Not long ago I was in a tiny, antique-type gift store within a tiny, antique town I was passing through. As I wandered the aisles I heard this conversation between the owner – a middle-aged, sweater-clad, rotund woman sitting behind the counter – and her only other customer, a tall, coiffed, impossibly straight-backed woman with a penchant for animal-shaped salt and pepper shakers.
Owner: Our 35th wedding anniversary is coming up this Spring, and Duane’s offered to take me to the new Joanna Gaines store down there in Texas, or we might go to Paris. We just can’t decide…”
Customer: That store looks wonderful. I saw pictures of it on TV just the other day. I think they’re putting in a restaurant there, too!
Owner: Yes, Magnolia Market – it’s on my bucket list. It sounds like a dream. And Duane and I would stay in Houston for a few days, too.
Customer: You know, I’d get on a plane to Texas but not anywhere overseas these days. All those people are…well, there’s just so much violence over there!
Owner: Yeah, Duane doesn’t want anything to do with Paris. He hates Europe. But you know our Erika’s there so that’s why I thought maybe. But Duane says he’s happy to go to Texas. We’ve never been to Waco in the spring before…
These two kept talking on in this way, until I was forced to hastily exit the store in order to preserve my exploding brain cells. But right before leaving I paused at the counter to smile extra wide at the woman and say, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear, so please let me place my vote for Paris. It’s magical, truly. The enormity of the buildings, the grandeur of the architecture, the abundance of public art and sculpture, the bridges, the wrought-iron balconies, the baguettes…oh my, I’m getting swoony just thinking of it all. Even the doors are works of art! Choose Paris. I promise, even if you do nothing else, just walk the streets for a week looking at the store fronts and gardens and tasting the wine and all the cheeses…I doubt there’s anything remotely comparable in Waco.”
Here I trailed off, for the woman’s eyes had gone glassy while her hands tugged nervously on imaginary nubs all over her knit cardigan. Obviously she was trying to be polite but felt I was speaking in tongues (and criticizing Magnolia Market/Joanna Gaines on top of it!).
Well, time has marched on but that exchange replays itself in my head now and again like a scene from Groundhog’s Day, because obviously our country as a whole has endured this exact same conversation. Over and over we were given the choice – Paris or Waco? History, Literature, Art, Progress, Science, Architecture, Gastronomy, the Paris Climate Agreement, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity…or…Silos, Cotton, Humidity, Motorcycles, Snakes, Tornadoes, Shoot-outs, Mammoth bones, the Dr. Pepper Museum, Magnolia Market.
Surprise, surprise – we chose Waco! Woo- hoo!
So now I weep, quietly and often, while my friends and family who voted for Waco say, “Good grief! Stop bitching and moaning. There’s BBQ and big screen tvs everywhere here, excellent football, guns enough for every man, woman, and child…it’s going to be fine!”
If you are a person who says that to me, (while I mournfully remember that this was a choice we all had – that Waco wasn’t where they’d assigned us our prison sentence, say, nor was every other inch of livable earth space washed away in an epic flood) then you and I have NOTHING in common. Zilch, nada, nyet.
Because empirically Paris is better than Waco. You can argue all you want about Waco’s finer points – and there are a few – but it is not even a sliver of Paris. It does not bear even a cupped hands-worth of its beauty or history, it’s cohesion, enterprise, or scholarship. Waco as an entity has contributed very little to the advancement of human progress, except for Dr. Pepper. And no pictures, facts, first-hand narratives or writings are going to change your mind, friends and family…you believe against all evidence WACO is the better choice – we get it! But geez, listening to your rationale is as enlightened as attending a seminar on blood-letting.
And if you are a person who tells me to calm down because Waco was the pre-ordained, chosen choice, (yes, I know, your invisible man-deity told you so), then you and I have even less than nothing in common (that would be a negative number). If you believe that a man, from a culture that is so different from ours now that you in fact want nothing to do with it, told the very first woman ever formed not to eat a certain fruit (why???), and then that woman ate the fruit anyway (apparently it was forbidden because it contained knowledge, and you know, we wouldn’t want a woman to have that!), and now she’s sinned for all of eternity (a word and concept coined by man, coincidentally), well, clearly you are reading an ancient, biased, nonsensical tome.
Because Eve did NOTHING WRONG. She hurt no one. Literally she fed someone – women’s historic role throughout the ages! But in this case, a pretend man mandated an arbitrary rule for no known reason, which Eve then ‘disobeyed’. Nothing about this story makes an ounce of sense. It only serves to reinforce what a malevolent god God is, if you believe in that sort of thing. But if this is the story you hang your hat on, the story you process into a building every weekend to have told to your kids over and over, then you and I have infinitely nothing in common. Zilch, nada, nyet.
Because Eve, along with all women, took the blame for a non-crime. She committed a man-made ‘sin’ which she now must pay for, for the rest of time (Or until we collectively get a new book, or better books. Much better books preferably!).
On and on we go.
Down to Waco,
marching and bitching and munching that apple ALL THE WAY!
(PS – Seriously. We could have gone to Paris!)