Reflections: USA - I love you!
by Jim Goudelock
Why do I love this country? Let me tell you.
I leave home in my Toyota to dine at my favorite Thai restaurant. At the sushi bar downstairs, I sit next to an Asian gang-banger who is charming a nubile Anglo lovely. I eat mackerel, quail eggs, tuna, drink sushi and miserably ponder my recent divorce.
I pay cash, tip well, and sip my two-for-one sake while listening to Aretha sing that traditional Japanese song "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."
I hear a noise that sounds like a cat is being strangled. The sushi chef looks at me and laughs, a little embarrassed.
“What was that noise?” I ask.
“Some guy upstairs,” he says. “I think he’s from Scotland, maybe not from Scotland, but Scottish. He’s playing that pipe, those pipes--bockpipes?”
“Bagpipes,” I say.
“Yeah, that’s it.”
I finish my sake, pay the bill and walk upstairs.
“Where’s that piper guy with the bagpipes?” I ask.
“Outside in the parking lot, I think,” the Anglo college student cashier says.
I walk out and listen. Again, I hear the dying cat moan. Around the corner under the street light in the parking lot are five Asian men, a portly gentleman in a kilt with a bagpipe under his arm, and a couple in their late 40’s.
The very Anglo-Saxon man with the bagpipe is just tuning it up and beginning to play a tune. It’s a Jimmy Buffet song, a slow one, I can’t remember the title. The principal Asian guy, the owner of the Thai restaurant, a Thai by birth, an American entrepreneur by choice, is practically drooling over the sound and the instrument.
The American/Scotsman finishes the tune, and turns to the Thai guy. The Thai guy looks at his henchman who are leaning against the pickup like they do in Cajun country in Louisiana, except they each wear silk, short sleeved shirts, slacks and black loafers, not jeans, t-shirts and Nikes, and he says, dramatically, “This is the ‘Lolls Loyce’ of bagpipes.”
The henchmen smile knowingly, but we all can tell they are just humoring him. Maybe some of them recognize that the sound from the bagpipe is not unlike the sound from traditional double-reeded instruments that make Thai music hundreds of years old.
The Scotsman tenderly begins to disassemble the bagpipes. The Thai guy says, “Can I try it?”
“Sure,” says the Scotsman.
He puts some plugs into the pipes so the Thai guy can blow up the pipe bladder. The pipe fills up and the Thai guy places his fingers on the flute part of the pipes. He lets the air flow past the reed and sound comes out, bad sound, mournful sound, awful sound, like a Thai guy trying to play bagpipes.
He smiles, he puffs, he moves his fingers and a tune emerges. He stops, the bag deflates and the Scotsman begins to help him disassemble the pipe. He lovingly explains how to dress the string connections between the bladder and the pipes with bee’s wax to stop potential leaks. He tells the Thai guy that the pipe kit comes with a separate drone pipe for practice.
The Thai guy takes the pipe case, shakes the hand of the Scotsman and walks toward his entourage who has already moved away, laughing silently at their crazy friend.
I ask the Thai guy how he came to know the pipes.
“In Scotland, he said, “Dundee. I love them.”
He takes the velvet-lined box with the “Loll’s Loyce” pipes and goes to join his colleagues, who are laughing gently over on the other side of the parking lot.
The Scotsman packs up and drives away in his Ford 4-wheel drive pickup.
The couple kisses each other, and then they walk to their car.
As I drive home, I fall in behind a Jeep Cherokee with a bumper sticker that has a red cross on a white background that says, “Give blood. Play rugby.”
The car next to that has a frame around its rear license plate that sequentially blinks the colors of the flag of Mexico.
How can you not love this country? Even Osama would be amazed.
A former Mississippian, Jim Goudelock makes his home in the West, but returns to his roots as often as possible. Write him at this address.
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