Earlier today I went to a local church which provides a food pantry for the poor of my city. Given that I am one of the poor of my city, I got in line and waited about an hour to get some coffee, mainly, and cereal. There is always a can of Spaghettio's in the bag, and it won't get eaten unless there is some serious starvation at hand. Usually I pass it on to single mothers who have kids who'll eat anything, even Spaghettio's.
My mind wandered quite a bit as I waited for the red door to open. The woman next to me insisted on talking about the flora of her home, El Salvador, and how people "around here" don't know something fundamental about trees and flowers; that if you water them, and it's warm, they will do just fine. It was a strangely comforting assertion. Especially with so many people busily dropping expensive chemicals on their lawn to make it radioactive green. Soon she pointed out the blooming yellow forsythia, the red buds on a crab apple tree, and the green strands of a weeping willow. In her hand was a thin branch, about a foot long, with tiny white flowers. She sniffed it perhaps 20 times.
The woman behind me in line was talking loudly to her friend about "Jim." Apparently, Jim is a pain in the ass and a danger to others. "You can't let him drive to the Christening for Christ's sake! The last time he drove he was on the wrong side of the highway! Take the distributor cap out of the car, and the spark plugs if you have to," was her impassioned plea to the dip standing next to her. She sold me. Although both the cap and the plugs are probably overkill. Either one will do the trick. The Dip was dressed like, well, a dip. He has sweatpants on and an undershirt with some sort of missive printed on the front. It looked like he fell down a lot. He was not a good-looking fellow. There was a kind moment when the woman told The Dip that he should wear his only suit to the Christening. "Everyone would just die," she said, "you look so good in that." I couldn't see it, but that's love for you. To her, he was Prince Charming in that suit. To everyone else, a disheveled dip.
The whole affair spewed a fog of melancholy over me. But over what? The strong correlation between poverty and coarseness? The understated dignity of an old lady thinking of the flowers of her homeland? I think perhaps more the former.