By Kenneth Justice
~ This past week more than a dozen of my coffee house acquaintances asked me about my upcoming Drinking in the Culture trip to Chicago this weekend,
—) “Are you excited Kenneth?”
—) “What do you talk about with people on these trips?”
—) “Where are you going to stay and who do you think you’ll meet?”
Those are just a few of the types of questions I’ve been getting and initially I was a bit surprised at how interested my friends and acquaintances were regarding my coffee house tour weekends, but the more I thought about it; perhaps it is a bit unusual in Western Culture to set out on a venture every weekend with the express purpose of meeting strangers.
Although I should preface that last statement by saying many of the people I hope to meet each weekend are not necessarily strangers; they are men and women, readers and fellow bloggers who I’ve made connections with via the Internet throughout the past year. And that’s really the thrust behind this year long venture; to learn more about Western Culture and to better understand community, social networking, blogging, and the depth of the connections each of us make via the World Wide Web.
As I’ve been writing this past week; Western Culture is peculiar to the world in that hanging out with total strangers for hours upon end tends to be a bit unusual; but in other parts of the world meeting strangers and then sharing meals together is simply a way of life.
When I was in Costa Rica this past January I met many world travelers from the United States who told me countless stories of traveling throughout foreign countries and meeting locals at museums, cafes, and elsewhere and then being invited to these people’s houses; complete strangers inviting people over for dinner.
In Western Society this type of human interaction was normal hundreds of years ago. I’ve read enough biographies and personal diaries of 18th and 19th century Americans to know that it was customary to invite weary travelers (complete strangers) a meal and lodging. Before the era of Holiday Inn, Hilton and the Marriot…..travelers could count on the generosity of their fellow human beings to put them for the night.
Coffee houses are a great platform to meet people (and anyone who has read my articles is familiar with the concept of meeting people at coffee houses). As Western Culture gradually exchanged communal philosophies for greater levels of individualism, coffee houses have become a central fixture in many cities by offering people a place to hang out and enjoy community. Thus, a second aspect of this year long Drinking in the Culture Tour is to better understand the role of coffee houses within the local communities.
In just a few hours I will be boarding a train to Chicago. I’ve always preferred train travel over airplanes and it reminds me of something I read many years ago,
“There is more thrill in the smallest hill in Fairmount Park if you walk up it than there is in the grandest mountain on earth if you go up it in an automobile. There is one curious thing about means of locomotion—the slower and simpler and the closer to nature they are, the more real thrill they give. I have got far more enjoyment out of my two feet than I did out of my bicycle; and I got more enjoyment out of my bicycle than I ever have got out of my motor car…”
—J. Gresham Machen
I don’t dislike air-travel, but I’ve noticed I enjoy seeing the countryside more from the window of a train than seeing the tiny dots and striped farmland from the height of a plane. The gentle click-clack of the rail cars often helps connect my thoughts to what life was like a hundred years ago…..before all of the hustle and bustle of 21st century life.
While many of the weekend coffee house trips I’ll be taking this year necessitates air travel; when opportunities like short-trips to places like Chicago come up I’ll be taking the train. A slower pace of life. That’s really what much of it comes down to for me; Western Culture is simply so bloody fast paced. So many of us are rushing around so quickly from one place to the next and I wonder at times if we are going so fast that we will wake up one day and realize we missed out on a lot in life.
While some cities I’m going to this year boast a ton of people I’ve met through blogging, I honestly don’t know very many readers and bloggers in Chicago. I debated awhile as to whether or not to add it to my itinerary, but in the end I realized I simply couldn’t leave the city of my birthplace off the list. And perhaps by only meeting up with one or two people it will add a different flavor to this weekend compared to upcoming trips; having a deep conversation with 30 different people at the same time just isn’t going to happen, so I will relish the cities like Chicago where I’ll have the opportunity to truly connect, listen, and learn about life outside of my own backyard.
Thank you so much to all those who have provided so much encouragement to me in getting this year long journey off the ground. And having said that, I think it’s time for my morning coffee now.
For more dates and locations and a full list of cities that I will be coming to, go to my homepage and click on the link.
Categories: Culture & Society