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Welcome to A Writer's Landscape!

You have entered the realm of my mind where words play with the fabric of our existence. This is the map of my imagination: the very foundations of inspiration, musing, and thought splayed for your wandering eyes. Dive deep into the tides of these forces and experience my reality, my fantasy, my world; and if you should be so inclined, share your words with this land.

Peace and Love!

J Hart F

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spaghetti with Meatballs of Irony!

We walk from my house to his van; the family van, otherwise known as his man van thanks to my little input. "I like it because it has power," he jokes. "It's wicked fast." Nobody would guess it until he beat them on take-off from a stoplight. It really does look like a soccer mom's van, and that's part of Terry. He drives something that isn't exactly fitting of his facade, but fits his needs for his family. For instance: tonight he's wearing a leather jacket fit for either biking or flying an airplane, with a beanie and jeans and certainly a well cut shirt underneath the jacket. Yet he's driving a mini-van.

Settling into the passenger seat, Terry hands me a book: Illusions; The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. "That's the book I was telling you about. Wanted to make sure I got it to you," he says as he buckles in and starts the car. I think the title is meaningful, and suddenly I'm struck with a deeper sense about Terry which had already been growing over the past month. Is he a 'Reluctant Messiah'? And if so, what is he trying to bring to his friends, his family, and most importantly his society?

First meeting Terry was quite a shock to my little world at work. He's a regular customer who typically sits at one table with his computer and up to seven books splayed around him. Half the time he wears a graphic t-shirt with a Japanese design or symbols. Arriving at eight in the morning, Terry can sit there until four in the afternoon working on either his online courses or his graphic design stuff. He has tried to explain what he does, and for the most part I understand that he's been working on a computer animated cartoon; specifically designing the space ship for the 'good guys' to fly in. However, his hobbies are creating new computer codes to enrich textiles and skins and writing novels. It's a little mind boggling what he does. He has been working on three different novels, the most recent of which is a collection of stories revealing parenting methods through the allusion of playing board games.

However, this isn't why we know Terry at work. Going to one Starbucks for nearly two and a half years allows for some friendships to grow with the Baristas. Not only this, but rumors arise and quick personalities are enforced which creates a facade that both sides of the counter have a hard time breaking through in such short encounters. Essentially, my first impression of Terry was the rumors that had been told me: immoral, childish, immature, lazy, etc. My coworkers were building a picture of the scum of the earth. The initial encounters with Terry were indeed supplementing this pretense. The jokes he tells are sexual in nature most of the time and in the two minutes o service provided at work, that's usually what we would hear.

But recent events drastically changed that view. Not two weeks ago, several of my employees were suspended pending further investigation of theft and alcohol consumption. Terry was moved by their plight and called me up, asking if I could be an angel and keep a secret. "Although... Angels can't keep secrets, so really I'm asking you to be my little devil." He giggled at the possible sexual reference he was making with me.

"Yeah, I can keep your secret. I'm good at secrets." Even as I said it, we both quietly recognized there was an essential flaw: once it's shared with another, it's no longer a secret.

He got a little somber; possibly serious is a better description, but somber holds that sadness he was experiencing for the trials my coworkers were going through. He said, "I want to give them each two weeks pay for the time they're missing. I want them to know someone's thinking about them... and you know; give them money to pay bills and stuff." Anonymity was Terry's goal in the process, making sure they didn't know who was donating such funds to their lives; he wanted to be an angel for my coworkers.

He pulls away from my house after flicking on the widnshield wipers to take away the innocent flecks of snow drifting down from the graying sky. The ten minute drive to Buca di Beppo experiences many little jokes.

"Shelly and Wil are going to be so jealous," he explains with little giggles about his wife and son. "I know I'm lucky though."

"Well, next time we'll have to invite them both too."

Terry asks in a childish way, "Do we have to?" We both laugh, as we pull up to the restaurant.

We walk in to find five people standing at the hostess station. "Just the two of you tonight?" the hostess asks, looking between Terry and myself in a knowing way.

