So there’s this guy in Athens, Georgia, making a living washing dishes and playing in a band. He could marry his long-term girlfriend and settle down, but that would be too conventional. And when you’re an early twenties dishwashing drummer with an unarticulated dream, you expect more from life.
A lot of stories begin like this and most end shortly thereafter with a bloated and lonely middle-aged man eating Slim Jims and playing World of Warcraft on his mom’s calico sofa. That is, unless you’re Philip Brown.
I have this habit of looking at people’s hands like I’m looking for clues. I find they reveal so much more than most people are willing to offer. They tell a story.
As Vincent Hooper hauls 50-pound burlap sacks of oysters, I can’t help but notice that his hands are big—too big for his average size, as if they grew in spite of him. His fingers look swollen and ashy around the joints and cuticles. The skin across the backs of his hands stretch tight, like leather gloves that are too small and worn to offer any real protection.
There’s nothing like a worldly person to remind you you’re not.
When I meet Merveille Kasongo, her body language reads like one of those signs on the back of a semitruck that warn: “Stay back 200 feet.” Her arms remains locked at her sides and without smiling she looks directly at me with big dark eyes lined with lashes so thick I wonder how they could be real. My brassy American sensibilities are, of course, injured.
Disclaimer: The healing power of the Mandarin oranges noted in this article are not substantiated by any medical authority aside from a surly retired oral surgeon and a novice yacht chef.
Stan Yockey is an enigma. First, he has two pugs that he may like more than most people and he collects hens on nests. You know the ones—the vintage candy dishes that adorn nearly every grandmother’s faux-oak china cabinet. This wouldn’t be so strange if Stan favored V-necks and Ricky Martin, but it’s entirely inconsistent with the turkey hide he’s tanning in his garage.
If you drive far enough away from civilization you come upon something that feels more authentically like life. It’s not a life with which I’m familiar, and yet the wide-open space, the simplicity of sprawling fields cut into perfect right angles, feels just right.
We descend upon the Lee Family Farm in Bulloch County at sunrise, the sleep still in the corners of our citified eyes as the bright sun cuts across the horizon. It’s eerie and beautiful—in the distance, a few workers dot the fields in meditative labor, looking like solitary statues emerging from a thick blanket of silencing fog.
I’ve never been one to go against the grain. In fact, I’m usually about 3 years behind every trend because I prefer to have others pave the way while I do a risk assessment from the sidelines. Overtime, when the threat-level hovers around mellow yellow, I get on board. I only recently bought a pair of skinny jeans and aviators. Consequently, I’m perpetually chasing trends on their way out, but such is life spent swimming in the mainstream.
I grew up wanting to work in the fields, a dream my parents deferred my entire childhood.
Every elementary kid did it, or so it seemed. Each summer a chartered school bus would haul sleepy-eyed kids from their homes to the sprawling strawberry fields just a short 15-minute drive into the county. While I lazed around watching “Tom and Jerry” and lapping up “toasted rice” cereal, I imagined my schoolmates singing songs and forging friendships in my absence.
I’m all about living a thoughtful, introspective existence, but some things are better left unexamined.
Like the Easter Bunny.
I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like, at least not one I couldn’t make more palatable by bathing in butter, showering in salt or layering in liquid cheese. That is, until I met the radish. She came into my life somewhat unexpectedly, showing up in my dinner salad—her dusty, magenta skin and bright white meat a stark contrast to the sickly green manger of iceberg lettuce and sliced celery on which she rested.