May 24, 2006

the new minister

to me, one of the best things in life is listening to a person tell you their life stories.

today, over dinner, our new minister, a xian-born, beijing university-educated (master's in history) man in his late fifties, told us about his first exploits in america. before he got married, his first occupation, or rather, job, in the states was a tractor trailer truck driver. his truck tales fascinated me because i flirted with the idea of being a truck driver after high school (and a few times while i was still in college) -- well, i never succumbed to the experience (for obvious reasons), although it still lingers as a nomadic fantasy in my mind.

he did this for one year -- awake all night on long stretches of freeway, with the cackle of the CB radio and country western / rock blaring, throughout the central united states. as a newcomer to the US, his objective was to see the country. he lived with all his belongings in a square that was the cabin of the truck. of course, he should have slept during the day at rest stops, but instead, he would take the daytime to soak in the landscapes of the midwest north, middle america, and south. he was a member of a teamster union -- actually, the first and only asian person in his division, and the top performing trucker that year. he carried a bat with him in the back of his cabin in case he came across more feisty truckers.

in texas, he saw for the first time in his life a rainbow in its entire span, a semi-circle from leg to leg, above an endless flatland. he pulled to the side of the freeway and hopped on the top of the trailer, laid flat for several hours and watched it slowly fade. (and he tasted texan beef -- rare -- the best kind, that had just been slaughtered that morning, at a small roadside restaurant which offered a free meal if you could eat a 64 oz steak. the youngest person to complete this challenge was a 13-year-old boy and the oldest was a 67-year-old woman). in south carolina, he made friends with a small family who lived in the deep forests their whole lives, whose little boy, upon meeting him for the first time, chanted sheepishly "nigger! nigger!" until his mom whacked him on the back of the head. "I love America. I really love America," the new minister said. "You can be free here." (his wife tittered across the dinner table "Not anymore, honey!" and we all laughed).

his stories together was a string of gems, each little gem a state, a moment in time, crafted by his words, his history, this land, and the people. this man, i am sure, like people later in life and even early in life, has a treasure chest of precious jewels like this, which makes him more wealthy than the richest man in the world.

1 comment:

andrea said...

awesome. i love stories like this!