The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. -Anatole France
almost in Central Park… splendid view… overlooking the
magnificent greenery of the park. A glass of wine sits on the table
in front of me. It was poured from a bottle with a label picture of a
very long house… etched in red… with a flag on top at one end of
the house and the word: POMMARD underneath. I don’t know that word
in French… maybe it’s a name… or a place… or has something to
do with an apple.
The waiter… a thin
white guy… mid twenties with a perfectly trimmed beard… brings a
plate of something and sets it in front of me. I’m not sure what it
is. It looks like a baby lobster tail covering a pea which is in turn
covered with a sauce carefully dripped over the legume… puddling
slightly on the right side of the plate. No, there’s something
yellow-brown in there. It looks like a grape. A spiral of onion sits
dish is one course of a prix fixe dinner offered by Per
Se, a fabulous French restaurant with a different fixed menu
every day. A full course meal… including desert… is a flat fee...
Just $225 a person… plus another hundred and a quarter for wine…
plus tax and a tip... of course.
That’s for ten
courses, including nice homey comfort food: macaroni and cheese…
French style. Oh it’s just too droll.
After wining and
dining my way through the dinner, I have just enough room left for a
couple dollar slices of pizza and a mug of Yuengling. I’ll grab
them on the way to the subway.
I’ll take the D
train to Broadway-Bleecker St. I can stop at the Bleecker Street bar
between the station and home.
NY Transit system is downsizing. Trains run slow. Finding a working
escalator or elevator is as likely as finding a Social Justice
Warrior who doesn’t find me offensive.
downsizing the repair and most other transit departments. Fewer
people to do EVERYTHING except one job. And in that one job, the plan
is to increase the workforce by 500 people. Did you guess it? TRANSIT
Instead of building
restrooms in stations, they can arrest people who piss off the
platform. That’s something I’ve done myself... more times than
I’ve farted in a Mexican restaurant. But wait! There’s more:
instead of giving poor people free transit passes like I’ve heard
they do in Chicago, they can arrest people who jump over the
turnstiles. Instead of building public housing… they can use jails
to house the blanketed homeless who live underground.
“They could just
get a job,” say those who are annoyed that cardboard box houses on
the platforms are offending their visual space, “but they don’t.”
Yo asshole! They
could just have a crowbar up their sleeve and smash your head with
it. These people are hurting no one. They are causing no pain,
destroying no resources. That’s certainly more than can be said
about the bank-working keyboard tappers in the skyscrapers next to
them. Or the scummy Real Estate Agents who
do nothing but work
for companies that raise
rents and throw people out on the street… or the useless IT
developers who bank thousands from moving electrons around to make it
easier for your cellphone to collect information to sell to
advertisers so they can market more directly to you.
begging is the highest form of work-- and
the least destructive. They
ask for money and you give it because you want to... the
purest of transactions…. In return you get a smile, or maybe a god
bless you. The perfect
vendor-customer relationship. Why penalize these vendors? In the
meantime, you have quarter-pounder tossing
minimum-wage burger flippers…
who (barely) earn their living by destroying people’s health.
What’s in it for them?
spend $300 on minuscule dishes with some god-awful French wine.
Look, buckaroos, you
don’t end poverty by making it illegal. You end poverty by taking
money away from those who have too much and giving it to those who
don’t have enough. You don’t blame the police for mishandling the
mentally ill. You train people to handle the mentally ill so you
don’t have to rely on the cops in the first place.
Last month, I wrote
about my time in Punxsutawney PA (see part two) with the working poor
of a small town famous for one day a year. The roofer who just likes
being under the blue sky. The former college professor who is fed up
with students who don’t want to learn how to think and schools that
don’t want to teach how to think.
There may be
homelessness in Punxy, but I didn’t see it. Yes I saw poor people.
Yes, I felt people hanging out at the library who were somehow… I
donno… off. But there were no cops throwing them out. There were
two restrooms, available to all.
There were things I
didn’t see… and my friend Vincent seems to think I’m
romanticizing a bit. He’s the one who sent me the email in PART
PART TWO: Department
rare that people I write about answer what I write. It’s rare that
they even read it, I’m afraid.
of the many things I’ve learned in my 60 years of shit-slinging is
that if I write about anyone (except my pal Sid Yiddish), that person
will not like it.
could write: She was beautiful… like a Roman statue..
alabaster… if it weren’t for the tiny birthmark on her
chin, you wouldn’t believe she was real.
next day I’d hear. “What’s the matter with you? Why did you
write about that birthmark? You’re making me look ugly to people
who’ve never met me. You’re
an asshole and I hate you.”
lose friends by writing about them. So it was with much trepidation
that I opened the email from my Punxsutawney friend that I called
Vincent, the former college prof.
of hating me, he was correcting me. Something I usually pay for from
ladies in tight black dresses… with
Your revelations about " Vincent" are not accurate. I left
academia after 9 Universities given their idiocracy failure to teach
students how to think critically; that is, none of the liberal
arts/philosophy/scientific methodology is taught in these middle-tier
institutions. Most of these students have no interest in curious
learning and WE should not encourage most of them to pursue a liberal
arts education. Instead, two year vocational training is much more
practical, and would save them money and professors a great deal of
most of the small town citizens are friendlier than those of large
cities. Nevertheless, you were not here with sufficient time to
encounter their abject dismissal of the benefit and, perhaps, their
disdain of the intellectual life. My friend MB hates lawyers,
politicians, and other professionals who have invested years of
study to achieve their status. While I understand his animus, he and
the others despise book learning as a waste of time. Why? Because
they had difficulty in abstract thinking in school. I have begun to
understand that sentiment, I have realized that cognitive ability
varies a great deal; and a person can earn a good living engaged in
hard physical labor. Hence, I advocate schools that direct most
students to consider vocational training and faster employment; we as
Americans must not claim that everyone should pursue a liberal arts
Good reason to quit academia.
