“OMG! I’m not the last one here for Fitzgerald Class” I murmured as I took off my winter coat while nodding at each person. “At least I got all my Ring Lardner short stories read.” I remembered he was one of Fitzgerald’s favorite writers. His characters reminded me of how many of my folks’ friends talked like his characters. Not surprising, they grew up, largely self-educated, in that era in rural Iowa.” Our group of literature lovers, all impressed by the genius of Fitzgerald’s writing, now live in or near St. Paul, Mn., and spend a half-day most months engrossed in the literature of his time, appreciating how he and the various famous writers influenced one another. This small group of about ten of us here today, are far more knowledgable than I on how the times and the genius of each writer influenced each of them. Literature had been my first love in high school and college until my senior year, when I transferred to psychology as a major and journalism as a minor. After getting a Ph.D. in educational psychology, I ended up developing and running programs for behavior problem kids in public schools.
Retired, after years of traveling all over the world, I now find compelling reading to be mostly political, written by presidential historians or political journalists. This Saturday night, looking forward to viewing good TV, I surprisingly found on CNN, ‘The Las Year of President Obama in the White House!’ This is a WOW experience for me as I settle down with a glass of wine to watch the beloved people of his White House express their joys of working and living in that white house and now in preparing it for the next occupant, hoping they will appreciate their efforts. How bittersweet it is – as well as joyous in sensing how real their enthusiasm was for their many years there. Little could they anticipate then how depressing it is now to be a politician.
It would have been a relief when this noble program ended until Anthony Bourdain and his last travels took over the TV CNN viewing. Bourdain is another person I have greatly admired, particularly as he found himself this night exploring the roughest terrain in America — of life lived by true Texan cowboy families. “In the roughest terrain, you have a weak heart, you won’t last,” Anthony said. “Surrounded by high mountains, populated by crowded high trees, with curling gravel roads at ground level require you to go 40 miles to get a loaf of bread or a pack of cigarettes. Folks here travel mostly by horses. There was nothin’ but nothin’ between small towns,” he said. Yet the family he was with, engaged in hard laughter and LOVED IT! They wouldn’t live anywhere else. One family owned a saloon—a good one. “Loyalty was big in this Texas where you have to depend on one another. Ranchers needed lots of guns cause you were considered an invader of Mexico in the old days. Mexicans say all their fathers, grandfathers were all here. In fact you can see the evidence of their carvings on the rocks. They were in tune with their times. Diverse folks live in Texas — cross over wherever the borders are from Mexico. Many live across the street from one another. “ Looking at us, Anthony says, “One side is USA, the other is Mexico. This appears to be comfortable for most”.
It was the most amazingly magnificent and rugged terrain I’ve yet seen and I’ve spent time in many mountains in Switzerland, Canada and Colorado but none as rugged or seemingly untouched. Going outside at night to watch the stars – at where they live — all seem so appreciated by those who live there. By granny, makes me wish I were younger. That would be on my list to visit. How grateful I was to Anthony that he did go there and thus share it with me.
What a day of contrasts this entire Saturday has been for me. And I needed to go only about two miles to experience it all!