Archive for September, 2012

Donut and Coffee 5 Cents

Pampered Poodle, Marietta, Ohio © Jim Korpi

Joseph always finds himself in search of the authentic.

The building he walked into acted as a cafe, antique shop, and “farmer’s market.” By the sign on the door he imagined fields of farm hands hauling in the day’s harvest, and these quaint baskets by the doors being stacked neatly with the fruits of their labor.

“Made in the USA,” stated a red, white and blue striped sign above the shiny apples. A sticker stuck uniformly to each apple read “Washington.” This building was located in Upstate New York. The bananas beside the Washington apples, Joseph concluded, were surely not from these parts. There was no patriotic sign above the bananas. It was a farmer’s market, the sign was not a lie, but Joseph felt tricked.

Antiques hanging in the cafe section were for sale. Wood lathes and saws hung over the tables of retirees sipping on refills of drip coffee served in Styrofoam cups. Signs reading “Home Is Where The Heart Is” and “Donut and Coffee 5 Cents” cluttered the walls in the hallway leading to the bathrooms. They too were for sale. Each sign looked old but in peculiarly new condition. Joseph thought this illusion comically the reverse of tables of retired woman in the cafe who dressed like teens and wore make-up to appear 20 years younger.

The backs of the signs had golden stickers declaring “Made in China.” Joseph laughed out loud when he imagined a factory of Chinese villagers hand painting signs reading “Donut and Coffee 5 Cents.” Did they think a donut and coffee were five cents in the US? Were some workers scheming ways to immigrate to a country where a coffee break only cost a nickel?

Joseph could laugh at these things, but it often depressed him. Seeing a saw hanging on the wall of an antique shop saddened him similarly to the time he saw a carrier pigeon stuffed and awkwardly posed in flight at the Natural History Museum.

Walk in the Woods

Repairs in Park, Amsterdam © Jim Korpi

“If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.”
-Henry David Thoreau

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I questioned my nephew as we drove to the hospital to see his newest born brother. The question came from a mix of curiosity in what a child these days would answer and not knowing what else to talk about with a seven-year-old on an hour-long car ride.

“I’m not an adult yet,” he responded. “So I don’t really have to know that.”

From the mouths of babes his father would have said. From the mouth of innocence pours truth.

What do we want to be when we grow up?

In this struggling economy we are confronted with the truths of existence; for some the struggle is a forced journey. When six years of college seemed to be a movement towards growing up, we realized there is no place for us where we thought there was.

Cultures from around the world value a leaving, or journey. Aborigines call it a “walkabout.” Walking away from the naiveté of our adolescence, we are able to better understand the path of our ancestors and envision our own future as adults in the world. Without such journeys we forfeit self-reliance, turn in our timecards of compliance and allow adulthood to resemble extended breastfeeding.

Today few of us are plugged into factories with their demanding bosses looking over shoulders for efficiencies, much like Kings looking from their turrets for their taxes. Gone are factories. Gone are 9-5s with benefits.

While past decades were spent dazed in the glow of computer screens, there has been a rebirth of forests, flowing of streams, and return of the wild. Slowly we are becoming aware of what the Kings of our day have done to the landscape and our potential.

Will we wait for the drilling men to place us in jobs of the New Energy Economy while they pump poisons beneath our boots? Will we line up at the doors of tech barons wasting our time entombed in fluorescent tubes only to trade our days on factory floors for the numbing monkey business of data entry and cost analysis?

How will we grow up?