Lunches are usually solitary downtime, generally writing. It’s quiet and peaceful and I get a lot done. I wrote most of Indigo over lunch breaks.

So at work I was chatting with Cassandra, a dynamic black woman, about international cuisine, and she bluntly asked if I’d ever had soul food.

No, I had to say, I hadn’t. She told me she’d take me to lunch the next day.

She brought along Darlene (whom I also have worked with professionally), who is every bit as spontaneous and lively as Cassandra. I had to joke, as we went out to the parking lot, that I felt like I was playing the white-gay-guy friend in a black comedy. So first we did a quick errand to this huge hair store which stocked every grooming product in the world in it (I can’t say I’m surprised – I’ve seen some gigantic model railroad shops in my time). But they chattered and joked and bubbled.

And it was really a lot of fun.

The thing is, I used to go to lunch with Nick, a contactor from a decade back, who favored books and weird movies and stuff. With him, conversations were always fun. But then he moved on and I found myself stuck with the usual tired-white-coworker companion. All whites do is go to Wendy’s, moan about their workloads, office politics or their unruly kids, all while eyeing their watches and bolting their food.

The Indians in my office are pleasant enough, but there is always a dangling reservation. Lunch conversations with them always feel like the warmup chit-chat at an interview.

But not these girls. We laughed and chatted and talked; it was the same stuff about home and work but it was fun. When they talked about being pissed, they were really pissed. When it was something funny, they would really laugh.

They took me to Lowe’s in Eatonville, a small hole-in-the-wall I’d biked past and never noticed. Now, I’ve commented about Eatonville elsewhere – (see “Roadside” in the bike blog)  – I’ve had minor problems and whitey-worries about the area, nothing overt. But this was a neat little diner with a view to the sunny main street. Got some chicken and gravy over rice, with huge sides of macaroni and cheese, and corn, all topped by a brick of cornbread. The food was steamy and delicious – I rammed it down with a funnel and hammer, it was so good.

Came back laughing with the girls, feeling pretty good. In fact, the rest of the day passed pretty smooth (other than trying not to fall asleep). And, boy, could I feel that lump in my belly pedeling home- still, if you are going to overdo it, make it count.

Great time.