End of an Era

Posted by psa on Oct 16th, 2007
Oct 16

They are closing my Starbucks, the end of an era.  It was the first in my end of the valley, west of the 405, the suburban wasteland north of Los Angeles proper.  We had matured together, Starbucks and I, communing on a somewhat daily basis, okay, at times a bi-daily basis for sixteen years.  A life-saver, well, possibly more a sanity saver as I was an expatriate of Berkeley and the Bay Area where picking up a morning cappuccino on the way to work was a well established tradition.  On being transplanted to the southland it was an on-going problem.  Where to get coffee?  Sure, you could make it at home, but that wasn’t the same.  It didn’t have all of the trappings of the established ritual, walking in, seeing old friends, joking with the pre- barista baristas.  Granted, down here in the southland, one drives everywhere rather than walking, but that part of the ritual was amenable to moderation.  There just weren’t any coffee places here in the southland pre-Starbucks.  Oh, yes, there were specialty coffee shops, the loss of whose uniqueness everyone bemoans, but no place where they took coffee seriously, or rather where they took you seriously and understood that you needed to get in and out and you really wanted, needed you coffee to be the same day in and day out.

So, yes, there are other Starbucks now.  They are spaced out along Ventura Boulevard at roughly half mile intervals, but I will miss this one.  It had a unique atmosphere, quirky enough to be interesting, a reasonably odd assemblage of patrons to make the people watching satisfying, yet nothing so outrageous as to feel unsafe.  Even the homeless guy who hung out in front trying to intimidate (he scowled, but then again why shouldn’t he) patrons into donating, seemed the right fit.  This Starbucks and I watched each other mature.  We saw each other through the rebuilding years after the earthquake and we watched each others families evolve.  My children into teenagers and then adults while I watched generations of baristas find their footing and move on to other careers, hopefully better or at least more interesting careers.

Yes, I hear you will be back in a couple of years when the building has been rebuilt into a modern commercial / retail / residential complex, the wave of the future.  The corporate Starbucks will return, this time in the preferred corner location, but the unique blend of character that emerged here will have dissipated, changed, moved on.  Everything changes, and I will miss you. 

Voting Republican

Posted by psa on Jul 20th, 2007
Jul 20

Occasionally, a friend who was once fond of me, would send me columns by Maureen Dowd, hoping to expand my somewhat limited political sensibilities. There was one recently, “Brothers and Sisters, July 25, 2007, NY Times”, that addressed the effect Bush is having in turning previously staunch Republicans into Democrats. Well, that is pretty straightforward now; the Republican Party is rather onerous to be associated with at the present time. Which gives rise I suspect to a host of “closet” Republicans, but that is another matter.

In any event, the article prompted me to ponder why it is that people voted Republican in the first place. In so far that is that one votes for a party rather then a person, because clearly if one were voting for a person, Bush would have been far less likely to be elected. Then given that one is voting for a party, which particular myth, as there are many, of a party are you voting for. What would prompt any right-thinking person, or fantasy-enveloped person as may be more accurate to vote Republican as clearly about half the country did, approximately, more or less, depending on the day, the state, the person counting and the hang of the chad.

It sprang to mind, and I rather like these thoughts that spring to mind. I tend to think that they are inspired while others of my acquaintance see them as misbegotten and ill considered, but there you have it. It sprang to mind that the reason people who vote Republican do so is because they are dreamers. Democrats are pragmatists, but Republicans are dreamers, they believe. Republicans believe in the American Dream, or perhaps the American Myth. They believe that with a little skill, luck and possibly some hard work, they to can be the next Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs. They believe in the stories promulgated by Horatio Alger, who, as it turns out, according to Wikipedia, was most likely a pedophile, but maybe that is an interesting parallel in its own right with the Republican Party of today, although slightly off topic. However, the Horatio Alger stories, commonly held to be the genesis of the rags to riches notion of the American Dream are, in fact, usually misrepresented. In his stores, or so Wikipedia indicates, the best most characters attain is not great wealth, but rather through courage, character and the assistance of a wealthy elder gentleman, they are rewarded with a stable middle class existence. Interestingly, they do represent the factual reality of most people’s interaction with American society, the evolution of a middle class. Well, and the odd pedophilia thing. How does that fit in?

People who vote Republican believe that they to can become a success here in the USA and that further, if by some wild, weird twist of fate they are successful, then that success will be theirs. No one, governmental or private, will have the right to take their money or their ideas, or tell them what to do, or how to live. It is one of the purest motivations for immigrating here. I can go to the US. I can become a success and no one can take it away from me. It isn’t entirely true. It is, in large part a fantasy, a myth, but nonetheless it is what Republicans are voting for.

Does it sound like there is a quasi religious element to this? Yes, I think that there is, however, it isn’t organized religion in the sense that we typically perceive it when we think of conservation Republican politics. It is the politics of belief, the power of fantasy.

Democrats, on the other hand, are pragmatists. It is a necessary point of view, but a lot less colorful and thus much harder to seduce people into voting with you. Democrats recognize that most of us, maybe 99.9% of us are not going to be the next Bill Gates. The true percentage is probably even worse, but I am only guessing. Given that nearly all of us are going to spend our lives barely getting by, the Democrats figure it would be a good thing to have small things to assist in basic survival. Things like universal health care and enough money to nominally retire. Democrats care about the necessities of life although they are far less glamorous. People vote Democratic when they have given up, when they are worn down and frightened, but people who vote Republican, when they have nothing and have little prospect of ever having anything. These are the people voting on faith, voting for a possibility, for a fantasy.

I admit it, what some of you have always suspected and derided. From time to time I have voted Republican, to the consternation, dismay and contempt of those who think I should know better.

Yes, I am about to comment on myself. When I wrote the previous, the individual who had forwarded the Dowd article to me got irate. He had several issues, which I will try to state acurately in the follow on posting, but as I no longer have access to the discussion, I may, at best, only approximate them and even so cannot really claim to have ever understood what anyone was “really” thinking.

So, not wanting to leave those concerns unaddressed, the follow on posting is “The Politics of Compassion”

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