By Kenneth Justice
“What do you mean by ‘maybe’?” he asked with an intense look on his face
~ Earlier this afternoon I arrived to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on the current wing of my Drinking in the Culture Tour. I’ve never been here before and all the sights and sounds of this city that sits along the epicenter of the Three Rivers (The Allegheny River and Monongahela River join to form the Ohio River at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) are altogether unique and interesting to me.
The downtown itself is extremely small. Within minutes I’d walked around most of the city and had a good feel for my bearings. As I came across the main central square of the city and paused for a moment to find a place to hang out, an early twentyish young man with the familiar looking Orthodox Jewish hat and black jacket walked right up to me (for those who don’t know what Orthodox Jew’s look like; they are the spitting image of Amish people or pictures of Quakers that you’ve seen in history books about the Pilgrims)
“Excuse me, are you Jewish” he asked
“Who’s asking” I said
“I’m a Jewish evangelist looking for Jews, are you Jewish” he asked again
“Maybe” I said
“What do you mean by maybe” he asked
“My father was Jewish….” I said
“But your mother isn’t?” he asked
And as I nodded in the affirmative, before I could even say anything more he immediately turned and walked away; no goodbye, no ‘thanks for letting me quiz you on your ethnicity’, and he didn’t even bother to offer me a Matzo cracker for the 60 seconds of my time he wasted.
I wasn’t offended though. One of the café’s I frequent back home has a ton of Orthodox Jews who hang out there and I’ve become fairly used to their; ‘if you aren’t the byproduct of two full blooded Jewish parents than we don’t give a sh*t about you’ attitude.
Once I settled upon a little café that hosted free WiFi I sat down to check my emails when almost immediately a young woman sat down at the table next to me,
“Am in the main downtown area?” I asked, and with that simple six word question the young woman (who was killing time waiting for her boyfriend to show up) began telling me about life in Pittsburgh, her studies here at a local Art University and the year she spent living in Orlando and working at Disney World.
“I went down to Disney to be a photographer but my manager said I was pretty enough to be one of the characters, so for the better part of a year I dressed up as Tinker Bell every morning and took photos with children, and occasionally got to sit on a float in the Disney Parade” she said
The young woman is majoring in Journalism at the Art College, “Well it’s kind of like an Art slash Dance slash Journalism school” she explained, “What I really want to be is a full time chalk artist; that’s where I would get paid by businesses to come to events and decorate the sidewalks with chalk”
I’d never heard of someone who got paid to do chalk work on sidewalks but I figure it would probably be a nice career if someone could actually get paid to do it, “I’d really like to live in Orlando, Florida the rest of my life” she said, “So I’m majoring in Journalism in case I can’t get the chalk-art job off the ground, and hopefully I can get work in Orlando in broadcast journalism”
Sitting there listening to the young woman I was reminded of how so many of us start out with all sorts of plans and ideas….but none of us really know where our path will eventually lead us. Will the young woman end up living in Orlando? Will she get paid to draw on sidewalks with chalk? Will she work in broadcast journalism? Who knows………but I guess that’s the beauty of life; none of us know what the future holds for us.
Yet some people don’t view the future in such an abstract way; there’s a lot of people who believe the future is entirely what we make it to be. William Shakespeare wrote,
It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves
And so I find myself wondering, is the future really up to us? Or are we merely cogs in a bigger machine. I’m sure all of the people who are out of work and unemployed around the Western World probably don’t agree with Mr. Shakespeare, “It’s not my fault that there aren’t any decent jobs” they would say to the great writer.
Or perhaps our future hinges upon a compromise between fate and our free will choices; a paradox between fate and destiny that we will never truly comprehend until we leave this life and discover the deeper meanings of the universe in the life of the world to come.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee here in downtown Pittsburgh. I’ll be at Commonplace Coffee in Squirrel Hill this morning, I’d love for you to join me!
Categories: Culture & Society