A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
A live performance at the Saenger Theatre
A live performance at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center
Buffalo, NY — with Robin & Linda Williams
A live performance with Robin & Linda Williams in Asbury Hall at Babeville
There is a long aisle at our grocery store with soda pop at one end and tea and coffee at the other, which my love and I get to after the butter and eggs and 2% milk. We come to the beverage aisle and she selects the coffee, dark ground, with names like Swan Lake and Machiavelli. I notice the can of Maxwell House percolator grind and think of Mother and Dad. And there between the coffee and the soda pop is an extensive collection of waters.
In St. Paul, where we live, water comes out of the tap. You pay for it, of course, but the price per serving is miniscule compared to the serious money you shell out for fruit-flavored water, sparkling, caffeinated, antioxidant, and even hydrogenated. One water, enhanced with green tea and ginger, promises to create thermogenesis to increase metabolism and burn body fat.
It’s interesting to walk through an enormous grocery store on the evening of a day when I’ve been reading about the end of World War II, when most of the world except for America was badly damaged and people in Europe and Asia were hungry, many on the verge of starvation. People were eating rodents, crows, dogs, scavenging in the ruins for edible garbage. If you wanted good food, you had to pawn the silverware and go to a black market. This happened within the lifetime of some of us.
No wonder my parents in 1947 bought themselves an acre of land and built a house on it, keeping half an acre for garden, and every summer, we went through a frenzy of canning to fill the basement shelves with jars of corn, peas, beans, tomatoes, squash, and jams and jellies. Six children under their roof and we never went hungry.
My generation, which came of age in the 1950s, was the beginning of teenagerness: we adopted our own mode of dress, our own music, our standard of coolness, which was based on alienation from the previous generation. Adolescence, as we defined it, would not have been tolerated in a time of hardship and scarcity, but we reveled in self-consciousness. Some of us maintained immaturity right up to retirement. We called it The Arts but really it was adolescence.
And now we discover that old age is utterly anonymous. Past 70, we’re all marching into the swamp and it’s the same swamp for everyone. Bombs are falling around us, friends are struck down, eventually we will be, too. We live day to day, the huddled masses of the aged and infirm, watching our successors march on ahead.
What bothers me is that we’re cutting music and drama in the public schools to pay for Gramma to get an MRI if she has a headache and pay for Viagra at $10 per pill to give men in nursing homes to keep them from rolling out of bed at night. Why? Because we old-timers vote and children don’t.
The old need to look after the young and honor the future. I run into people who retired on lovely pensions at 62 and now enjoy making bad art and writing stuff nobody wants to read, an enormous bulge of aging boomers squeezing through the pension pipeline, their expensive health care paid for by semi-literate 30-year-olds penalized by lousy schools where languages were dropped and tests dumbed down and class size rose past 30 and 35, who are now forced to support a growing population of seashell collectors and bad poets and people making videos of the Grand Canyon. After 27 years as Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement at the Associated Federation of Organizations, you now get to be a teenager again.
That is what I think of as I look at the $6 can of hydrogenated citrus-flavored organic zero-calorie caffeinated water guaranteed to whip up your metabolism and make you skinny and youthful again. And so I don’t buy it. I go home and, out of solidarity with my ancestors who endured hardship of many kinds, I put a glass under the tap and fill it with water. No ice, no lemon, no sparkle. When you can appreciate a glass of pure water, you’ve touched base with reality. You are back in 1950, on Grandma’s back step, pushing the pump handle down, holding your tin cup under the spout. The chickens cluster around for their share and the barn cats. Some places in the world know terrible drought, but not us. Praise God for His grace and goodness.