The other day I had to go to a local drug store on one of the endless strip malls here in the good old USA - one of those chain stores that are built of disposable toxic materials and litter our country. Inside the lights are cheap, a glaring florescence, the isles are filled and crammed with products incased in EDC (endocrine disrupting chemical) plastic. Everything is ugly and harsh, and the smell is overwhelming, non-human.
There is jive-weird-invasive rock music blaring on speakers that should be destroyed - music that jars your psyche, body and soul. Everywhere you look there is something more ugly, more garish, more neon, more plastic, more toxic and these days all made in China.
I picked up a plastic-packaged pencil sharpener, an electric-green color for kids, and read: Made in China. I wondered if it was manufactured in a prison, or how many people, mothers and children, were poisoned by the poisonous fumes of the melting plastic, the endocrine disrupting chemical waste running off dissolving into the village streams, the aquifers, their earth.
Dizzy, I head for the check-out-counter with two boxes of tissues (white, thanks to the EDC chlorine) and a role of Kodak film to take pictures of landscapes.
At the cash register is a young woman so totally depressed and numb, and beyond that - very angry. She hates the drugstore and her job; she hates her life, and me. I offer her a weak smile. She snarls at me, as I am unable to work the credit card machine.
"They are all different," I say obsequiously as I try to find the correct buttons in vain. She shrugs her shoulders as if to say - you stupid old idiot. I sign the receipt and leave feeling sad, empty. This is a part of my country I assiduously endeavor to avoid.
But unfortunately I cannot always live in my own little magic kingdom, and today I am forced to crawl back out there, back out to Mall World. I had not washed my car all winter and the guy at the gas station told me there was something on my hubcaps that soon would never come off. So here I was again, driving down the strip-mall looking amongst the heinous rubble for a carwash.
As I wait in the line at the carwash, there are loud noises and chemicals everywhere. Guys wheeling big vats of god-only-knows-what on into soulless ugly buildings, built not to last.
I ask them courteously if they can wax the car, but please no chemical perfume sprays. If your not careful in this country, the carwash will spray your car with what they call ‘that new car smell’ which is loaded with endocrine disrupting chemicals.
OK. I walk around the corner and the March sun is shining, a little too harsh. There is nowhere to go. I have to wait - and the strip mall is not designed for anything but cars. I realize it's stupid to try to cross the busy six-lane strip-mall road. It’s too dangerous, and for what? So I return to the detail-shop where my car is being waxed and polished. Basically, I am now completely unnerved, but pretending to still be in control.
A black man waves me over to my car. He points out the chemical grime that has embedded itself into my hubcaps over the winter and kindly explains that chrome is porous and that if I will bring the car back another day when he has more time, he can clean them properly.
I agree, watching him politely. He is squatting down on his knees, using a brush, a water-spray hose, and a bucket of some kind of soapy cleaner, heroically intent on trying over and over to get this black grime off my hubcaps. I can't get down like that anymore – these days my knees hurt.
He says something about when he used to be young...
I say - you don't look old to me...
He says - I'll be forty soon...
I say, in a completely innocent meaningless way - Oh I'm almost 60, you're just getting started...
And he says - Every day is a blessing.
I say - What?
And he repeats - Every day is a blessing.
That night, working on a landscape painting, deep in my colors, seeking beauty in green fields and golden sunlight, I remember what he said and I begin to cry.
He is by far the superior being. Hunkered down, hands wet, dripping in chemicals and brushes, cleaning cars all day long - he is the superior being.
Tears stream down my face: Every day IS a blessing!
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