"Yep," Terry responds for the both of us. "I see you guys are ready for us!" he declares to all five of them.

One of the guys, obviously the general manager, attempts to joke back and merely reveals his lack of enthusiasm at being so slow on a Sunday night. "Oh yeah, we're so excited..." Seeming oblivious to the manager's tone, Terry laughs and starts talking to the hostess leading us through the kitchen. There isn't a quiet moment in Buca di Beppo: chatter explodes from several tables throughout the restaurant and the music is just loud enough to compensate for the noise. The girl sits us down and leaves us to chat.

By the time Whitney, our waitress, arrives, Terry and I have gone off on another conversation already. We haven't even looked at the menu. "What can I get you guys to drink?"

"I'll have tea. Iced tea pleas," Terry orders without thinking, almost before she can finish asking the question. I order water.

"What what are you guys celebrating tonight?" the gentle sense of knowing revealing itself again. I can't help but think these employees assume we're on a date, which certainly tickles Terry to no relief.

He looks at me. "Oh, we're not celebrating." It appears to be the perfect opportunity to iron out my thesis on Terry.

I explain to Whitney that I'm writing an essay on Terry, who use to simple be one of my customers and has grown in my eyes. I say, "The reason I chose him is because he's a big ball of irony. He comes off as crass, joking about anything, but really he cares so much more than that."

"Meatballs of Irony!" Terry blurts out and starts laughing almost uncontrollably. I can't tell if Whitney is truly amused or not, but she smiles and softly giggles.

She looks at Terry and asks jokingly, "Is that a compliment?"

"Oh, everything's a compliment!" Liking the answer, she rushes away to fill our drink orders and give us time to look over the menu. Terry starts laughing almost immediately, very pleased with his internal monologue. "I'll take the spaghetti with meatballs of irony." I can't help laughing a little either. He flips through the pages of the menu and comes across a picture of two sausage links on a plate of sauteed bell peppers. "Perhaps we should share a couple of Italian sausages," he jokes, referencing our sexualities and obvious inability to do just quite the action. Quickly continuing his peruse through the menu brings him to the alcohol section. "Oh my! Menage A Trois! Cochron! Ha ha!" All the beverages seem to have some sexual connotation and he's off laughing again, creating a very relaxed, fun, and amusing atmosphere for the both of us. It's certainly a joy to be in his company.

"Oh, I'm so naive," he declares suddenly.

I look at him, his eyes filled with happiness. "No you're not," I tell him.

"Yes I am," he says immediately, suppressing laughter.

Very recently, Terry revealed to me something that came as a surprise to him. He realized he wasn't straight. This isn't to say he's gay, but Terry came to a realization that he could be sexually attracted to men. Some of this he attributes to my openness with my sexuality with whoever asks me about it as Terry did on multiple occasions. The rest he claims is because he's attracted to me and a few other guys he has run into.

Returning with a glass of ice water and iced tea, Whitney starts chatting with us again. Terry quickly discovers that she wants to become a teacher; having already graduated with a journalism degree, she wasn't finding a lot of good work with the economy being so depressed. One of Terry's other sides is revealed by his willingness to talk to the waitress. Diving in, he reveals how he was a computer technologies teacher at a high school. "I quit," he says at one point, "because I couldn't handle a job that had no accountability." A sense of pride and arrogance come through his statement. The conversation ensues as they talk about teaching and school. Terry is open; completely willing to talk about anything. His air of joking has dropped away.

Whitney finally takes our orders and leaves for the kitchen.

Somehow, through the conversation with Whitney, Terry and I begin talking about an old television show: Kung Fu. The way he talks about this show uncovers yet another facet of his personality which I already had a sense was present. He speaks about the lessons he learned through watching Kung Fu and how Master Kan educated his pupil. One of Terry's favorite episodes, he explains, is when Master Kan makes his pupil be the master for a day; whereby Master Kan serves his student instead of the student serving him.

