Tonight I had dinner with a friend/colleague at an adorable little place on the adorable little square in Woodstock. It's a charming store front with careful architectural details dating back a century--a chocolatier (bean to bar) in front, and a bar/cafe at the back. Along the side are comfy chairs and a fake fireplace. At the back is an old-style bar, all shiny dark wood. They make delicious inventive cocktails and small plates combining flavors you would never expect (just like their chocolate does too).
It was a lovely dinner and great conversation ranging from sheep to church to travel to hobbies to luxurious experiences to books and back again.
And when we left, it was snowing onto the trees and brick streets and sidewalks lined with iron railings, with the old-school street lights giving off a warm glow, and the bank's readerboard said it was -76 degrees (hahahahah). As I brushed the snow off my car, classical music played over hidden speakers throughout the whole square. That's right--even at 8pm on a Monday night, when nearly no one is around, still they are playing Mozart in the town square.
As I drove home I thought about how very civilized the whole evening had been--from the music to the food and everything in between. It's the same feeling that makes me love The Thomas Jefferson Hour--because the theme music makes me feel so civilized and intellectual and normal. Which I realize could also be translated as "elite." But I think that's one of the things I like about both these experiences--that the civilized feel is accessible to everyone. The classical music is playing in the square. The podcast is free. The architecture is there for everyone to admire. The menu may not be accessible to many (it's one of those places where they make everything and use as much local stuff as possible, and that's not cheap but it is good for my neighbors and community and economy) but even just reading over the menu and its imaginative contents is an exercise in expanding the mind.
It so often feels like our culture is spinning out of control toward demagoguery and incivility. People are mean to each other on the internet and in person. It's almost impossible to be a woman online and not receive harassment or even death threats. Our politicians shout at each other and demean one another's person, not just disagree with their ideas. Our popular culture is full of violence. Our education system leans on tests rather than on education, cutting everything that can't be standardized. (aside: watch this. Then do something to make sure every kid has a chance to connect their brains like this. it'll make the world a better place in so many different ways.)
And into the middle of that: Mozart was playing in the town square as snowflakes floated into the glowing light. Reminding me of who we really are, or at least who I want to be.
**yes, I realize that the way I'm using the word "civilized" is loaded with racial and cultural bias. I keep trying to find another word to encompass what I mean and I don't have one yet.