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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/27/15

An American in Brighton

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Nearly all of the Brighton fish and chip joints are run by Chinese and double as Chinese restaurants. We were at Cod Father. The menu was huge and had golf bulbs all around, a giant makeup mirror featuring various stir fries and fish and chips instead of your glammed up face. In the glass case, pickled eggs and kimchi were offered. A poster pitched pukka pies. Waiting for food, Dan and Ralph sank into a maroon couch.

"Are you going to have the deep fried Mars bar with me, Ralph?" I asked.

"What is it?"

"It's the worst thing ever, Ralph."

"So why are you eating it?"

"Because I've never had it. Will you split it with me?"

Normally very talkative, Ralph was stumped. He looked at his dad. Dan smiled.

"It is so bad, Ralph, that as soon as you bite into one, you die!"

"So will you die then?"

"Most likely, but it will be worth it, since I've never had a deep fried Mars bar."

At this point, I hadn't known about Dan's avoidance of mentioning death in front of his young kids. Still alarmed, Ralph asked the lady behind the counter as we were leaving, "Is he going to die from the Mars bar?"

"What?!" She looked insulted.

The night before I left, we went down to J. W. Lennon's for its weekly Irish music session. There were a dozen musicians, but no more than six listeners at any one time, not counting us. One woman had been the top box accordionist in all of Ireland. I buy no CDs and avoid recorded music whenever possible, so this was wonderful. "In Toronto, Dan, I saw a band of four guys who might have been plumbers during the day. They weren't singing covers but original songs. I'd prefer that to anything recorded. I don't care if it's Billie Holliday. If I want to hear Billie Holliday again, I can hear her in my head!"

As if enjoying a meal together, the musicians sat shoulder to shoulder around a large table. Moving back and forth from the bar, the waitress had a serene, blessed face and, soon enough, sat down to sing a beautiful version of "Factory Girl." She smiled through the entire song. "Oh young man, have manners and do not insult me / For although I'm a poor girl I think it no shame." Dan wiped his eyes, and so did I. Sharing stories and songs is such a basic need, yet many of us would rather be isolated, as much as possible, to enjoy our private song list and/or stare at a lit screen.

Borges joked that there is a type of English friendship that begins by avoiding intimacy then, soon enough, dispenses with conversations altogether. ["una de esas amistades inglesas que empiezan por excluir la confidencia y que muy pronto omiten el dia'logo" from "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"]. He also thought the English suffer from "unreality." I'd say that avoidance of intimacy and alienation have become practically universal, and it's not because so many of us are bastards of England.

Since one should never withhold praise, I made my way to the waitress to tell her how much her singing had moved me and Dan. Later, we also made a few more friends, including the excellent guitarist who turned out to be the pub owner. Knowing I was American, he even sang two John Denver numbers and a Glenn Campbell. I couldn't stop him. "Country roads, take me home to the place I belong. West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads."

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Linh Dinh's Postcards from the End of America has just been published by Seven Stories Press. Tracking our deteriorating socialscape, he maintains a photo blog.

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