Friday, April 9, 2010

Dinner with Jim

There is a somewhat famous song by the Bellamy Brothers entitled “Old Hippy” where two of my favorite country music icons describe the life of a middle aged man who can’t seem to move on from the times that he spent engulfed by hippy culture. He is torn between the cherishment of his old life and yielding to the demands involved with the protocol of contemporary culture. I always assumed that the character in this ballad was fictitious until I met Jim Haynes. In the short span of a few hours, this old hippy would give me food for thought, quite literally.

Jim has opened the doors of his humble flat every Sunday for the past 30 years to complete strangers from all walks of life and allowed them the always engaging opportunity of exchanging their unique stories with one another. There is no dress code and Jim makes no judgments based on race, gender, creed, or political alliance. If you want to share dinner with Jim, you just simply sign up and show up (he does have a maximum of people that he can accommodate for one dinner, so he does sometimes have waiting lists). Mariana’s cousin, in her infinite wisdom, signed us up for the dinner before we even arrived in Paris and presented the amazing event as absolutely mandatory. I am not sure if I would have had the guts or the trust level to ever voluntarily agree to meet 50 strangers for dinner, so for this insightful gesture, I thank you Hillary.

We found most of the dinner party already gathered in Jim’s courtyard when we arrived to his flat fashionably late. There were people speaking in variety of languages all around us as we signed in and were given the warning that Jim would spank us if we did not mingle well. Delicious food from Greece was laid out on a table next to a drink station fully equipped with European beer bottles and boxes of wine. After grabbing a quick bite and throwing down a few glasses of wine, Mariana and I began to roam from conversation to conversation. We met people from Australia, France, Germany, and the US, among many other locales that I am too daft to remember. We talked about everything from having children to travel to politics to the foreign love of sleazy American reality TV shows, etc. We even had an opportunity to talk to Jim himself and were given the sage advice to “never work” (I will explain the meaning of that over drinks when we return). All-in-all it was an amazing night where people were forced out of their comfort zones and strangers became friends. In addition to his knack for making introductions, Jim Haynes is also an accomplished writer, professor, and promoter of the arts. Thanks for your hospitality Jim; it will not soon be forgotten!!

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