Eat At Tina’s Kitchen

591. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am having a twilight zone moment. I’m sitting in the reception area of Doctor Knapp’s office staring at a very large aquarium filled with vibrant green plastic seaweed, colorful plastic shells, fake corral, a bubbling aerator, and several tropical fish swimming. It’s all so clean and well constructed, designed and contained. It is meant to be peaceful and calming for nervous patients and in another context I might see it as it is intended. However, I just spent the last two weeks diving off the coast of Belize on one of the world’s great barrier reefs. The only real things in the tank are the fish; everything else is plastic, constructed. I’m watching the fish swim within the limits of their container. They circle; they touch the top and dive to the bottom, again and again and again.

Because my mind can’t see a doughnut without equating it metaphorically I am staring at the aquarium as if was a symbol of contemporary life in America. I am horrified. The colorful magazines on the table next to me declare that, Jen is being unfaithful, Christian has a broken heart, there is a lovechild, a shocking divorce, a deathbed confession! The receptionist is sitting behind a counter, wearing a headset, answering calls as she simultaneously asks a patient 101 questions about insurance coverage; the patient is wracking her brain trying to remember the minutia of her coverage. How many parts of Medicare are there and have you already fallen through the doughnut hole?

There is an elderly couple sitting behind me and they are talking about the episode of a television show they watched last night. They are deeply concerned about the safety of one of the characters. Their conversation for a moment became heated as they argued about whether the character should have opened the door or not. “That was stupid!” the man exclaimed. “No! He had to do it!” she retorted. He crossed his arms not liking to be challenged on his perception of a character in imaginary circumstances. I suppress the urge to flee.

As I look around the office I realize that, other than the people and the fish, everything is constructed, designed, assembled, and fabricated. There is a wall of charts, rows of chairs (not too comfortable), art on the wall meant to compliment the color scheme but otherwise says nothing (or, perhaps, that is exactly what it says about us), textured wallpaper that is not vibrant nor listless; people walking within the limits of their container, testing the top, diving to touch bottom, and circling again and again and again.

I know this moment will pass. I am suffering from travel re-entry and am prone to twilight zone moments. Last week I entered a shack, sat on a plastic chair and watched as Tina made for me rice, beans, and a fish just pulled from the river. Tina’s kitchen was also constructed but it wasn’t hiding anything, it was a human place, functional and gritty and barely qualified as a structure. Her 6-year old daughter, Darcy, strummed a guitar that only had two strings and sang songs. No one tried to shoo her away or was concerned about decorum. We laughed, clapped and were grateful for the breeze off the ocean that cut the heat. There was no need to talk about imaginary conflicts because life in Tina’s Kitchen was real and so was our conversation. The culture of comfort had not yet seeped into her village; insurance was the relationship she had with her neighbors and the hard lives of the people in her world were far more tangible and compelling than anything screaming from a magazine. She had no time for Jen’s faithlessness or Christian’s broken heart. Her world might have looked poor but I could see no glass containing her and all of the plants were refreshingly rooted and real.

4 Responses

  1. Stunning images and poetry. Set me straight. Thanks, David.

  2. “Because my mind can’t see a doughnut without equating it metaphorically…” That line right there sums up why I love you, my friend. I know how that is. Hope you are well. 🙂

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