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Signatures. In, The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays (Wyatt-MacKenzie)


Michel Foucault must have been rolling in his grave. That, or he was winking. The order of things? A dark-skinned black bartender, old enough to be my grandfather, glasses, mustache, stately carriage, appeared in the parlor and inquired about our drink selections. Camille ordered a Cabernet; I declined. Puzzled, she asked, “Isn’t Zinfandel your favorite?” and ordered a glass for me. I wouldn’t make eye contact with the bartender. What must he think? What must he have endured over the decades, suffered, borne, to have matters come to this, to this, serving a black woman less than half his age in a tony parlor? This was, decidedly, a patent disorder of things. Helter-skelter, topsy turvy, downside up.

One Cab, one zin. Clear view of the curving staircase with gleaming bannister. The sofas, plush as mittens. Queen Anne graced everything else. A neat array of hors d’oeuvres on a three-tiered carousel. Camille helped herself to a small saucer of cucumber-and-cream cheese squares. Whole wheat.

Beyond the introductory remarks on the landing page, the web site had been inaccessible. All of the whitebready cargo tucked away behind a Members Only log-on screen. The intro said the club had been founded a century ago, and had a true country counterpart in the North Georgia mountains. Robert T. Jones, Jr. golf course, stables, tennis, six-lane pool. The deep end, fifteen feet.

Drinks only, Camille insisted, just try it for drinks. We don’t have to eat there. They don’t do cash or plastic, we’ll charge my husband’s account. It’ll be good literary fodder, don’t you think, you might use it in a story some time. Just want you to experience it. This was Atlanta, chocolate city extraordinaire, and she was still color blind. Now, some would call that sort of vitiated vision progress, but not I. My preference? That folks see the import, see the impact, the implication of the questions they ask, the overtures they make.