Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Roadside Salvation

I'm a big fan of the roadside stand (a la Walker Evans's "Roadside Stand near Birmingham, Alabama, 1936"). On the way to Ocean City there was a rundown roadside stand that read, "The Thinking Man's Market." It sat on the west-bound side of Route 50, for those returning home from the beach.

I never stopped there, though I would have liked to. I do consider myself a thinking man, after all.

When we would drive past it, either primed for the beach or hungover, sandy footed, sandy pocketed and sunburnt, I always wondered what they sold. Was it full of MacGyver-style props--gum wrappers and paper clips, duct tape and compasses? Or was it an emperor's-new-clothes type scheme with rocks and blocks of wood, daring yo to expose yourself as a non-thinking man if you failed to see their utility?

I may never know as the building has been updated and renamed. You no longer need to think to shop there.

I don't claim to be a thinking man all the time, as history, present and future (will) certainly show. But as an occasionally thinking man, I have long been a fan of allegory and parable. I love to try to figure shit out. Not Rubick's Cubes or car engine figure shit out, mind you, but books, stories, movies, morality, the natural world, metaphysics, how many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop figure shit out.

I remember being smitten with Plato's Allegory of the Cave on first reading it. No doubt the parable-happy open-endedness of Buddhism has always kept my mind sitting next to, or in, the stream. And I've been spending more and more time with the contemplative prayer of Thomas Merton, who was tight with Thich Nhat Hahn, who is quite a chap to sit with.

I tend to lay the lens of personal allegory over all kinds of stuff, looking for what message or deeper meaning I can take away from an experience or a story. As such, you might expect to find mustard seeds and fig trees, lost sheep and coins in The Thinking Man's Market. Or if you are a fan of Tom Robbins you never know what you'll run into on the roadside.

Probably best just to grab some sweet corn, tomatoes and a plastic pink lawn flamingo, cruise home and sit on the porch to enjoy. No deeper meaning needed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"When the simple man ends his day's labor, he wonders what is for dinner. When the actively intelligent man ends his day's labor, he contemplates his place in the mystery of life. When the wise man ends his day's labor, he wonders what is for dinner."

Not sure who wrote it, but I think it applies here.