*Recently overheard at the Starbucks in Norwood post late autumn snowstorm that knocked out power throughout much of New England*
“Suburbanites unite! You can’t spell suburbanite without “unite.” If that doesn’t tell you something as you stand here in this impossibly long line at one of the few coffeeshops with power in the surrounding area, having dug yourselves out of your homes, having left the family trying to stay warm and occupied without heat and electricity, fighting your way through traffic and around downed trees in the road, clinging to your last vestiges of civility as the people at the front of the line insist on ordering their usual extra tall half-caf soy macchiattos with shots of espresso instead of the regular coffee that everyone behind them so desperately needs, not to mention the spouses waiting at home with the ticking time bomb offspring you were once so intent on having and now would trade for a week’s worth of sleep and one quiet dinner… if you can’t feel the comradery in this room now, I mean, setting aside the seething hate for the machiatto drinkers up front, then when will we, as a civilization, ever feel united? Is it fair that we should all be paying three or four or five dollars for our coffee drinks in our desperate attempts to maintain our large carbon footprints on a day without electricity — when around the globe there are people who live on about as much per week? The people who make our clothes and toys? We think there is inequality in this country — and there is — but it is exponentially greater across the globe. We here might think we’ve done okay for ourselves — we who trek and queue after a storm for lattes. But have we really done okay? For ourselves and for our children? It is snowing with leaves on the trees. There were tornadoes in Massachusetts this summer. Our climate is changing. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our educational system is teetering. Our politics are failing, at home and abroad. At yet, at the end of the day, or at the start of a day when we dig out from a storm, what do we really care about more than having our cellphones charged and our caffeine consumed? That is why I am going to occupy this Starbucks… and prevent anyone else from getting their coff-”
And that’s when the crowd surged and swallowed up this man with an overdeveloped social conscience and an underdeveloped sense of timing. He was stuffed into the starbucks wastebasket through the small hole in the countertop. You didn’t hear about this? Minor setback in the national “Occupy This!” movement. (Mental note: “Occupy This!” would make a good t-shirt design… also a good slogan on real estate signs)
The kids are occupying our lives as per usual, but not without their charming and sometimes surprisingly funny moments. Karen was having the kids make a welcome video for her baby nephew, who is due any day now, and Isaac got super-real for a moment at the end in this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIGZcBimk_M
He’s a little heartbreaker already… perfectly at ease with all of Sydney’s girl classmates and friends who came over for her 6th birthday party a couple weeks ago. He was eager to join one group of girls who had announced a tea party on Syd’s bed. He also insisted on buying Sydney an array of sparkly princess shoes for her birthday. But maybe we should all be as in touch with our feminine sides. Especially any women reading this. But also the men… and likewise, the women should be in touch with their masculine sides… or should they? You never hear anyone suggest that, do you? Maybe? Like in how to get ahead at the workplace? I’ve offended everyone now? Ah, what do I know, I’m clinging to a wavering facade of maturity at work… enjoyed getting a small bonus recently but I’m starting to think getting a promotion might require me to be a bit more of what corporate communications calls a “thought leader,” which apparently involves uploading academic papers on innovative tweaks to multiple regression analyses onto our intranet somewhere, don’t ask where, because apparently it was a “thought follower” or a “thought chaser” who designed our intranet. “Are you a thought leader, Eric?” “I thought I was, but then I saw no one was following me…”
We had a great Thanksgiving, hosting in our house for the first time. I grilled two “hotel” turkeys (dismembered turkeys… I believe they dismember them before killing them, to keep them fresher longer… that’s horrible, what’s wrong with you? this was how I started our thanksgiving toast) and even carved both of them myself. My brother kept loudly proclaiming that this was when I became a man, not so subtly hinting that for the first 37 years of my life I was something else. Karen and my Mom made the other dishes and the pies… Sydney helped set the table and make placecards… but let’s face it, it’s all for naught without the turkey, am I right? Who’s the man? We broke several fire codes by cramming seven adults and four children around two tables in our smallish dining room. The piano took up a good amount of room, but I wasn’t about to turn the house inside out for some holiday that celebrates a brief moment of gratitude that preceded a century of genocide. That was also part of the toast… and I’ve been forbidden from speaking anywhere, ever again. Which is why I have this blog.
The kids spent this evening looking through a couple of toy catalogs and cutting out pictures to paste onto letters to Santa. I told them they’d be better off sending a letter to some kids in China, saying, “Work faster!” Wow, I’m kidding… where is all this anti-capitalist, unAmerican angst coming from? Oh, from the title of this post. Full disclosure: I went to Starbucks today in fact for a latte. I’ve been working hard, it was sunny out, and I said, “Eric, you deserve this.” So you see, everything’s not black and white. I think we can protest in the streets and dig out from a storm with a lattes in our hands. We can love the good things about America (i.e. we elected an intelligent president last time around! Good one!) while questioning the bad. We could always be doing more to be true to our consciences and to our fellow creatures on the planet… and maybe we do more at some points in our lives compared to others. I just hope when we are doing less for others and less for our planet that we’re not destroying everything we care about and need to survive in the process. That’s the big unknown. Not to be known until the oceans swallow us whole perhaps. Which is why my next post will be all about house boats.
Oh, almost forgot, recorded a song recently that’s apropos of much of this post, called Bonus Army Blues at www.reverbnation.com/ericfriedman. It’s about the WWI veterans who were promised a readjustment allowance after the war but didn’t get it. When the depression hit they marched on Washington, many with their families, to claim the much-needed cash. They camped out along the Potomac, I think, and had a lot of support from the public and from the politicians at first. Then the bill that would have paid them their bonuses failed and the government called in the troops to disperse the camp. They burned everything to the ground and hurt and killed many in the ensuing riot. The camp was gone. This was 1932. A few years later, in 1936, the veterans got their bonuses.