Commentary: Food truck event offers chance to unwind for a good cause

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Springfield Rotary food truck competition 2019

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Every August in memory, Ohio children have gone back to school.

And every August, Satan has sent 90-degree temperatures with 60-plus percent humidity in an attempt to make them hate it.

After decades during which children sweated and shrank for the first few weeks of classes, God sent the blessings of air conditioning into the classroom.

So, Satan sent global warming.

The Book of Tom

This brief history of the influence of theology in American public education may be slightly oversimplified.

But it does bring us to a moment a week ago Saturday when I was sitting in the heat on a patch of thinning brown grass that had a bald spot the size of the one in my own thinning brown hair.

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To my great surprise, it was the very spot where I experienced a revelation involving, in no particular order, The Grateful Dead, a lime-basil popsicle, the Springfield Rotary Club and advertisements that appear on the sides of Springfield Community Area Transit buses.

If he’s reading this, a veteran police detective I shook hands with that day realizes what many of you do: It was the date of Rotary’s annual Gourmet Food Truck Rally.

On that day, my dutiful wife was away helping our daughter sort through boxes scattered around her family’s house in the post-move chaos that day. Worn down by the experience, her less dutiful husband decided to stay home and headed for the food truck rally in Veterans Park.

Before the 15-minute walk, I filled my right back pocket with a book that, like me, is a relic of the 1970s: Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.”

As I later explained to a long-time friend on an aluminum bench, the book is part one of a stoner trilogy. The Don Juan of the title is a kind of dust-covered mystic from somewhere in Mexico who decides to teach the secrets of the wisdom of peyote and magic mushrooms to a type-A South American anthropologist.

Today it seems about which the well regarded Kirkus Reviews might have written: “Far out.”

I picked up the book recently because I’d read the entire series 45 years ago and had forgotten its content. (Insert joke that nobody who experienced the 60s and 70s remembers them.)

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Book in pocket, I arrived at the park and ambled past all 30 plus food trucks. Not yet hungry, I decided to consider my options. So, after picking up a cold bottle of water, I plopped down near the bald spot to read.

As it happened, the Dayton-based Grateful Dead tribute band Terrapin Moon was making its way through “West LA Fadeaway” when I read a line in the book and it happened.

All the tension in my head suddenly disappeared. The odd thing was, I had not realized the tension was there until the moment it was gone. It was a geologic shift of the sorts that, back in the 70s, would made mood rings explode and set off eruptions in lava lamps throughout the Miami Valley.

(Those same lamps are now in storage units throughout the Miami Valley.)

My guess is the feeling was like the one Bill Clinton never had because he didn’t inhale and Jerry Garcia constantly had because he never stopped.

The relief I felt immediately made me feel like I was in the middle of a party.

Maybe because of that, I experimented with several substances being sold from the food trucks: A lime-basil popsicle (awesome); a crepe with Nutella and bananas (for the extra dollar, the banana slices were way worth it); and a seafood BLT that tasted great but didn’t satisfy. (Note: I would have been happy to pay three more dollars to get a heftier portion than the $5 version offered.)

If you’re still with me at this point, let me say, “Thanks, dude (or dudette),” and tie up a few loose ends.

For some years, the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau has placed ads on the sides of city buses urging people to “find your unwind” here.

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And that’s what I found.

It is something we all need to find in lives filled with enough obligations and worries to make our foreheads look like skin grafts from a shar pei.

And as they make our foreheads look less cavernous, events like the food truck rally (and the Summer Arts Festival) provide an added bonus: They bring us closer to friends we run into in the park who feel as refreshed as we do.

If all that weren’t enough, the rally raises a little money so the Rotary can do some good, too.

Which is why I’ll see you all there next year.

Look for a man with a larger bald spot and a different book.

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