This next sentence may not be exactly true but here it is. I first remember hearing the song Soul Man while watching the movie The Blues Brothers. Like I said, that may not be exactly true because I knew the words and sang along with everyone else in the theater. Feeling uneasy about my memory, as I am want to do these days, I headed over to Wikipedia to learn more. Soul Man, as it turns out, was written by Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter. It is said that Isaac found inspiration for the song in the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement. The song was made popular by 2 other singers Sam & Dave, in 1967, and garnering the pair a number 1 and number 2 spot on the charts
During the Civil Rights movement I was not yet a boy in grade school. My parents were a product of their time and yet still provided me numerous examples of kindness and open minded thinking. They used to call it ‘being a Christian.’ My life has required work but has not been one of hardship. I did experience some bullying in school but it by no means affected how the world at large perceived me. Just shortly after Soul Man was released the Stonewall Riots took place in New York when a group of men were tired of being rousted by the police, just for wanting to spend time together, and decided to fight back. Again, I never had this burden to carry nor the need to constantly look over my shoulder nor see judgement in other people’s faces. I am free to walk down the streets and without the feeling of wandering eyes nor to think about how I must carry my keys nor worry what the government will think of, or do about, my personal medical decisions. My life has been lead freely and in the open. My only real fears are that someday I may no longer see the color blue, hear a dog bark or know my own thoughts. My life is replete with unearned privilege.
Just this last year I learned the term Ally from a dear friend. He supported me in my first attempt at a Planning Commission seat and did so through his inclusive political organization. I was an ally. I like that term. I know that I can never fully understand another person’s life. No matter how many pairs I try on, I will never be able to walk in anyone else’s shoes. I can never know what they know. But I want to be an ally. So I think back on the lessons my parents worked hard to teach me. Be kind and share. But above all, be kind. Right now, in America, there is a hate that makes me quake even as I write these words. A divisiveness, oftentimes wrapped in a holy shroud, openly calling to end, not just different ways of life, but lives themselves. This to me is . . . unimaginable. I ask myself, “What can I do, when I look the way I do?” Gently, quietly, from far, far away, I hear my mother’s voice. “Be kind and share with others. Show up. Be present. Give of yourself and keep an open heart. But above all else . . . be kind my son, be kind.”
Last night I met another of the kindest women in Vallejo. I did not catch her name but she can be found at Vallejo’s own House of Soul at 1526 Solano Ave. Oh my. Oh my. That there is some good cooking. I was looking for a new place to try and the House of Soul was suggested. I tell you that I went straight away, as I was very hungry, and was not disappointed. Throughout my life I have learned that food tastes better when it is cooked with love. This is true. I can now also assure you that food tastes even better when cooked with love and soul. My dinner was a plateful of fried chicken and that was so big I could not finish it all. Let me stop here to say that as often as I try, and I do try, I will never be able to make gravy as good as I ate last night. Wow! I decided to also try the black eyed peas, that were oh-so-smoky, and the potato salad which pleasantly smacked of bell pepper and onion. I even had a bite of mac and cheese, which I will try again when I return. The best part for me was that we were served by a kind and gentle woman who made sure that we felt welcome most of all. Her smile warmed me immediately and she treated us as if we had known each other a life time. She was the embodiment of kindness. Thank you ma’am, for making me feel welcome. To all of you who can still see the color blue, hear a dog bark and know you own thoughts I say this, hurry down to the House of Soul. You do not want to miss that gravy.
Until next time,
Eat Well and Smile Often