"There were three lessons to this," Terry explains of Master Kan's actions. "The first was that it is a service for yourself to serve others. The second is to own your own shame that ends up being because of the obligation that arises from always serving or being served." He pauses, thinking really hard. "Sorry, I'm manifesting this myself," Terry blurts out as he tries to think of the last lesson. "The other one is to provide the opportunity to feel pride in providing the service for others and yourself.

"But there's a complication," he says very seriously, though his eyes are still lighthearted. "When you're the giver, that's easy. It's harder to receive..." He thinks about what he said, and suddenly his face explodes. "Wow!" he declares, hands on the sides of his head, hazel eyes wide with delight, inspiration illuminating his face in the darkened corner of the restaurant in which we sit. "I can't even... put words to what I just thought."

Whitney returns with our food and sets it before us. Terry has ordered the apple and Gorgonzola salad while I received the four pasta sampler platter. They both look wonderful: on abundant with greens, hinted with the purple of cranberries and white cheese sprinkled throughout, while the other dish is covered with off-white pastas smothered in red tomato sauce.

I sit there smiling, thinking to myself how deep his thought process goes even when talking so mildly with a friend. I'm sure he has deep conversations with many of his friends, once he's passed the first stage of joking and relationship building. With our suddenly deep conversation, he moves us on to fallacies. He explains how a fallacy is a logical argument that is flawed even when it sounds logical and reasonable.

"How do you spell 'fallacies'?" I ask him, holding my pen ready to take my next notes about our conversation.

"Umm... P-H-A-L-H-A-S... You didn't just write that down did you?" We laugh hysterically for a moment, our food before us getting colder as we enjoy our time together. We continue to talk about the creation of fallacies and I'm struck once more with the depth of understanding Terry has about the world around him.

I say at one point, "It'll all work out in the end... Wait, is that a fallacy?"

"uh-yeah," Terry responds and giggles, pleasure at my understanding of what he's describing. As we laugh, a little three year old boy walks up to an exit door right next to our table. The door is obviously rigged to make loud noises should anyone attempt to leave through it, alerting the fire department to a possible disaster and making many of the patrons of Buca di Beppo flee. Terry looks at the kid as he reaches up to push the red door handle and says very calmly and assertively, "You might regret pushing that."

The boy turns around and looks at Terry before scampering off again.

Suddenly, I remember a moent from a week ago; a Ki-Aikido lesson I went to with him. Aikido is a Japanese defense martial arts which teaches the individual how to use his Ki to reach out to opponents and relate with them. The way Terry talked to the three year old boy brought back an image of Terry working with his opponents in practice. Sitting on the side and observing the advanced session Terry partook in allowed for me to get a better appreciation for how a person's Ki interacted with others.

What I noticed was how they all stood. Being a defensive art form, everyone stood with their feet at odd angles: left foot typically behind the right foot and at almost a ninety degree angle, ready to shift to a better position to throw the opponent off balance. Terry, however, stood with both feet perpendicular, facing his opponent directly until they were engaging in the moves being practiced. I realized this during the lesson, and explained it to Terry that night. I told him how he stood differently from the others in the class. He had no idea he was doing that and made a loos promise to work on putting himself into a better prepared stance. However, when Terry spoke to the boy something clicked in my mind about how Terry extended his Ki to the world.

When he spoke to the boy, engaged Whitney in an intense conversation, or talked to me about his sexuality Terry didn't stand on guard. He doesn't put up his defenses and prepare to deflect or throw people off balance so they won't get to know him. I assumed his joking nature was a protective aspect in Terry's personality, but the jokes are used to help others lower their own defenses. He enjoys life and wants everyone else to do the same. The simplest way to do this is to make people laugh; to provide others with a moment of amusement and joy. It is a wise thing to do. Even though some of Terry's history may be suspect and some of his actions may seem immature and immoral, there is a deeper acumen when Terry regards his actions, the world, and the interactions of humanity. Maybe this is how he's teaching all of us: in small moments of gaiety with a friendly figure judged for living life how he wants.

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