A Southern gentleman

We ate, and ate, and then ate some more.

The older I get, the more I’m struck by how much the young eat, as opposed to the not-so-young.  The variety of dining options in a city as vast and diverse as Chicago is one of the reasons my girl loves living there. We ate ravioli in a buttery wine sauce in a tiny Italian restaurant, and savory Indian dishes I couldn’t pronounce at Devon Street. We had Chicago-style pizza in Lincoln Park, and grilled cheese sandwiches sprinkled with truffles in a pretty courtyard restaurant with a fountain.

I boarded the flight home stuffed full of happy memories and good food. The burly, red-bearded, young man seated in my row noticed me struggling to jam my suitcase under the seat and offered to put it between us. I liked him immediately. During the flight, we visited. He’d grown up in Mississippi and was on his way to a conference in Grand Rapids. He’d never been farther north than Chicago. He’d majored in Communications and History in college, had recently adopted a golden retriever pup who went everywhere in his truck with him, and had a mama who worried about things like bed bugs and her boy finding his way to a place like Grand Rapids, Minnesota in the middle of the night. I told him to watch for deer and that bed bugs weren’t generally an issue as far as I knew. He told me that he’d been traveling since 5 a.m. and hadn’t had time to eat dinner during his layover. I gave him my pretzels.

The lights of the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth caught his eye as we began to land. Once the plane was at the gate, he helped me with my bag.  I told him that when he got home, he was to tell his Mama that she’d raised a fine young man. He smiled. Our paths will not cross again.

To travel anywhere is to learn. We visit new places to understand different cultures, and to try new foods. Travel shatters the myths we’ve created in our minds of who people are based on stereotypes and caricatures, ignorance and fear.

Sometimes that happens on the way home when you offer a boy from Mississippi your pretzels.

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