the appetizer menu and talked. At first, when my co-worker came on staff at our mutual company, about a week after me, I thought I wouldn’t like or get along with her. I learned a lesson with regard to that judgment, one usually doled out in terms of books and covers.

At some point during the meal, a mother and her son, who was probably about 10 years old, were seated next to us. At first I didn’t really notice them. Then I noticed that the boy, who was generously freckled, fairly overweight, and wearing a black AC/DC T-shirt, had a deep Southern twang. For some reason his accent caught my ear; or maybe it was the way the boy seemed to say things, with a self-assuredness that was beyond his years. He talked to his mom (who, as a result of being quieter, I can’t really comment on) in the way that you might talk to an old friend with whom you are very comfortable, and both of you know exactly how much you mean to the other.

Perhaps I am ascribing overmuch agency or self-awareness to the kid. But it tickled me, his animated way of talking and exclaiming about things. I didn’t even really hear much of what he was saying—rather just the way in which he was saying it.

But one thing he said I did hear, and it just killed me; made me mist up, in fact.

At one point the mom and son’s waiter was at their table, talking with them, and evidently telling them about how the Aztecs used to make human sacrifices of beautiful young women to the volcano—which, as I said, was in the background.

The kid kind of boggled over this, and then he responded, happily, “Well, it’s a good thing I’m ugly, then!” And chuckled and smiled at his own joke.

That damn near did me in. Later their food came and the kid tore into his with gusto, like no one had ever made fun of him or had made him feel bad about himself. During this, I intermittently tried to alert my friend—Jen—to the truly dazzling display of human fireworks going on the table adjacent to us; and I think she picked up on it, though perhaps not to the degree that I did.

Thinking about this, since then, I’ve thought about Annie Dillard’s blue crab, in the Jordan desert; the scores of birds just going nuts in that one tree at twilight on Bedford, outside of the cheese shop; and the terribly silent, white view from atop Antarctica’s Observation Hill. And then, having just finished reading J.D. Salinger’s “Seymour: An Introduction,” on the plane back up to Brooklyn, there is this:

“Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next.”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dad permalink
    April 10, 2010 11:30 am

    Excellent piece and observation. Holy ground is all around us!

  2. Jen permalink
    April 10, 2010 5:58 pm

    Aw, see that passionfruit margarita did me in, I didn’t hear him say that! I would have keeled over laughing if I did.

    Glad you finally came around after that first week 🙂

  3. April 15, 2010 4:42 pm

    i think i played a couple gigs with that kid. he had a mean french horn, man.
    about did me in, too. nice, man. love it.
    and also love that seymour quote. if only we could remember this. then we’d all be able to chuckle and smile while whistling dixie, as well as back in black, hells bells and dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

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