“People talking, really smiling, a man playing guitar and singing for us all. Will you help him change the world? Can you dig it? Yes, I can. I’ve been waiting such a long time for today. A bronze man still can tell stories his own way. Listen, children, all is not lost.”
Chicago, Saturday in the Park, 1972
I sat in a park in Orlando the other day.
The reason I sat in this park in Orlando is that I was waiting for my car to get serviced.
The reason I drove all the way to Orlando to get my car serviced is that I bought it at the dealership where my father used to work. This was several years ago. He has long since retired.
It was the very first brand new car I ever purchased. The odometer read 000007 as I drove it off the lot. My father was the salesman.
I walked well over a mile from the dealership to the park that day. The reason I walked that far is that normally, my father would have driven us to lunch while we waited for my car to get done. We would catch up over antipasto and a bottle of wine. Considering the lot of us are self-quarantining for safety, I figured it best that dad stay home that day. It would be the first time in ages we would not share lunch together in that circumstance.
It was a quiet, peaceful day in the park.
The reason it was a quiet and peaceful day is that we are in the midst of an unforeseen virus that has shut down the way the entire world operates.
The reason I was sitting at this particular park in Orlando, Lake Lily, is because it resides across the street from a restaurant my father and I would go to every time I’d travel to Orlando to get my car serviced. The place is called Antonio’s. It’s a beautiful Italian deli with a solid selection of wine and a bar upstairs that serves a mean tiramisu with its coffee. That bar has since closed.
I sat there alone on this quiet, peaceful day in Orlando, thinking that despite all this bullshit, this is still a time to be grateful. I bought a delicious Italian deli sandwich, complete with ham, salami and fresh-cut prosciutto and a small bottle of prosecco to wash it down. The sun shone bright. I sat there, ate and drank alone when I normally wouldn’t, and watched as the turtles and ducks wallowed in the water.
As the fountain spouted carelessly in the center of the lake, girls climbed trees with their parents watching nearby and one young boy fished off the banks, although I don’t know what for. He wasn’t going to find anything more delicious than the sandwich that sat half-eaten in front of me. Keeping a safe distance from one another, several other people strolled through the park, politely waving hello, most likely thinking just like me on this beautiful April afternoon how we got to this point and how we move on in the future.
This marked the first time in two-and-a-half years and 35,000 miles that I had come to Orlando to get my car serviced that I had not shared lunch with my father at that restaurant or one nearby. My pops is still around, in his early 70s, in pretty good health and of course, questionable sanity but then again, aren’t we all. That apple does not fall far.
I sat there in a park’s gazebo thinking about all the times he and I have had, both good and bad over the years, and how much I wanted for him to be at the park that day, sharing in the wine with him inevitably telling me how the meal he chose off the menu tasted so much better than mine. And how I, like the seven billion other people on this planet can’t wait for things to get back to normal. Not that I mind eating at the park by myself every once in a while. On days like those, I’m just used to his company.
All is not lost. I surprised him on my way back home, stopping by his house to see him, hugging both he and his lovely wife from afar, both happy, healthy and, like me, waiting for things to back to normal when those virtual hugs become real.
We sat together for an hour and caught up, from a distance. As always, it was great to see him. Next time, I’ll bring a sandwich.