Friday, March 26, 2010

A Dozen or so Things About the Real World

Moms Mabley told it like it was in her own special way. Photo courtesy of UPI.

HEAD’S UP: Yours Truly is still in North Louisiana trying to be the best patient advocate possible for my ailing Ma Ma. I arrived a few days after Old Girl was admitted to hospital on 31 January in atrocious shape. While much better, she is not yet well enough for me to return to Gotham where there are at least eight million stories. Dutiful daughter that I am, I remain in the southern branch of the family seat. Happily, I do have stories. And I plan to tell them.

THOSE of us who live in the swankier areas of New York City – that is certain neighborhoods in Manhattan – reside in a bubble. We’re more spoiled demanding, entitled and impatient, because the world is our oyster and we want it now. We have just about every convenience at our fingertips. We’re more liberal. And more nuanced in our politics. More educated. Affluent. More health-conscious and environmentally friendly. More passionate amount human rights and animal rights. We’re more hemmed in and uptight because land and space go for a premium. We walk more. Drive less. And watch less TV. And we’re more removed from the reality of who we are as a nation than are our fellow Americans elsewhere, except for perhaps, Los Angeles. In fact, many of us (me excluded) describe ourselves as New Yorkers, not Americans.

Often enough over the years – especially those spent abroad – I’ve declared to any number of people that New York and Los Angeles are not America. I’ve encouraged scores to visit the “flyover” states to get the flavor of the real America, probably the one that Sarah Palin often waxes about. I have been in the real America – where I grew up – for about six weeks. It’s a strangely wonderful place and a wonderfully strange place, or so I have observed:

1. A lot of fuel can be conserved, and it would benefit the environment if there were fewer drive-ins where motorists sometimes wait in long lines with engines running. The scene plays out daily at pharmacies, liquor stores and banks;

2. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, trucks made up 48.4 of passenger vehicle sales in 2008 (the last year for which statistics are available). Yet here it seems that every two out of three is a truck, CUV or SUV. Why so many trucks on the road? Hauling things? People?

3. Is it my imagination or is there a daquiri emporium on every other corner in the business district?

4. I have not imagined the lone Starbucks in town;

5. Nor have I imagined the payday loan centers and cash-checking stores at virtually every shopping center and strip mall;

6. At least two dentists have a thriving practice doing nothing but dentures. Only about half of their clients are senior citizens.

7. Plenty of reasonable folk will drive around a parking lot for as long as 10 minutes to get a spot three spaces closer to the door than the one they passed up;

8. It's disconcerting to run the car air conditioner on sunny days between about noon and 4 p.m. when the air temps are only in the mid to high 60s. In the car I’m burning up. Outside the car I’m chilly.

9. Sparkling wine (not Champagne) – my alcoholic beverage of choice – is costly, even the Korbels of the world. $12-plus in some quarters. Are you serious?! I’ve been kickin’ it with J. Roget and formerly, Andre;

10. The mall is still the new town square. It is home to merchants, shoppers, trees, flowers, plants, benches, ponds, waterfalls, walkers, etc. At Pecanland Mall, one can relax and enjoy the scenery with no interference from wind/rain/snow/heat/cold;

11. In busy, bustling New York, walk down the street and no one will likely notice or register that they do. In Monroe, walk amongst the public fully clothed but looking remotely “otherworldly” and you will be met by open, bald, shameless stares and whispers. Note to self: Next trip leave the boots and cropped leggings at home.

12. Some people don’t use voicemail. “Didn’t you see the missed call,” asked the cashier at Firestone Complete Auto Care when I inquired why he didn’t phone me (the subtext being that if you got my voicemail you should have left a message) about an issue with a tire. I saw the missed call and immediately checked my voicemail. Silly me, I didn’t phone the number because I concluded that it was probably someone who’d concluded they’d dialed the wrong number and hung up. This I explained to the cashier. “You not from here, are you?” he asked.

13. In Wal-Mart someone stole my shopping cart. The thief actually removed my items and made off with it while I was searching for plums. Serves me right for not living up to my convictions. I felt dirty, too, owing to my self-imposed boycott. Why? Because of the chain’s labor issues, mainly low wages and anti-union activities. And there is that business about requiring shoppers to show their receipts before they leave the store.

14. And finally this, which can happen even in New York, could not go unremarked on just because ...: My mother – bless her heart – was a cougar long before the term was coined. Methinks one of her mantra’s could be summed up in the words of the late great comedian Moms Mabley: "There ain't nothing an old man can do for me but bring me a message from a young one." … The other day she gave her late-30/early 40-something dentist to know that he was cute. “May I have a date,” the senior citizen asked as pretty as you please. Dr. P. did not say yes, nor did he say no. Hmmm.

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