Last Tuesday I had lunch in Capetown, dinner in Johannesberg, breakfast the next morning in London, and a slice on Sixth Avenue eight air-hours later, before strolling into my New York office just in time to watch the United States Senate acquit the President of the United States. Please read on, dear friends. This is a bipartisan article.
Within moments, the anger, bile and vituperative Internet mudslinging was so thick that I shut down my computer and ran from the premises. It hardly mattered which side was airing its spleen. The headline was the divisiveness. A week away did little more than remind me we are on a race to that fabled low of which Ms. Obama spoke. Who cares who occupies the basement?
That evening, I went to the gym to get my ya-yas out. Good luck with that when you have eight TV’s blaring in your face. I asked the attendant to switch the screen directly in front of me to HGTV and watched “Househunters International.” My Nikes slapped away at the treadmill and I wondered whether I’d feel better in Ixtapa.
Late that night (daybreak in South Africa, where my wife was still residing), I shared my homecoming frustration. She is usually a compassionate person. Not today, over her eggs and espresso. “Get over it,” was her basic reply. Cut your cable. Cancel your New York Times. Do something. Anything! But stop gnashing your teeth over this. Your angst fixes nothing!
I poured two fingers of cheap scotch into a cribbed airline glass from my Cribbed Airline Glass Collection. I thought about my wife. She has been in S. Africa for a month training young women and men in protocols to combat the trauma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Talk about a drop in the bucket. South Africa has one of the highest incidence of the epidemic in the world. Her interventions touch but a handful of people. And yet she goes back again and again, working from a place of love and concern, instead of anger and despair. Sometimes you can find life’s simplest lessons broadcast right in front of your very eyes.
I am in the midst of launching a business that will tell stories about people and food from all across this land of ours. I read the news like everyone else, but I also travel thousands of miles a year on our back roads. What I find is decency, congeniality, and an open-mindedness to share all that is unique and special about our country. Often told over a delicious, oozing grilled cheese and a plate of salty fries.
I’m sure if I look hard enough I can find the soft, rotting underbelly of this beautiful flailing nation of ours. But as my whisky dwindled to watery ice and hard jet lag set in, I thought of all the goodness I witnessed in a mere few days in S. Africa. It’s not like that place hasn’t had its problems! And there was my wife leading a group of kids and instructors in a joyous chant and dance at the end of their session in Soweto. All I could think was “wow.”
I crawled under the comforter after my 30-hour journey. I physically forced my brain to cancel out the latest news-cycle and focus on where I’d been and what I’d seen. It’s easy these days to accentuate the negative. No so much so the silver lining. But I am going to follow my wife’s sage counsel and try. No one gets anywhere if we’re all spinning our wheels in the muck. South Africa was nice. So are we. It’s time for me to get back out there on the road. There is so much goodness to see, if we only just dare to look.
Next Week: The Joys of Spatchcocked Chicken.