Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Drink a mojito at the Adams Morgan Day festival

LOCATION: 18th st in Adams Morgan TIME: Last Sunday and next year EQUIPMENT: Yourself, money for snacks, sense of community. OPTIONAL: Dogeared copy of C.S. Lewis' "The Four Loves"

Every year they shut down 18th St, and a patchwork quilt of teriyaki chicken kiosks, sarong importers, community activists, and ceramic jewelry designers pitch their tents. Madam's Organ puts out big painted signs for $3 beer. Musical performers imitate Bono badly, and local dance troupes do synchronized routines on the street. You can buy badly carved Ethiopian masks or little jars of homemade scented shea butter. The air reeks of fried rice. If it's a sunny day, like yesterday, Adams Morgan gets almost as crowded as it would on a lively Saturday night, and the throngs swarm with sunburned grins, sucking on oversized cups of lemonade. Enterprising households time their yard sales to coincide with the festival, counting on tipsy impulse purchases of broken teakettles. The local church hosts an interpretive dance performance by earnest women dressed in colour-coordinated shawls who flow and twirl and beat their chests in a very spiritual fashion, in front of an audience of Hispanic men who leer at their leotarded butts. I saw maybe thirty people I knew while wandering around, including some dear friends, and a guy I used to date, and several homeless people I knew, and other people I recognized enough to nod to but had never met.

If you haven't noticed, I love it - the community thing. I was thinking about it the other day while reading C.S. Lewis, who describes four different kinds of love: affection, friendship, erotic, and spiritual. Spiritual love is for God. I won't talk about that now. Erotic love is, well, you know, red roses and thorns and crashing ocean waves and Medea's rage. Again, too big a chew for me to bite. Friendship is the love of shared interests, the love of doing side-by-side. You choose your friends and your friends choose you; sometimes you even feel yourself part of an elite cadre. These feelings, I think, are all pretty easy to understand as love. Affection is a little trickier: Lewis defines it as the love that comes not from an inherent attraction toward the person loved but from shared experience and shared environment. "It is indeed the least discriminating of loves...almost anyone can become an object of Affection; the ugly, the stupid, even the exasperating...." Oh, old Mrs. Fitzpatrick? She's a crank, but she's our crank. (Of course, most relationships in real life are a mixture of friendship and affection.)

The idea used to baffle me. Why would you like something more because you saw it everyday? Why would you love a person more than another because they happened to be your family member, or your neighbor? "God chooses your family; thank God you can choose your friends" - it used to be my mantra.

And yet I've come to think that when you live in a friendly bubble of like-minded souls comforting each other in a hostile world, you can become seriously detached from reality, and rather self-absorbed. Maybe you stop questioning yourself because everyone around you already agrees with you and you never have to defend yourself. Maybe you lose touch with the cycle of life, with babies and old people and parents and children. Maybe you forget that there are people out there who are both sane and very, very different from you. C.S. Lewis write, "Affection opens our eyes to goodness we could not have seen, or should not have appreciated without it."

I would never choose or be chosen by the slightly sweaty man leering at the interpretive dancers, or the elderly woman with hornrimmed glasses administering the yard sale, or the gigantic aproned man offering me spoons of sorbet, or the teenage breakdancer, or the middle-aged gay couple with the meticulously groomed miniature schnauzer, or the obnoxious police officers driving on the Dupont grass. And yet by dint of sheer familiarity and shared place I notice that the sweaty man carefully helps his grandfather to his feet, and I chuckle at the elderly woman's neat thirty-page typed catalogue for her junk, and I admire the teenage dancer's energy and attitude, and I realize that I have more in common with the lady cop than I'd like to admit, and I'm forced to imagine what life circumstance might tempt me to join the Church of Scientology. It's wonderful. It's a cliche. It's life.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)

3:59 AM  

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