"I used to have a sign over my computer that read OLD DOGS CAN LEARN NEW TRICKS, but lately I sometimes ask myself how many more new tricks I want to learn. Wouldn’t it be easier just to be outdated?”- Ram Dass
My bank, usually uninterested in me (as I keep a very low balance in a checking account) sent a letter inviting me to switch to a "Senior Advantage" account. My first thought: "Why are they sending this to ME?", then I realized that they knew I had just turned 60. Fine, I'll take any discounts offered, but it did feel weird to step up for my first age-related deal.
When people commented on the program In Therapy on a recent post of mine, realized I had to come out: don't have a TV and haven't for about 23 years. Can give you a lot of high minded reasons (see Jerry Mander's "Four Arguments for the Elimination of TV" and Marie Winn's "The Plug-In Drug"), and my position reduces to: TV Makes You Stupid.
That doesn't mean I wouldn't kill to watch a made-for-TV-movie after an enervating week, and I camp out on friends' couches during the Olympics. I fed a years-long Coronation Street habit by early Sunday am. trips to the gym, because the CBC runs a weeks' worth back to back then.
(It's a dirty blog but somebody's gotta do it. )
What's your take on the Roman Holiday in the press and beyond about Eliot Spitzer's behaviour and subsequent resignation? I'm interested in the the moral principles applied when those judgments are made.
So far I have catalogued:
1. Politician's Immunity: Kennedy did it, Rockefeller did it, etc, etc, so what's the deal?
2. Cultural Imperative: Alors! If this had happened in Europe it wouldn't raise an eyebrow.
3. Conspiracy (I KNEW it!): Spitzer is the only john named. A sting!
4. Geographic Rider: What happens in Albany stays in Albany, the schmuck has the misfortune/idiocy to get it on in DC.
5. Supply Side Argument: Prostitution should not be illegal; both parties consented to the transaction. Addendum to #5: if Spitzer had gone to Nevada to park the pink Cadillac, he'd have kept his job.
I paused while eating my short stack of blueberry pancakes to digest this depressing stat from March's Atlantic Monthly (p. 32):
One would expect the anti-fat bias to become smaller the bigger Americans get, but increasing obesity is having the opposite effect. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics suveyed 12,686 women and found that between 1981 and 2000, as the percentage of American white women who are overweight and obese rose from 12.6% to a whopping 50.4%, the wage penalty for obesity nearly doubled.
In 1981 a 5'4" woman who weighed 165 could expect wages 4.29% lower than her 120-lb sister; in 2000 her wage penalty had risen to 7.47%.
The fatter we get, the heftier the premium on thinness.
In restaurants, stores etc. the staff struggle with three options: to call me "Miss", "Madame", or "You", as in studious avoidance of any form of address: "What dressing would you like?" In truth, they are starting to drop the "Miss", which has sounded Miss-applied for a good 20 years.
I rather like Madame, which makes me feel like a pigeon-breasted dowager in a fur and elbow gloves, for about a second. A local restaurant critic got all pissy about the word, saying "decent women are being addressed as brothel-keepers". He displayed a rather narrow, ethnocentric lexicological knowledge and a sad-sack morality. Should upstanding women immediately yank on their coats and growl, "Zip it, buddy, there's no madam in this joint"?
Tonight I read an article and learned the term "emotional labor", coined by Arlie Russell Hochschild to describe the provision of emotional avialability as part of the job; e.g. aesthetician, manicurist, home care attendant, restaurant server, flight attendant: anyone who must suppress their own needs and create a soothing, pleasant, 'connected' cocoon for a client. This is done to create an 'experience' the client values, to sell, to upsell, to create loyalty. The provider is a pleasant blank or a screen on which the client projects his or her needs.
While in Paris, I saw signs with a graphic drawing of a burka with the universal diagonal-barred-circle symbol, in the metro. (I don't know if they were official, or stuck there, and because of the transit strike, never found out.)
In Toronto, the most multicultural city on earth, I regularly see women fully veiled head to toe, as well as the more common headscarf-and-Western dress combination. Sometimes I long to see the faces of the women who pass; I miss the human contact enhanced by fully seeing them. I have heard Muslim women speak eloquently about their choice to wear the veil in its various versions- or, as my close friend P. does, to reject it.
On my recent Florida visit, arrived in Miami, rented a car and drove the two lane blacktop US 41 across the glades to Naples, where Mom lives. Air boat rides, a native reservation, flat, grassy plains. Panther crossing signs, huge ravens, vestiges of the old Florida. The setting of Peter Mathiessen's "Killing Mr Watson", haunt of orchid thieves, and despite environmental depredation, still strange and otherworldly. (I heard this was last part of US to come under rule of law.)
After two hours you'll hit Naples, a desperately developed and packaged place. Forsaking the more natural (but challenging) Neopolitan reference, the town's cast its lot with Tuscany. Over-wrought Italianate architecture, pretentious fountains, Italian place names. (It does, however, provide my favorite shop name, Not Just Bar Stools and Futons.)
Towns can be joints too, Everglades City is a joint. Naples is a pretentious plastic vacuum.
John commented in another thread, "In America people are measured pretty much by wealth."
By the new year, or maybe sooner, I'll have way less money because a contract job I've had for a decade will end. Might replace this work, might not. There's another income in the family so it's not dire- and I've always refused to live with debt. ("Debt is the slavery of the free man."- Karl Marx.)
Losing half my income (for now) will make me far more conscious of consuming. Oh god, will I turn into my Depression-era mother? My emotions cycle daily from anxiety to curiosity to joy. Know how rich I still am, relative to the world.
My friend lost a fortune; his accountant said to him, "Howard, your net worth is about zero." Howard said, "My net worth is the same as it ever was, I just have no money."
I will absolutely inhale your thoughts about money, worth and wealth.
Canadian Thanksgiving's this Monday. Despite living here for over 35 years, it always catches me unprepared. So instead of being hip deep in cranberries, we'll head for a local joint called The Tulip. It's mainly a steakhouse, but on Thanksgiving they do a heaping , gravy-plated turkey dinner for about $8. Everyone goes: girl with fuscia mohawk, 60-ish children with 80-ish parents, young bucks in grass-stained sweats. Babies looking stunned in front of mashed potato mountains.
When my parents used to visit me they always asked me to ake them to 'joints'. I inherited their love of the deeply local, immutably unpretentious, so-good/so-bad-for-you joint.
Joints come in various guises: diners, cafes, taverns, hangouts. The price has to be low enough to draw a surprising mix, the attitude may be warm or brusque but it's sincere, and they are never part of a chain. What's your favorite joint?