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DAY 08

LEXINGTON


Doubt settles in. I realize that the pace that I have imposed on myself given the territory I am about to cover makes the whole journey rather performance-like, and goes against the spontaneous kinds of meetings I was hoping for. It’s the reality check of the humble French who doesn’t really get the sense of scale of distances in America.

I should perhaps have devoted myself to a smaller scope but spent more time as I had originally envisaged (just in Louisiana) rather than dash through it all too fast. But, how does one resist the temptation of the road…. especially this road? Why resist the pleasure of getting uprooted everyday or so to go discover another world?

I drive to Lexington, Kentucky under a refreshing rain. I feel as though things will appear less bleak as I leave the industrial and grey North and enter the more rural south.

In Lexington, I am meeting with Robbie, a longtime friend that I met in Toronto where she was studying. She is the nexus of many artistic and political networks, and has offered to help by making me discover her “terroir”. I use the term because I know that that’s how she perceives it.

She acknowledges Kentucky’s white roots, but believes that the future is more open and more progressive in a way, which would benefit the entire population and region. I find her very optimistic, and courageous given the magnitude of the work!

She is very involved in activism around food, the fight against “food deserts”, the promotion of all local food, supporting local producers.

Just after I exit the highway, I park in the city and find her at a table where about a dozen people are gathered in a restaurant in the historic downtown part. They gather here every Monday to speak and act around food issues. These are Steve and Rona – two local activists which whom I will reconnect later – and who organize this weekly get-together.

The city seems quaint, rich, with many historic buildings and immediately recognizable fine restaurants. It smells of old money. I am afraid to fathom where it came from.

In this restaurant – where is served sophisticated sandwiches –are many students, even some Islamic veils. I tell Steve –a municipal councilor –about my wish to include homeless people in my project. He points me towards a day drop-in center.

STEVE & RONA



DAVID & HIS HUMBLE MEAL

In a large room, a group mostly male with tanned faces is trying to get interested in a Bingo game in full swing. It makes me think of a retirement home. The winning lots are little bottles of shampoo and creams that I usually look down upon in hotels. He introduces me to David.

David gives me a ​tour. He is a frail and gentle man. In the public shelter where he is staying, there is a section for veterans. A guard unceremoniously wakes a sleeping guy up so he can help bring in the food that was just delivered. The guys are yelling at each other a little. There are those who sleep on the ground, those who have their bed (like David, because he has been there a while), and veterans who are entitled to a “special” treatment. On the other side of the road there are addicts and those with mental health disorders. Two hundred and fifty men (I don’t see any women) sleep here every night.

David tries not to eat where he sleeps. The food is not good there. He’d rather go to a church, or two the same evening; David has a good appetite, even though he is as thin as a nail.

Frustrated by the paradox of not having racial diversity in my encounters, no black people yet, despite my interest to engage this community.

Yet, that’s when Robbie takes me to my first real Blues club, run by a local guitar hero, and where I see a crowd of energetic seventy-something year-olds – both white and black –dance till dawn, bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other! There’s hope!!

DAVID