The Inn Keeper by Edward Charles Barnes, before 1882
"Cordiality makes our world go 'round square, with hardly a wobble."

The Iron John Brew Pub in old downtown Tucson sells beer in minimalist surroundings. The bartender greets me cordially, just what I need as I lead The Otter and The Muse into the place. I feel initially dissatisfied with the offerings, a collection of burnts and sours, but quickly enough winnow options down to a choice. The Muse chooses a Licorice Stout which she doesn't care for, though I'm intrigued by its odd herbal loading. The Otter chooses a juicy guest tap IPA. I select a Black IPA and we settle in to recover from a fragmented day, one without the benefit of lunch. Recovering from multiple traumas, The Otter experiences good and bad days, just like the rest of us, though hers seem to carry stronger amplitudes; higher ups and lower downs. She sometimes feels as though she's drowning, and this had been one of those days. The Muse and I provide what support we can, and though drowning never qualified as a spectator sport, we're certain that we cannot swim for her. We had more or less managed to drag ourselves through the day, though at times, barely. We needed cordiality.

Throughout this trip around The Great American Southwest, we've quietly relied upon Cordiality to pull us along.
It never takes much. A kind word, a welcoming smile, a shred of sage advice, and we're feeling more at home. Some give more, a night spent in their home and a guided trip to a really terrific dinner spot and we're tempted to overstay our welcome. The long nights spent in essentially anonymous hotel rooms punctuate Cordiality and we somehow survive our travels. I'm up writing again, overlooking another pre-dawn landscape, scratching my head. What makes such an undertaking possible? This world seems overfilled with blind choices. We decide with little deliberation, mostly because an option appears before us and we bite. Cordiality's not an obligation, certainly never a requirement, though it definitely seems to make a real difference.

Last week, the unique page view count for this PureSchmaltz Facebook Group averaged just over a hundred a day, a fine, slightly higher than average number. The Muse, The Otter, and I traveled around a thousand miles without making too much headway, for this region remains vast and almost trackless despite a century and a half of dedicated gentrification. The drive from Phoenix to Tucson could be completed in a comma were it not for the bumper to bumper traffic and the crazy speeders. Desert as far as anyone can see disappearing in every direction, the road flat and unchanging. We're the ones changing there as The Otter wrestles another of her signature conundrums to ground. She's misplaced her headset and her phone won't accept calls. Her world seems to weigh heavily upon her shoulders today. She could use some Cordiality.

A week ago, we'd just entered
ParadoxCountry, bound for ButtClenching adventure, which we found in humbling abundance as we crossed Utah and into Northern Arizona. I discovered ADifferentMan riding in the irrelevant backseat as The Otter demonstrated her considerable driving skills. We became PassersBy as we picked and chose which of the innumerable roadside attractions we'd take in. We forwent most, but found ourselves seeking out a special sort of potentially dangerous activity because The Otter found tranquility atop Cantilevered cliff edges. This toodle, this road trip, amounted to much more than miles travelled or sights seen. It has served us a long succession of little object lessons, each determined to teach each of us something, perhaps that thing we had come along expressly to understand without knowing what that might be beforehand. We have come to understand that we had been As-Iffing all along, engaging just as if engaging might make some significant difference. We ended our long traveling week in the belly of some beast, a beautiful belly, indeed, but an obviously unsustainable one, in ConspicuousPresumption.

Cordiality seasoned the whole affair. The bed and breakfast cook who could not find the key to the linen room to provide us with the missing third bath towel remained gentile and apologetic. The wee hours guard who escorted me to the mythical hidden laundry facility at four am. The librarian we sat next to in that bar in Winslow, and Derrick the bartender who reported that his dad had a copy of my book. The hotel clerk who gave directions to the drug store. The dear old friend who opened her door and guest room and hide-a-bed couch for us to invade her living space, then graced us with an Authentic Conversation The Otter talked about long after it ended. The clerk who chased me down after I'd misinterpreted her directions to the laundry room. The bartender who recounted how his minimalist little hobbit hole of a brew pub had evolved from a technological nightmare into a cozy little joint. We've been in excellent hands every inch of the way.

We might have become too wary of a people, too protective, too defensive. Our vulnerabilities serve as our stealthiest strengths. Drag your sorry ass into a humble little brew pub and see what your dog-dragging tiredness might attract. It will most likely not attract a focused indifference, because people don't seem to be built like that. We're nothing special here, just another crew of visitors in a region over-filled with visitors this time of year. We're not big spenders, though we do tip big, tipping being a SmallThing writ larger than its bill. We stumble into joints, just like everyone does, undeserving of special treatment, and receive it anyway. Cordiality makes our world go 'round square, with hardly a wobble.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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