Benny's World

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Welcome Rug: Got to Have Friends

Dear BW Readers,

This past week I was at a conference at Duke. While the first few days were the hottest on record and the pollen heaviest ever, springtime in the southland was splendid otherwise. I was treated to a walking tour in the Doris Duke gardens and dinner in its lodge. Many of the participants there are my personal friends I've known for years; felt comfortable.

Thursday night, a gentle rain fell in the area. It lasted several hours, but certainly did not deter me from any activities. On Friday morning, it was nippy (upper 40's--50's), but the sunshine awoke me to a beautiful day. I was looking forward to it albeit I would have to leave early in the afternoon to drive back to Champaign.

Fellow bloggers NCDem Amy and Bettync had e-mailed ahead to meet each other as both live within a hour of Duke and I was in town. I had met NCDem Amy before in person, but not Bettync. Amy and her spouse agreed to pick me up at my hotel, then we would meet Betty at the Red Window Warehouse outside of Carrboro as the store was having a sale. In addition to purusing the furnishings and furniture of the place, it was an opportunity to say hello to Red Window's proprietor, Elizabeth Anania Edwards.

The warehouse sale was housed in a former used tire store on Old Greensboro road. We drove past it, but in the midst, we recognized Elizabeth in the doorway. So we found the nearest driveway, turned around and turned into the gravel parking lot of the store. Amy went in first, giving Elizabeth a hug. Then I walked in, and Elizabeth recognized me as well. I said, "hello sweetie" as we hugged and she said "hello, how are you?" (And I asked, is it OK I call you sweetie?--"Sure")

Then Amy and I saw Betty. Betty was looking at a candle holder and said, "Benny?" I nodded. Then she said "Betty" and we hugged too.

We asked Elizabeth about the concept of her store and warehouse. Elizabeth explained that she enjoyed buying furniture and furnishings around High Point and was able to get many of the warehouse inventory at discount and was able to sale it to potential customers for wholesale or not much above. It was terrific that the profit meant enough to keep her business afloat but wanted to offer customers unique pieces at discounted rates. Much of the furniture was "distressed" to make it look antique, but many customers liked the textures. Indeed, the warehouse had many types of wardrobes, mirrors, as well as rugs.

We also met Elizabeth's sister, her niece, and her grand niece. Elizabeth's sister resembles her except she is a bit taller and has long darkish hair.

I bought a handcrafted rug (that you see at the beginning of the post) that I thought would be great for Mr. Benny's condo in Florida for when he moves. Elizabeth was unware that Mr. Benny was out of work and had looked for a job for over 6 months. She asked where he was moving and I said Florida. Then Betty was kind enough to tell Elizabeth he was moving to where she had given a speech not long ago--at Nova SE. Elizabeth quipped, "Oh that is a nice campus and everyone was so friendly!"

Elizabeth used a calculator to include tax with the price and wrote up all of the orders for us herself. She took credit cards and checks, but the credit card numbers were written down on a special form, which I thought was great in order to utilize low tech, be more approachable to the customer, and not worry about electronic transactions right away.

A funny moment. Amy was purchasing something and filling out one of those forms. She said she needed her reading glasses but didn't have them with her. Elizabeth had a pair on her head, and without missing a beat, handed Amy her glasses to use for better focus. Great timing and so down to earth!

Elizabeth treated all of her customers that way that morning --answering questions, acknowledging their needs, etc.

At one point, Amy mentioned that she (herself) wished that she had gotten into politics at an earlier age. Elizabeth's sister said Elizabeth would have been great at it too when she was younger, but Elizabeth was quick to point out that she grew up in the 60's when she was against the Establishment, so she was wary of politicians then. Touche!

For the most part, Elizabeth shied away from politics in our conversations back and forth in the group--understandable as she was wearing a business owner's hat. Instead, we talked about about Elizabeth's kids and how well they were doing. We found out Cate is working for a judge this year and thinking about private practice in the near future. Elizabeth's treatment is going along; she's adapting to some recent changes in medications.

No, we did not talk about John nor the Gold Dust Woman. Nor did we want to. Not an appropriate venue, and in our view, it's still a very private matter for them.

Elizabeth noticed I had lost some weight (at least when Amy pointed out that she almost didn't recognize me at first earlier that morning) and I was pleased to say I had lost 42 lbs since last anyone had seen me. Everyone beamed along with me.

Amy, Betty, Elizabeth, and I posed for a pic.

When we said good-bye, Elizabeth asked been curious for awhile as to how I came about being called Benny on the OAC/JRE08 blog or naming my blog Benny's World. I explained my story from 2004 from when John was running with John Kerry and I had 2 cats. One of them was from Massachusetts and was more of the personality of Kerry, but the other cat was named Benny. Benny reminded me more of Little Jack. She said, "it's great to know that you named your blog after your cat. " (As aside, Elizabeth is allergic to cats and I alluded to that point to her sister and Elizabeth in saying that I regret I could not have her visit my home, which she acknowledged, "oh yes, I am highly allergic to cats!")

As we were leaving, Elizabeth told me how proud she was of me. I replied, "you too." And a last comment to her, "And you hang in there, sister." One last tug on her left arm. She smiled.

What a classy lady.

The remaining 4 (Amy, Mr. Amy, Betty and I) went to lunch and caught up on the latest happenings of former Edwards supporters. We ate at Elmo's diner, but as many situations when we were volunteer bloggers, we had to go do other things. We also all agreed that the campaign's ideas moved Obama and Clinton from no campaign (it was all about them at first) at least to the middle, if a little more. And like my conference friends, I felt so comfortable with them too. Elizabeth made us feel comfortable too.

Too short of a visit. It was quality visiting though.

Elizabeth seems to be transitioning well; not at all being the politician's wife anymore. She's a mother, a sister, an aunt, a great aunt, an engagement speaker, and a business owner. And we have an opportunity to be a part of her transition as we continue to transition ourselves away from the campaigns.

A song for us all from Bette Midler, "Friends"--which reminded me of that experience altogether--from former politician to volunteers--some stayed or are now friends. That rug I bought symbolizes a welcoming one towards kindred spirits.

Next day--for Elizabeth, a woman who knows literature better than I ever would, but this quote resonated with me when I was in college, and it seems to describe you, as well:

One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield---Tennyson, "Ulysses"

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

London Town (for my friend Meg)

I like this song. Meg, going to LT is going to be great. Wish I could go back as I was there 27 years ago.

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