People in the writing biz call it a “cute-meet”… a staple of every Hallmark Christmas movie or romantic comedy. When the two lonely , damaged characters encounter each other in an implausible, embarrassing , disastrous fashion. Maybe her text message got accidentally sent to his account, maybe their pizza orders are switched, maybe he hears her call a radio show, maybe she recognizes him in a police line up, maybe he runs into her at the class reunion, maybe she gets angry at his haphazard parking job, maybe he leads a widowers support group in the building she had planned to sell, maybe her award winning poodle keeps running off with his scrappy boston terrier. It hardly matters – but this amusing encounter usually it sets up a rivalry , a hidden snub, conflict ,or secret between them. This secret, hidden snub, rivalry festers creates a wounded space separating them. Maybe he hates Christmas, maybe she has been protesting his plan to run an oil pipeline thru her families ancestral Christmas tree farm, maybe he is in reality the Antifa rabble rouser she has been hunting all along, maybe he invited her to prom on a bet that he could turn her into the prom queen. Again, the specifics don’t matter, as long as there is a wedge, a divide between them over time. One of them feels guilt and remorse the other feels betrayed. These feelings threaten to blot out their love. To make them question if it ever existed. There will always be a moment when someone relents for the sake of this love. Maybe she allows his multi billion dollar conglomerate to destroy her family bookstore, maybe he realizes he can’t stand in her way of becoming the lead ballet dancer, maybe she allows him to win the towns Christmas baking competition, maybe he gives up his big promotion at the bullet factory to help out at her wild animal sanctuary. That is the script of spreadsheet faced norms .
My “cute meet” wasn’t so elegant. I invited Issac to Britt Iowa to see the Annual Hobo Festival. Britt was a small town tucked in far northern iowa. It had been throwing this festival since the depression, when the fairs, circuses and carnivals stopped traveling out that far. They decided to throw a festival where they crowned a hobo queen and king. Back in the depression, a lot of folks had relatives who became travelers to help their family, or find seasonal work. Britt has constructed a hobo museum, filled with artifacts, and photos, white walls with explanations of hobo signs and symbols – coded marks scratched into fence posts, or telephone poles Every year the towns folks would bring pots and bowls to get some of the communal mulligan stew the city cooked up in giant metal trash barrels. The town square was peppered with the standard crusty carnival rides you see at small town celebrations. It would have been great if I had met him there, If he had been a carnival worker, or even a traveller, but no… I invited him there as a first date. He hated it. Not only did he hate it, it turns out he loved the novel “Bridges of Madison County”. He had abs and was pretty toned but still. I had been rereading a musty copy of the Banality of Evil at the time, and so I had attitude. He thought the mulligan stew was gross. He couldn’t get over all the germs, all the filth.