On The Ridiculousness of Conflict, and The Stories We Live
One of the best things about living in Atlanta is that you can go just a few blocks and find yourself in a totally different area with a different feel, population, and points of interest.
About two miles away from my home in Edgewood, Atlanta, there is a neighborhood called Lake Claire. Lake Claire is a hippie enclave, filled with Obama/Biden signs, sidewalk chalk drawings, many many plants, and houses with peace signs and ‘love each other’ painted on them. The vibe is very natural and authentic, and my daily walks often bring me over to the area.
One of the best features of Lake Claire is a community-operated park area called the Lake Claire Community Land Trust. The LCCLT is a peaceful easy space, featuring a community garden, a lake with ducks, and an Emu named “Big Lou” who wanders around and enjoys eating pieces of fruit from people’s hands (well, other than citrus).
It also has an amphitheater where they have concerts (folks music mostly, of course) and a weekly drum circle. Every Fall, they have a concert called the “Peace & Love Festival”
They are not messing around with this hippie stuff.
It is a serene, quiet place to go and read or walk around or have conversations, the people who live there are exceedingly friendly (they tend to call each other Brother and Sister, whether they are related or not), and of course you could always go and see Big Lou.
On this particular day, I found myself sitting several rows up in the empty amphitheater, reading a book, when one of the residents, a fifty-something guy in shorts and a t-shirt, came in and set up a fire in the fire pit located dead center. He worked meticulously, putting the wood in a triangle with newspaper in the middle and lighting it in several places, pleased with his work. I glanced up every once in a while, and smiled to let him know I wasn’t just being creepy and staring at his fire.
Just moments after this scene played out, another fellow came down the path and noticing that there was a fire, came down to confront the first guy about it.
“Why did you set a fire??? You know we have the Fairy Light Festival tonight and I need to prepare the area.” It sounds silly but this guy was really annoyed.
“Because I can. There are house tours today. Dammit”
“We can’t have a fire in here now, and I wish you’d stop being such an asshole to me.”
“I’m not being an asshole, YOU’RE being an asshole!”
“No, YOU’RE being the asshole!”
This continued for awhile, in the center of this amphitheater surrounded by nature, in preparation for the Fairy Light Festival, and mere feet from this stage:
After this, they both stormed out.
I continued reading my book. This was an act break, I suppose, in this improv theater-in-the-round.
At this point, The fellow who’d complained about the fire stormed back in, took a rake and toppled the fire into the ashes, grabbed a bucket of water, and doused the rest of the flames, shaking his head and walking back out again.
I finished another chapter.
More slowly this time.
Then the first guy came in, saw his destroyed fire and looked up at me.
“Did that guy put out my fire?”
I wasn’t sure I wanted to get involved.
“Er…Yes, yes he did.”
I smiled and tried to sound neutral. “Everybody’s got their something, ya know?”
“You got that right!”
He stormed off again.
At this point, I gave up entirely on the book. I owned the situation. This was two people embroiled in conflict, literally in the center of a stage, so stuck in being right that they had no idea how ridiculous it all seemed, given their context. I could see it only because I was several levels up, sitting on an audience bench, watching it all unfold. I was not involved, I was merely a spectator, amused at the absurdity.
The fire-douser returned with a rake, sweeping up the ash and dirt, cleaning the seats in preparation for the festivities of the evening, shaking his head in annoyance. This was no one-time argument. These two had a history.
Ten minutes later, yet another confrontation, center stage, this time with several other friends of the fire-douser present (and seemingly just as amused as I was)
I got up and walked out.
My instinct was to find the fire-maker and suggest to him that maybe if he treated the other guy super-duper-nicely, that might really annoy him. But I didn’t.
I’m not sure what that says about me.
Anyway, I guess that’s what the universe thought I needed to learn today.
There is lots to learn, if we step back and look at it from the audience.
Best play I’ve seen in a while.
If you find yourself at the LCCLT, say hi to Big Lou for me. He likes grapes. And doesn’t care a bit about fires.