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Friday, May 26, 2006

morning commute

Yeah, there are the quirky characters of Santa Cruz ... Mr. Pink on the corner of Pacific and Locust, the one memorable harp and cat string strummer out of the 43 on slide row, the albino pedaler with a full-face helmet and not an inch of skin exposed on his frame ... even when the temps eek above paradise.

There are characters.

But mostly, there are just Californians ... in their gawdamn cars, surging this way and that, scrambling, growling, scratching and hoarding.

They rush to pass each other to be the first to stop at the next light ... and then the next. They floor accelerators with no regard or care for wear, or mileage per, or the silliness of going 50 in a school zone.

In a word ... lazy.

- - -

I'm reminded of a quiet dinner in France, a few years back. The food was fresh and heavenly, the company succulent and lively, the timing ... buttery smooth and melting through a Monet's summer evening.

Two tables away, instrusion.

Coupl'aMEricans shamed me into ducking under the tablecloth when their loud complaints of menu choice and "taking SOO long" shattered glass and splattered frambois.

They wanted what they wanted, and they wanted it now.

It's a sickness, self-induced and culture enabled.

And I am ashamed of it. Every aspect and expression of it. From crass manners to foreign policy to militant swagger.

I am ashamed of it, and feel honor bound to accept responsibility for it. For we are a land and people wealthy beyond any in history - enjoying more freedoms, living in more safety, accessed to more information ...

. . . so I pedal to work, watching the driver of an 8-cyclinder treasure mobile, BigGulp in hand and foot pumping an accelerator, and I think ~ we are all infected and cured, at the same moment. A swirling mass of virus and vaccine, sometimes canceling each other out ... sometimes living, sometimes dying.

but we do it all ... together.


Velo Bella said...

we start at the same place, yet our commutes are so different.

lets both find work near home, so that we can at least pretend

and the next time you get visibly inpatient while waiting for dinner, can I cast you a knowing glance?

and lovely imagery in this one:

"scrambling, growling, scratching and hoarding"

"shattered glass and splattered frambois"

Olaf Vanderhoot said...

le oops

Velo Bella said...

le yummy

shannon said...

good stuff, ov, and the message is hard: "but we do it all ... together."

Sometimes it's so much easier to keep it "us" and "them," to snark on them mercilessly, to obliterate the connection we share with those alien-seeming big-gulp slurpin' suv hominids.

thanks for the reminder.


VeloRainDog said...

so ashamed.

when i was living in europe a few years ago, i was constantly amazed and ashamed by not only the behaviors of american tourists, but also the general perception of americans.

and after a few months, i decided: fukkit. let'em be who they are. and i'll be who i am. and meet and get to know as many people as i can. and show 'em the other side.

shawndoggy said...

'zactly, VRD. Sorta goes back to the pre Bfield trip discussion last week, eh? That every inhabitant of Bfield is a Coors drinkin' hillbilly meth labber, not worthy of respect. But the fact is that those Coors drinkin' hillbillies are people too, and they've got stories, and worries and families and joys and sarrows and pain and redemption and flaws and wisdom.

[caveat -- while never a bfield resident myself, my flawed old white lady of a grandma was a lifelong Bfield resident, and is now planted in those hills y'all were racing 'round]

They didn't just drop out of the space pod, you know? They (the ones you don't want to be like) form your worldview as much as we (the ones you want to emulate) do.

It's a trap for anyone of any ideology to never look within and be able to critique his own position, beliefs, values. Being surrounded by yes men doesn't help, nor does being ashamed of your position in the world. Trying to understand (or maybe just empathize with) an opposing viewpoint is a much tougher row to hoe than giving up and being ashamed of it.

Flip the analysis around (with some artistic license here)... the same sort of shame is expressed by people who vilify the "war" critics as traitors. Same emotional reaction from a different ideological starting point....

Olaf Vanderhoot said...

i'm sorry ... but every inhabitant of BField is a Coors drinkin' hillbilly meth labber, not worthy of respect.

... and that goes for Fresno, too.


shawndoggy said...

You met my cousins, huh? I told them to lay low last weekend....

PAB said...

one of the guys who was doing the tile work on the floor of our hotel lobby seemed pretty nice...

Velo Bella said...

the girl who helped us get water at Target was waaaay nice.

And the cashier at Target talked about how living in Bakersfield made her homesick for Oklahoma.

Anonymous said...

Hey, that really resonates.

I've been living in Italy for the last 5 years but I'm from California. And I'm sort of wanting to move back, sometime.

Last week I was visiting a lot of touristy places with my family, who were here visiting, and had the same experience it sounds like you had in France, over and over again.

Anyhow, if it makes us feel any better, I think Italians can be just as obnoxious as Americans, both while abroad out to eat and right here in Italy, in the morning commute.

Or maybe that shouldn't make us feel any better.

What are we going to do?

Olaf Vanderhoot said...

true 'dat

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