I don’t know what got into me, but after about a year and a half of expressing my life through art, fiction, and anyway I could to assert my own position in the wave of misunderstanding that faces us at times as artists, so mediated by films and popular perspectives, I just got to a place and stopped. I’ve been giving so much that I was almost exhausted, almost worked to the point of where it became unhealthy. I woke up during the night and worked with only maybe five hours sleep sometimes. I never thought I would get to this point but I covered ground on everything I thought I missed out on in the academic demands of school. My work is good, and I’ve had shows and sales, I even sold an NFT. So sometime today I just said, now what, and began to pick up the pieces.
But the most important things happened today by way of synthesis of sensory inputs. My emerging work as the main cook in my family, without a recipe book to go by, just learning from the internet to make new traditions to pass on someday. By dawn I had a collection of new research materials into the history of cooking , gardening and home working. I poured through entries as vast as mythology of the goddess of the hearth in Greek and Roman mythology, I looked back through all of my work and wrote about it in a way that I might never have to explain it again. I started listening to People’s History of the United States. I was back to studying, and then I felt released. Tonight’s my night off of cooking so I’m writing this post instead, and I think this is important for me to do, so what happened?
I realized I had a blank slate, no real traditions passed down to me, almost no trace of lineage, except in off-hand remarks given to me by my parents, off-hand ephemera about far away Scottish Castles that had to be symbolic and odd at best, because in reality, my particular family came from something they never spoke of, there was never any desire to create a tradition. We observed everything in the community but we never really went anywhere except for cursory experiences in a Methodist Church, but I think I studied at an Episcopal church in Berkeley, far away from where I grew up, more than at any other time than when I was growing up. The Christian tradition within my own family really started with me. At least my own family. My extended family is much more traditional, with a strong sense of identity and robust ancestry.com accounts with our elders, but here I am, without my original family to really help guide my way.
So I tried to learn what I could, and all of this came from a simple desire to know what happened at kitchen tables throughout my family’s history. We were as new as a faceless suburb, but didn’t that have it’s own specific reality as well? What do I know of the traditions we pass on, what do I know about tradition? What is anyone talking about when we are trying to return the world to some imaginary state that never existed? Did my family exist? What were we? These are all questions I have in my mind as I head into the holiday tomorrow.
An American flag blew in the wind on our way to get some of our chores done today. There was no music and only a few birds, it was slightly cool outside, and from the silence of the car approaching it just seemed to state it’s own significance. I have to admit I was a little in awe. Because I don’t know what it means, but I know it’s beautiful. This year has been significant. I’ve probably met hundreds of people at this point working in coffee shops. And here’s what I know about America. Of the hundreds if not thousands of people I met this year, I only felt aggression from less than 25 people. This country is kind, beautiful, brave and giving. It’s not what you would expect if you weren’t out in the front lines of retail, something a lot of us can do.
Peets was at times absolutely relentless, it was the most difficult job I’ve ever had and it didn’t pay that much. I was originally working there because I wanted to open my own shop, but after a certain point I didn’t even know why I was there. In the four months I worked as a barista in training, what I did make was expert level, because I cared so much. I practiced for hours and hours, but that wasn’t what was important. I got to see this country in all of it’s aspects. Everyone needs coffee and the coffee shop, its own revolution, allows so many people to meet together. America is like that place, together for a moment and then going on into our own lives, each of us finding our own definitions, yet carrying with us togetherness. This probably could happen at any job like that. Try it out. I have faith that this world is better than it may seem.
But what are we, as I walk away from the sense of togetherness of the moment of having a coffee. I picked some up on our way out today, I’m having it as I write this. Who is my family, and what do I know? In terms of my direct family I know very little except what I learned today. My Mom and Dad never talked about tradition, for them they seemed entirely new. We had no faith or anything we could make tangible other than popular culture. My Mom was an atheist and the few things my Dad ever said to me were almost Catholic and Tibetan, yes seriously, almost Tibetan, it was really weird for a Texan of his generation, but then again, maybe not. The things he wanted to pass on to me were the Beatles and John Coltrane, and sci-fi, he got his point across.
From what I can tell, my Mom was named after her father by adding an extra feminine phononym to her name. And while I don’t want to give too much away, in my research it’s quite possible that our family’s history is Jewish, as well as Welsh and possibly Irish. I don’t know that much about it yet, and does it matter? I don’t have the family member to keep track of all of this. There is no cookbook, which is what I was originally looking for quite innocently. there is no Genealogist, we were just working people without a tradition, and for my entire life I feel like I’ve been a person making a home wherever my partner and I can, always trying, never quite fitting in.
Flags are defined in many ways by the medium through which they appear. They are carriers of the wind yet are unmoved by it, there are so many. What ours mean I may never know, so many people work so hard, all their lives, no matter how long or how far we travel. Yet I catch myself saying, and almost gasp at it, that I so offhandedly wrote “ours”. The unity of our country is without question when it really matters, even though I almost can’t read the news anymore because of all the vitriol. It makes me realize that it is in fact a shared reality, that we really come to a point to everyday, and one day like tomorrow in a year.
I’ll always remember this year from the people I met, the hundreds if not more names I have forgotten but made sure to try and remember today. I just did a calculation. It’s possible I met thousands of people, face to face this year. And I know this, this country is united, we’re all busy and working really hard. We’ve got to finish our morning chores and we’re organizing and getting everything done, I’ve seen people protesting and in agreement, having fun, and yes, some absolutely horrific forms of hate. But those are the exceptions. What I know whoever my family is, I’ve met enough people to think of America, without question, is a loving and caring family. We want our families safe, we believe in the world, we want to help each other out, and I have definitive proof of the soul of America. I’ve seen it. It’s strong. It is beautiful, and it is brave.