Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Eight airports, six airplanes...

300 highway miles, 200 off-road miles, in three days: sometimes, life is brutal.

The airline hub system, for all its convenience, leaves something to be desired - bad weather in Minneapolis suddenly means flight delays all over the country. My airline most resembling the Keystone Cops award? Delta: they changed a gate from here, to there, back to here, back to there.

Gate Agent: All I'm trying to find out is what flight’s at C32?

Whoever gate agents talk to: No. C32 is on G42.

Gate Agent: I'm not asking you who's on G42.

Whoever gate agents talk to: G42’s on C32.

Gate Agent: One gate at a time!

Whoever gate agents talk to: Well, don't change the gates around.

Gate Agent: I'm not changing nothing!

Whoever gate agents talk to: Take it easy, buddy.

Gate Agent: I'm only asking you, what flight’s on c56?

Whoever gate agents talk to: That's right.

Gate Agent: Ok.

Whoever gate agents talk to: All right.

On the other hand, I was driving along the shore of Lake Superior yesterday morning,

and spent my late afternoon here:

How many people are lucky enough to experience a juxtaposition like that in a single day?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

July 4th, 2007: How we miss the problems of yesteryear.

The Republic is in piss-poor shape. Whatever little moral authority the US had continues to erode under the stewardship of a duplicitous and corrupt administration, gas prices are up, the fault lines under the economic landscape are rumbling, our enemies continue to coalesce against us (being provided with a baffling kind of encouragement that has proven this administration's trademark), there are distressing indications that our environment might (maybe) be warming up in a potentially catastrophic way, and we recently finished one of the most unexciting NBA finals in history. People have lost such fate in our government that a shocking number of them seem to believe that the CIA (or somebody) framed Al Qaeda, and flew those damn planes into the WTC themselves. I don’t even want to know how many people still believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. And I have yet to find a candidate I feel enthusiastic about.

But frankly, we’ve lived in a time of unparalleled prosperity. This nation has survived the horrors of the civil war, two world wars, Vietnam and the cold war. We never had to live with the horrors of the dust bowl, or the depression. We complain about the shocking cost of a form of medical care our ancestors couldn’t have even dreamed of, the high price of petrol (which, when inflation-adjusted, actually looks pretty damn affordable), and the loss of US business supremacy in a world whose economy dwarfs whatever came before. We continue our national struggles with racism, sexism, and classism in a country where I can still order more calories from the dollar menu at the local fast food joint than many people see in an entire day.

We may never have had it so good. So from where does this perception of deprivation arise? My guess is that its related to a media-advertising driven capitalism where competition for our collective attention is fiercely fought, and sensationalism and catastrophe are pandered in the service of selling you cheeseburgers and automobiles. That I'd even suggest such a problem is a testament to the opulence of the times.

But I would like to encourage everyone to take a step back, today, and consider: things may never have been better than they are right now. Today is the good old days of tomorrow, and people will look back through rosy-hued lenses, and share fond memories of the times when the watermelons sliced at the annual picnic still had rounded corners. Though the nature of our struggles continues to evolve and the problems we face may be dire, that we continue to struggle should come as no surprise – we always have, and we always will.

As proof that things are not much different today than they were fifty years ago, I bring you a song: The Merry Minuet. Sheldon Hamick wrote the song in 1958, and the Kingston Trio released their rendition in 1959 – 48 years ago. My brother and I memorized the words and used to sing it on car trips in the early seventies. Listen to the lyrics and share with me a little nostalgia about the worldwide problems of days past – and today.