Learning To Listen
The conversation quickly shifted, on my prompting, to questions of immigration and his pending green card status. He had been jumping through all of the hoops the American Government provided for years now. Piles of paperwork, fees upon fees and endless months of being strung along had left my friend tired and frustrated. I told him that unfortunately he had happened upon America at a bad time, a very bad time.
Some seven years ago he came into a country that was quickly sliding into a place of fear, ignorance and increasing government control. Since then it’s grown considerably worse. Laws were being passed at a rapid pace that set out to make America an unwelcome place for everyone but a select few. The American government took up, and has since sustained, a stance that extended the middle finger instead of the olive branch to the rest of the world. And then it turned that finger upon it’s own citizens.
After some commiseration I reiterated my feelings of helplessness in moving the green card process along and tried, unsuccessfully, to lend some words of encouragement.
I said my goodbyes and dipped into the pub. It was Sunday night at Skylarks and that, as I had only recently discovered, meant traditional Irish music was being played. The music was lively and it soothed my perplexed spirit. I met a nice couple that had recently moved to Bellingham from Minneapolis. The music drummed on while Jason told me about working for Frito Lay and how most people didn’t know that his company owned Mrs. Vickie’s (they make some fairly tasty baked goods).
Then one of the mandolin players took a break and I took the opportunity to ask her about the troupe of musicians she played with. She had only recently begun playing but had a beautiful hand made instrument to learn upon. Her name was Mixie (she said “it rhymes with Dixie”). She was in her mid fifties and I could tell she had seen much in those 50 plus years of roaming around this planet.
We talked for a bit: about music, about the evening in 1995 when she and her husband were walking across the Golden Gate bridge and came across people mourning the loss of local guitar legend Jerry Garcia, about life in general. Just before I got up to leave she asked me if I was settling down in Bellingham. I told her I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to settle down in America. She didn’t ask why (the reasons where blatantly clear to anyone who was paying attention) but only suggested I consider Australia or New Zealand.
I thanked her for the advice, left a small tip for the musicians and trudged my way up the hill beneath a dark sky shot through with stars silently keeping watch over this wearied traveler.