As beautiful a weekend as the mind can conceive; mild and sunny, with a slight hint of fall, just as a message from your bladder reminds you that the movie is more than half over, and you had a tall soda -
Let me rephrase. As beautiful a weekend as the mind can conceive. I did the same thing I did last week. Got dirt. I’ve now hauled over a ton from Home Depot to my lawn. Put down more seed; used the dirt for the wife’s boulevard makeover, now mostly complete. It’s one of those things that will mark the Present from the Past, just as you look at old photos and see spindly trees instead of the thick trunks you have today.
Trees are the most reliable markers in old photos. Young, or present. I have only a still frame of a video of the three magnificent elms that stood on the corner up the block - a fog-shrouded morning the day after 9/11. They defined the corner for 30 years, I’m sure. Another ten, with people moving away and new ones coming in, and no one will know they were ever there - except for the semi-circular notches cut in the sidewalk, deferring to the girth of something we can only imagine by its absence.
After the dirt-hauling, it was Target with daughter. She wanted to get a clutch. Wonder what little twitch in the lingo kept it from being called a Grasp. For all I know a Grasp is a smaller Clutch. It goes in the Clutch, which goes in a purse. All these are different from a Bag. My wife asks me to get something out of her purse, it’s like Jay Leno telling you “it’s in the front seat of the car in the garage.” There are 36 cars, Jay. A little help.
We also needed to strategize for school lunch, since that’s coming up in a week. A week! All the kids are leaning into it now - not for the schooling part, but the friends and routine and purpose, the end of the great yawning expanse of lassitude. It won’t feel like fall; the Fair will be going on, Labor Day is still a week away, and it’s August, for Crom’s sake.
A piece in the Sunday paper about how New Zealand is great and they have it all figured out - they don’t overwork and there aren’t chain restaurants and the food is local, so if it’s winter, hey, no one has fresh tomatoes, and somehow everyone gets past it. The author notes that much of this pastoral Shangri-La is made possibly by other societies accumulating capital in large amounts of building things like the jet that got him there. He’s right. He also notes that we can assemble our own New Zealands here, and aside from the awesome scenery he's right there, too. All in all, I'm not sure of the point of the piece, except to scold people ever-so-gently that they don't already live like Kiwis, demand longer vacations, live in smaller places, and abjure chain stores.
Tell me where you think I fell backwards out of my chair from rolling my eyes up into my head with sudden force:
All the pieces of an ecologically sensible, human-scale life are present in this country; putting them together requires that we resist advertising and the way of least resistance, that we make conscious choices about where and how we live, that we live deliberately, as Thoreau wished, and advised us, to do.
To live deliberately, we need teachers and role models -- Thoreau's advice is as timely as ever, but his practical solutions are a bit out of date. I can't think of a better place to learn how to live small and sensibly in an industrial society than New Zealand.
Happened rather early. Resist advertising. Because it makes you do things. Horrible, horrible things you wouldn’t otherwise do. Last week I bought a bra because that Victoria’s Secret ad was just so damned good. Advertising, unless resisted, keeps you from a human-scale life.
As for making conscious choices about where and how we live: I’ll admit that’s fine advice, and having chosen every single place I’ve ever lived while sleepwalking, I’ll keep it in mind.
You there: stop making unconscious choices about how you live. You know you are. Or rather, you don’t know.
Live deliberately, as they do in New Zealand. I believe that’s on the flag. We could do it, but we need teachers and role models to take a mallet to the scales that hang before our eyes, and show us exactly how to live small and sensibly, because no one can figure out that on their own, I guess.
Look, I live in the city. A very walkable part, hills aside. I prefer to patronize local restaurants, not chains. (Except when daughter wants breakfast at Perkins and I want that patty melt.) I don’t believe that wanting tomatoes in January is an ethical issue, or a result of non-deliberate unconscious existence. I just want a tomato. But I tire of the endless articles that say, in essence, “I like this style of living. I conflate my appreciation with larger issues that have the appearance of a moral dimension, and therefore believe it would be better if more people shared my view of the primary organizing principles for a society.” Fine; preach it all you like. But when you tell people this is the best way for everyone to live, instead of saying “to each his own,” then you set up competing models, each with their own higher standard of ethics, and you’ve nothing to say to the person who believes everyone should live in blocks of flats with 700 square feet per family. Really, the case can be made. Your objections can be dismissed, easily - by your own standards, smallness and deliberateness and localness and “sustainability” are ethical matters, and there’s always someone who’ll be holier than thou.
It’s also an argument against big dense cities, which are supposedly good because they’re dense. Try running New York on locally-grown food. Or locally made anything.
Shorter version: I don’t care how other people chose to live and it doesn’t bother me when they chose arrangements I wouldn’t care to experience, like living on the 70th floor of a Manhattan condo. There’s room enough in this enormous nation for all. The reason some people don’t try to emulate a New Zealand experience? Maybe because they don’t want to. It’s possible.
By the way, New Zealand has an advertising code and an industry board that hears public complaints. The cover of their publication, explaining standards and practices:
I assume that makes sense to someone.
Inside, some examples of self-regulation:
Resist the unexamined nondeliberate pizza choice! Also:
"We express regret at any offence." When the list of things one must not offend includes "country line dancers," I'd bet it's preceded by a thousand other groups.
PS: the person quoting in the article may have the best job description of someone in Magic Perfect Land, ever: "retired oboist." That one could get a job playing the oboe is enough of a sign you're among civilized people, but the fact that he could retire from it shows they really know how to live.
Something I never thought I’d see at Target:
Of course he’s happy; he’s been out of circulation for 9 decades, and now he’s back. Speaking of artifacts of another century:
I’ll give LA Looks credit for not completely redoing their look; the 80s comes through. According to the internet it’s based in Ohio, and was founded in 2007. Eh? It goes back much farther than that. I’ll bet the brand languished, and was purchased and revived. Next to it, Aqua Net - the hairspray that seemed to dominate my house growing up. Mom would make an immovable beehive out of that stuff. It meant they were going out. Perhaps on an anniversary dinner. Perhaps company was coming over - a term I never hear any more. Company is coming over. Can’t talk; we have company.
The conversion to mascot-only cereal boxes continues apace. Here is he who exists in a state of manic anticipation for Cocoa Puffs.
Does he have a name? He does. Sonny. So named because he was originally part of a two-bird team, the other being Gramps. The series of ads is cumulatively disturbing, as it is apparent that Gramps keeps the cereal on hand to induce Sonny to perform dangerous acts propelled by the manic state induced by synthetic choco-additives.
The Cinnamon Toast Crunch box is disturbing:
When they’re all lined up, the cereal appears to be licking its neighbor.
You really don’t want to think that the cereal has tongues, let alone tongues of such proportions. And what of the baker?
More importantly, why does the crunch square appear to have excreted on the floor?
The bee in two incarnations:
He's all you need to see anymore.
New Today: those Monday Matchbooks. See you around the usual places.