Breakfast at Tiffany’s

breakfast at Tiffany's

It is nearly sunset.  I’m an hour away from my Mobile where I know I can find a “clean comfortable room at a convenient price.”  Tired and in danger of nodding off,  I need a quick break. Don’t want to wake up dead, so I look for a place to get a bite and stretch my legs.

I get off the interstate at the Vegas of Alabama.  I’m in the shadow of the Creek Indian Casino, a gleaming monstrosity of a building rising up out of the south Alabama piney-woods.  Out of place as a Baptist deacon at a strip club.

Not being a gambler in the casino sense of the word, I pull in to the Waffle House lot.  Breakfast at supper is about as good as it gets.  Breakfast at Waffle House is as good as it gets, unless you can still eat at momma’s table.

My hostess is young, black and pretty.  Pearly white smile and twinkling eyes.  She invites me to “sit wherever I want.”  It’s an easy decision, since the joint is mostly empty.

Her name is Tiffany.  I know this from her name tag, and because she tells me so.  She will be my server, said with such conviction that would not allow me to even consider otherwise.

Never met a black woman named Tiffany.  I keep this to myself, supposing that to mention this might somehow be construed as racist.  I’m not sure why, but you can’t be too careful in the land of the perpetually offended.

Her voice is sweet and lovely, lilting.  The cadence and timbre somehow familiar.  Suddenly my tired mind puts it all together.

She sounds like Butterfly McQueen.  Now I am completely mesmerized.

I keep this opinion to myself as well.  She is much too young to know who Butterfly McQueen was, and even if she did, I’d face the racist prospect again.  I suppose if I thought her voice was like Rosa Parks I’d be safe.  But a talented actress who portrayed a slave, not so much.

Mouth firmly shut except to eat, I watch Tiffany work.  She is quick and courteous, bouncing between patrons with genuine enthusiasm.  I know with certainty that she is the real deal.  Nothing fake or phony.  Not working patrons for tips, but actually enjoying her work.

Tiffany has potential.  I see a future beyond Waffle House.  I hope she does too.

I leave a big tip.  Too big for bacon and eggs.

Call it an investment.  A hope that she too might one day have breakfast at Tiffany’s.

 

 

Fences

fences

Once fences were built to keep things out.  In the free-range days, livestock roamed the countryside, and anyone who wanted to secure crop or garden fenced to keep the animals out.

In my country, split-rail came first.  Poor-man ingenuity, that, a mix of blood, sweat, and the rot-resistant wood of the American chestnut.  The latter is long gone, victim of a fungal disease in the early twentieth century that killed three to four billion trees in the South.

What once was taken for granted is no more.

A few tree scientists still believe that the American chestnut can be revived and restored.  Trust me, it can’t.  When something is gone it is gone.  Over is over.  No amount of striving or grieving will bring back that which is lost.

It is what it is.

Barbed wire came next, a nasty little invention that worked well but also inspired bloodshed among neighbors.  Down here we pronounce it “bob wire,” but a rose by any other name will still draw blood if you try to cross it.

Today most folk build fences to keep things in.  Or more often just for show, depending on the size of their bank account.  Neat lines of square post and treated lumber create a nice little pastoral accent for a country estate.  Paint it white for that extra touch of highfalutin.  Things to be kept in strictly optional.

Whether for in or out, the thing about a fence is that it needs constant tending.  A great Yankee poet once wrote “something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”  The man who builds a fence has a lot of things working against him — weather, trees, brush, animals, and even neighbors.

Fence-tending involves introspection — lots of walking, looking, searching for weak spots.  Constant vigilance.  Continual repair.  Methods and materials may change, but sweat still smells like sweat in any century.

A single breach is all it takes to bring ruin. The bull is in the neighbor’s pasture.  Dog’s in the road.  Anybody seen grandma lately?

Whether to keep out or in, a man has his reasons for the fences he constructs.

My advice is to build them high and strong, neighbors, and don’t ever neglect your tending.  A weak fence is wasted time that you will never get back.