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December 10th,
written by Arthur

This morning, in an unusual pre-dawn move, I flicked on the television. I found myself watching the ceremonies and speeches commemorating Nelson Mandela. The memorial reminded me of an unusual connection I have to the great revolutionary and political leader.

In the summer of 2001, I found myself outside of Washington, DC working in concession stands of Wolf Trap National Park. The park boasts a large open air stage and hosts regular nightly concerts. I severed-up snacks, beer, and wine to the fine concert goers. In my first week, I struggled to open a bottle of red wine–only the fourth or fifth bottle I had ever tried to open–and succeed in breaking the cork and polluting the wine. I didn’t know what I was doing. The patron was patient. He told me not to worry. That he’d buy the bottle I’d corked and to bring two more bottles. As he used one of the bottles to show me how to open wine, he told me how he learned to open bottle of wine. My customer had just started working in room service in a fine hotel in South Africa and was called up to a room to deliver and open a $600 bottle of wine. Entering the hotel room he finds Nelson Mandela on the day of his release from prison. In front of Mandela and his guests my instructor breaks the cork of the bottle as he attempted to open it. Mandela calmly told the man not worry, that he’d buy the corked bottle, to bring two more bottles, and proceed to show the server how to open a bottle of wine. After showing me how to open a bottle of wine, my customer talked me through opening the second bottle.

If the story was a lie it was a well told and oddly placed one. I believe it was true. I believe in the image of the great man who changed the course of nations moving through the world with a individual grace and kindness that boarders mythological. I remember that Nelson Mandela embodies both fiery revolutionary and wise statesman.


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