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Nicest day we’ve had in weeks and I’m stuck inside waiting for a tardy contractor. As I wait, someone intermittently uses a loud drill next door. Sometimes homeownership sucks. Muggings and robberies are up, in both the neighborhood and the city at large. This depresses me on an epic scale. Drilling next door probably indicates installation of new deadbolts. Bars on windows, steel doors, quadruple locks, where does it end? How safe can you be? Muggers lie in wait looking for opportunities. We really have no control over it. The problem is systemic: the haves and the have nots forever divided. No reconciliation possible. Only solution is to take to the woods. The cities are doomed.

In 1960, John Steinbeck traveled the United States with his dog and wrote a book about his trip. At one point he notes, “I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction.”  Since then, we have happily continued to destroy all the natural places, with the exception of a select few that are so overrun they project a carnivalesque atmosphere.  We have built a society so spread apart that most people see the automobile as the only way to traverse the uncomfortable distances between point A and point B. To not own a car is anathema. You are branded a freak and possibly un-American; at the very least, you are suspect. Similarly, to eschew the consumerist lifestyle that is so red-bloodedly American is also viewed with suspicion. Why wouldn’t you want to buy all the latest greatest stuff? You saw it on TV, after all, and it looked totally awesome. And everyone who had that stuff looked really happy. So why wouldn’t you want to be happy? Get out there and shop, sucker.

Often I think I was born in the wrong century, perhaps in the wrong country, possibly of the wrong race, and maybe even on the wrong planet altogether.

I just got back from a work retreat that I had been dreading for quite some time. During said retreat, I spent some late night hours carousing with a few coworkers who I hadn’t really gotten to know beforehand. I found them to be decent and fun to hang out with, at least in my inebriated state. I’m sure they were surprised by my sudden bout of gregariousness. I’m not a mean drunk, but I can be a saucy one. During the work sessions, I was surprised to sense a tiny flame of enthusiasm ignite somewhere deep below the layers of cynicism within me. But I know better. We can talk grand and eloquent away from the office, but reality is grim. Knowing how long it’s taken to get this far (still a sad state of affairs) makes it impossible to expect that even a quarter of our lofty ideas will ever come to fruition within the next three and a half years. And that is not cynicism talking; that’s just pragmatism.

The place where we stayed was a Bavarian-styled inn that was the type of place where the Griswold family would’ve roomed during one of their epically disastrous vacations. My bathroom had a disused-looking bidet in it and a space heater mounted in the wall that smelled like burning dust when turned on. Still, the king-sized four-poster bed was comfortable and the vaguely shabby past-its-heyday look to the entire place was preferable to the sterility of modern hotels. Not a good place to be a vegan, but I got by (barely). I wish I had photos to share, but the camera was left behind.

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2 Comments

  1. The fact that you use the word "saucy" is evidence you were born in the wrong century. ;) Some day your saucy drunk self and my angry drunk self will have to meet up and hash out a plan to break us and our loved ones out of this prison we call modern life! Have you read any of Neil Postman's books? I haven't, but I have a book titled "Building A Bridge to the 18th Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future" on my desk. Your post made me think of this. I will have to read it soon.

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  2. At one point he notes, "I wonder why progress looks so much like destruction." Since then, we have happily continued to destroy all the natural places, with the exception of a select few that are so overrun they project a carnivalesque atmosphere.This is exactly the thing that sticks in my craw. Outdoor pursuits have become more and more popular over the last few decades, and the people who now overrun those few areas don't stop to think about how the new development they live in has encroached upon those places. At what point can we just say "Enough, the cities and suburbs don't need to grow anymore!"?

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