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July 18, 2010


Shakespeare's Cobbler the ever loginner forgetter who needs to sync all his blog IDs

"Then, as the American life was increasingly designed around the auto (hello, suburban sprawl!), things began to change. For one thing, owning a car became not a luxury or a thrill, but a dull necessity (except, notably, in the cities)."
You mean, in the inner city where poor folk rent apartments, have menial jobs and try to scrape by without getting killed by gang warfare?

I was somewhat bemused lately to read discussions of the oil leak problem. Some folks with something resembling sense tried to point out that we wouldn't have these issues if we weren't lazily dependent upon oil to run our lives, e.g. the automobile. This, of course, is not the whole picture. (Why are we drilling out where it's a mile deep and we can't get down there to control it? Oh yes, because environmental protection groups, of all people, didn't want danger close to our shores -- how's that for irony, or is it just idiocy?) Nonetheless, it is true -- dangerous oil wells exist in part because we use oil, lots of oil.

And yet... almost nobody looks at the simple fact that this isn't, actually, so much laziness on our personal part as The Way Our Civilization Is Now Arranged. Not as a matter of custom, but of necessity. _How are you going to go without a car when your work has been placed miles away from your home?_

My point is, there's a much bigger and older problem at work than even simple lazy reliance on auto technology: the problem that generations ago the world was built to rely on that technology such that it is now a necessity, not just a couch for immediate laziness. You can't go back -- not without tearing apart the modern metametropolitan sprawl to form closer complete (self-containable/sustaining?) working groups in the matter of urban existence. And nobody, not even among the "We Need to Stop Being Lazy" insightfuls, is seriously moving people in _that_ direction; it's too big to just do through anything but an initiative more massive than we seriously considered even back in America's can-do heyday, and there're too many people who would have to be convinced to contribute to such an initiative to boot.

In the end, I would assert that we do know where we're going. We're going nowhere, or toward oblivion. Because the only way to cure our current flaws is to go too far back, and we're not going that way, so there's no getting around the fact that these flaws will simply catch up with us and we will face the consequences. We are, in fact, going the same way we have gone for ages now: "progress". We simply are getting near the end of that road and the ugly reality that it leads to unsolvable problems, not paradise. The average American acts as if he does not know because he does not want to ask what the consequences he cannot not face will be.

John Kasaian

Excellent observation, Tim! I've worked on several old cars over the years and I miss the kind of bizarre man/machine sympatico (where a mere mortal armed with a few metric wrenches and the Compleat Idiot book can breath life into a horozontally opposed air cooled VW engine) which dosen't exist with modern cars---not only are they austere looking (notice all the gray cars on the road? It is as if even color has fallen from grace with the public)but they don't behave like the picaresque adventure machines they should be regarded as. Cars have become sterile isolation chamber/telephone booths. Is it any wonder kids would rather play with i-pods than look out the window on trips?

David Wyant

Knowing you for the semi-long stretch that I have you know that that '59 at the top of the article would be my dream car...simply because of the period it symbolized...a period of which my dad never left. I walked to school almost every day of my school career until I moved 9 miles out of town in Harrison, then I drove because it saved a lot of time, and to be honest...I was lazy. Then again, we have to look at urban sprawl and lack of transit to rural areas. With the growth of towns, beginning in the mid-late 60's, we lost the "Town square" architecture, where everything was centered around downtown. Take downtown Harrison, there are three churches, the old high school built in 1915, and the old primary school, several stores including the buildings that once housed all of the local businesses, and the county courthouse...all in one location. Now it's so spread out it's impossible to walk from your house in the older part of town to run errands, the stores have all moved or been driven out by the corporate giant chains, and the flood of 1962 in Harrison didn't help. I'm a huge fan of the "C'mon kids! Get in the back!" thought, the family car, one big land yacht of a station wagon to haul everyone around in...but then again, what has happened to the station wagon? Gone are the days of the vista cruiser, the country squire, the nomad..., now it's the explorer, the Cherokee, the Expedition...all built on truck chassis facilitating the need for a larger engine that burns more fuel. When dad was a kid back in the 50's, my grandparents had 2 vehicles, a 1955 Chevy station wagon, and a 1958 Belvedere, grandmas car. Grandpa used to walk to work, ten blocks from the house up in Dansville, NY (old, small NY towns are close together, something we lack here in the south) and once there he had a company truck to drive and work from, the New York State Electric and Gas company. Dad lived only 3 blocks from the Dansville schools, so from his first days in elementary school in the late 50's through graduating high school in the early 70's, he could just be there in a few minutes. Sure, by the time he had gotten to high school, the Belvedere had been handed down to him and he could drive, but he still walked, to save money and just because it was a mainstay for him...which is also a luxury (walking) I plan on taking full advantage of during college, that and my trusty old schwinn, with it's fenders, big seat, sky blue and white paint, and fat tires ;). Another staple that has gone from modern society is the bi-weekly barbershop trip, long replaced by convenient "salons" where you can get your hair. I fully plan on finding a barber close to campus in Russellville and what not but that's off the subject. All I'm trying to say is that we sure have sculpted our society into something different, a society that caters almost too much, in my opinion. Given the way I was raised, I am whole-heartedly a fan of good, constant hard work to achieve goals, and the accomplishment you feel afterwards. There are some things the we changed in the 50's that, lets face it, still need to be left under the rugs of time, but we also got rid of many good things, things that made society, as conformist as it seemed (not totally a bad thing), functional. Dad has really stressed routine this year, getting up at the same time every day, eating at the same time, having good plans, dressing well, and appropriately for every situation, proper hygiene instead of my common 6 minute morning drill, the importance of a big breakfast... he basically fed me all the stuff they taught them in elementary school, stuff they don't teach now and things I surely didn't learn at moms house O_O. Though we may have argued a little a long the way, I think living with him this year taught me a lot and helped me mature far past many of my peers, to a level a high schooler back in my grandparents time may have been, the "Greatest Generation" habits and routines and such. Sorry for writing an article about your article, haha, but it's just something that sparked my mind this afternoon! Hope you are all doing well and good luck on the job hunt!
Your friend always,
-David A. "Big Dave" Wyant

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