An interesting discussion after lunch at Crab Shack, a nearby seafood restaurant where I had pop shrimps, crab meat in Andouille sausage and fried pickles, discussing with friends the current political situation in the Republican primaries (‘Santorum scares me,’ someone said), talking about rock music (REM, Bruce Springsteen, Beach Boys, the Beatles), memories of youth and the recent death of the lead singer of the 60’s group ‘The Monkees’. Southern folks like everything fried; fired pickles, fried okra, fried fish, fired shrimp and so on; some saying that they like fried okra because of the fried, eating anything fried in oil, like Homer Simpson ordering chicken with extra skin, or fried chicken with extra fried oil, now that’s a hoot. The primaries swings to the Southern states in Super Tuesday – Georgia, Tennessee, Texas; my friends predicting a Santorum win, his brand of conservatism that right mix in the deep South, away from the bluster of Newt and forsaking the confused moderation and pseudo conservatism of Mitt; eating and talking under a giant fake shark in the restaurant with all sorts of fishing gear stuck in the wall.
Back at work talking about science, discussing the space time continuum and quantum mechanics with a trained marine geologist who loves fly fishing and a radical Southerner, a tea party follower whose grandmother thought ‘damn Yankees’ was a single word, still smarting from the war between the states, forever grumbling about the federal government and high taxes. Love of science is palpable around here, another colleague having worked in NASA, reminiscing about astronauts and the fact that falling objects of different weights land at the same time, an observation first made by Galileo. Space and time is always spoken together, where one concept cannot exist without the other, the earth plunging forward from the big bang – the actual beginning of time; time being a movement forward, waiting for no one until one realizes he is old, aged and wrinkled. I wonder where I am in the space time continuum, working in trivially small though interesting projects, having a chance to travel but away from the big challenges, maybe one’s time has come, with attractive colleagues getting the good jobs while I speak with the old folks, the only young person in a group of middle aged people and would be retirees.
But one is only young in the mind, approaching middle age as well, recalling those fun days in Singapore, ruminating about the bustle of Shanghai, Tokyo and Bangkok, about the distant allure of the Middle East, places like Egypt or Iran, faraway lands that one has never been to except in dreams, wondering if there is still time for one last hurrah. There is still a chance one thinks; after exhausting the local allure of fishing, civil war reenactments, and Toastmaster meetings, hiking in the hills, investing in the largest stock market in the world and finally writing a novel. It’s the only true benefit and goal that one can get in the slow pace of life here in the rural South, living like a retiree, surreptitiously surfing the Internet and writing blog entries, thinking of time lost and plotting a grand scheme to reclaim time. It’s a battle against old age after all, something even Einstein could not beat, feeling the slowness of the body, adjusting to a more serene pace, being graceful in missing the excitement of large projects. But there is a way to exploit solitude, to be a writer one thinks, regain meaning as the world rushes by while you focus on being an expert in the one activity that gives you salvation.