If there is anything lacking in the American people it is the ability
to think critically… or
think at all. There
is too much teaching what
think… especially enforced
by narrow-minded students and greedy administrations… and not
enough HOW to think.
I disagree on the solution. Vocational training is the PROBLEM… not
Students use their educational training for
They’ve invested in an “education” as job training. They have
no interest in “curious learning” but they
Higher education should not be a kind of air-conditioning repair
school on a $100,000 budget. The
purpose of higher education --and the purpose of education in
general-- should be to encourage thought... exploration... wonder...
logic.. in the students. Let them do with it as they will. We put too
much emphasis in getting a job, earning money. There is no dignity in
picking up garbage for the city… or shuffling electrons for a bank.
There IS dignity in being able to use logic, compassion, innovation,
in every day life.
notion of "Trump country" for these people is that such
LGBQT and illegal alien rights do not deserve special treatment.
Alternatively, you might be surprised by the number of Lesbians in
this town. I am not; many of them have experienced difficult
relations with men and decide to raise their children alone. That is
a cultural aberration.
I don’t doubt that most people oppose “special treatment” for
people different than they are. (Though I don’t expect they would
mind special treatment (under a different name: politeness,
for themselves. In most cases, though, it is not the “special
treatment” that is the problem. It’s defining what special
For example, gender-neutral restrooms are not “special treatment.”
has access to them equally and can use them in the same way.
written a lot on the subject of gay marriage, but the unequal
not in the gay
but in the marriage
are certain rights: extended health insurance benefits, alimony,
hospital visitation, in some cases even sexual contact… given to
married people, but not to singles. The “special rights” are to
of gender. Marriage is a religious institution and should be treated
as such. The government has no business in encouraging it with
"Earnest" was misunderstood. He has been a "roofer"
for over 12 years, long before Trump had any influence.
respect to gun ownership, this is "hunting" country. I do
not understand the shooting of a stationary animal and how it is in
any way "sporting." Yet, even those with significant
education love it.
Thanks for the correction about Earnest. I’m sorry for the error.
There is also another good point here. City or country… not all the
people are the same. The fact that there’s a hunting show on in a
bar, doesn’t mean everyone in that bar likes hunting.
town has fallen economically because the coal industry deteriorated
over time, including the factories and supporting industries. Those
individuals having reasonable intellectual ability have left, e.g. my
class in 1975. The result is that most of the residual residents can
earn only marginal incomes, at least for a number of years or until
they can secure a better paying job; and the latter often depends on
nepotism or otherwise knowing someone having some power.
have to conclude that your years of experience have not exposed you
to the struggling masses. Most of the women I know are working 2 or 3
jobs just to survive. However, in the history of labor in this and
other nations is this unusual? NO! We cannot guarantee a perfect life
with each person receiving a fantastic income.
I don’t know anyone who wants a “perfect life”… or wants one
guaranteed. Life itself is not perfect… we all die. But the society
CAN guarantee a DECENT life for each person. That is a home, enough
food, heat in the winter, cooling in the summer. Some untorn clothes
(except for the punk rockers who like TORN clothes). We
don’t all need $300
but we all need food and drink.
You are correct that these plebeians--including myself, I guess--will
continue to attempt to survive. Se la vie! Yet as you have implied,
they are the salt of the earth--if they instill in their children the
traditional values of Americans.
think the “traditional values” of Americans have much value. I’ve
already mentioned the fallacy of the “dignity of work.” I also
dislike the idea of self-reliance.
My Japanese students don’t get it when I explain that Americans
think it’s better to do something yourself than to ask others for
help. They see the society as SOCIAL. And that if they can offer
help, they should… and if they need help, someone else should offer
it. I agree with them.
am not saying or implying that you are denigrating these rural folks.
However, I do believe that your analysis was a bit skewed in some
ways. I guess mine would be too if I tried to assess New York City
MYKEL: Again, you’re
right. I was only in Punxsy a month. When I was in Mongolia one of
the professors at the university told me, “You’d better write
that book in the year you’re here. After that time, you’ll
realize how much you don’t understand.”
read that the search engines like lots of links... and it's also nice
to support my friends --and enemies--
in their blogs. So facebook
me or email
if you have a blog, webpage or something else to connect to. I add
you. You add me.
another Goldberg: goldberg.wordpress.com
and humor fans will like Justin Martin in The
my friend Mike R has a nice site with recipe hits from the past! (He
cooked for me once... great stuff.) Check out Yesterday's
here's one by a member of ANTI-SEEN... a tour
Shelton has an interesting blog here.
Hippie is a guy who has been YouTubing
for a long time. Our opinions largely overlap... but he complains
that I'm a Communist. I'm not! I'm a communist.
Stecher publishes a zine called PRECIS.
You can see the back issue links there... and he promises a new
Fertakis has a very nice graphics-heavy blog... with music and books
featured prominently. If there’s no link here (I can’t find it
temporarily), then Google… er… Duckduckgo him for information.
my long-term pal Sid Yiddish contributes with his Mishegas
VINCENT: Your revelations about " Vincent" are not accurate. I left academia after 9 Universities given their idiocracy failure to teach students how to think critically; that is, none of the liberal arts/philosophy/scientific methodology is taught in these middle-tier institutions. Most of these students have no interest in curious learning and WE should not encourage most of them to pursue a liberal arts education. Instead, two year vocational training is much more practical, and would save them money and professors a great deal of misery.