Monday, October 08, 2007

Green Burritos and Tragedy

It was a spectacularly warm and pleasant day here in Southern California, and as you know, since you've been paying attention, I work in these mountains.


I decided to eat lunch outside, facing away from the main building and trying to avoid the spiky antennae-topped Saddleback where about half of the area's early warning and communication system seems to grow. I was eating a Green Burrito - no, I don't know what they are either - and the warm, pleasant breeze from the mountains drifted down to me in such a fairytale manner that I involuntarily took a deep breath of fresh air, let it out - and promptly had a coughing fit. I'm getting old, I think.

After I recovered I heard quiet voices at a table behind me. They were discussing the similarities and contrasts betweeen the plot and setting of Hamlet and (I think) Orestes. It was such a civilized conversation I felt much better immediately. It did occur to me - and this isn't intended to be a cheap shot - that it wasn't a particularly American conversation, and in fact the two accents were Latino and British (a very cool, female RP, to be precise). I had a friend once who said that he loved to go to bars in France because he didn't speak French and he could assume that the men around him were discussing philosophy and art and not be rudely disabused of his fantasies. I encourage him not to come to Southern California, because the Lingua Franca is English and the conversations, like the songs, are mostly about cars and girls.

I suppose after that I should tell my Green Burrito story from last week. The same cafeteria - a table inside - three of us, all of British extraction - me eating a white sandwich with white dressing and white meat on a white plate, and the Geordie opposite me eating possibly the same filling, but wrapped up as a Green Burrito, a sort of spinach-colored rugby-ball shaped food item.

I said, "You've got a green one," and he immediately replied, so quickly that he must have been using some sort of spinal reflex rather than actually routing the words through his brain, "It's not the first time a girl's said that to me."

All three of us then laughed like drains. It was a very English moment. I can't imagine an American saying that (unless carefully coached) and now I come to think of it, I can't imagine an Englishman *not* saying that. It's not all Orestes and Tragedy over there.

Long may the late summer continue, because fall here is as nostalgic and interminable as fall, or autumn, anywhere else.

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