Rendered Fat Content


François Bernier:
La Liberté, soutenue par la Raison,
protège l’Innocence et couronne la Vertu
[Liberty, Supported by Reason,
Protects Innocence and Crowns Virtue]


" … just buy a replacement whenever their dreams need repair."

This culture believes in positive progression, perhaps above all else. Our future has always been destined to be better than our parents. Our sons will be better off than we ever were. Whether through evolution, revolution, or simple propulsion, we would move ever forward, ever onward, upward, and away. While this notion might represent reality across decades, generations, or centuries, the actual on-the-ground experience of these -volutions tends to be much messier than expected. We didn't, for instance, evolve from Neanderthal to human in a single generation. Many trials and inevitable errors emerged. I suspect this shift involved all of the usual struggles our cerebral models tend to ignore. We crawl forward more than march and might move backward on the way. Straight and narrow paths exclusively belong to myths.

As a kid, I was fed a steady diet of myth.
The local Chamber of Commerce published sketches of this town's future featuring flying cars and Spandex®-clad citizens before Spandex® had even been imagined. The future depicted sixty years ago was much different than what emerged. The devils, as usual, lurk in picky details. I never imagined the price the future might exact. For instance, it never once occurred to me that part of the price of our emergent future would be the demise of every beloved corner grocery store. Not one would survive the transition into our space age. It never occurred to me until yesterday, when I tried to deliver a pair of boots needing repair, that the last shoe repair shop in this valley might ever disappear, but it had. Flying cars never came, either.

I did not receive this revelation well. I wondered what kind of Hell remained for me to discover lurking in my increasingly bewildering future. The downtown I knew back then, a community to which I belonged as the stock boy for a pharmacy, would be reduced to empty storefronts and consignment shops a mere decade later. Familiar facades would crumble and disappear. I'd return to wonder where the town had gone, a long time passing, and if it would ever return. Of course, it wouldn't return, but only because it couldn't. But what becomes of a place without a shoe repair shop? What other essential trades have evaporated as we've evolved backward into our unimagined future? How will we possibly get by without those helpers?

I began recounting all the reliable services we once had in abundance. We no longer have any upolsterers. No shoe shiners. No newsstands. No taverns. No newspaper delivery other than by mail. No cheap cocktail lounges. No mailboxes on the corners. No public phones. No family farms; they've all turned into limited liability corporations. No haberdashers. Few trick-or-treaters because we have fewer children, so few that our local school district closed down one of our grade schools as unneeded. We still have butchers, bakers, and at least one part-time candlestick maker. I wonder if we have a future or if we're just stumbling ever onward toward a certain oblivion. Without a shoe repair person, I wonder.

As we gentrify, we inevitably leave some behind. Not everyone aches to live in the new Utopia, feeling satisfied with the Utopia the newcomers seem dead set to utterly undermine. The transplants can crowd out the native plants better suited to these soils. If we're not careful, we'll produce another instance of the landscape that carpetbaggers always create, homogenized to protect their delicate sensibilities from the harsh realities every past entails. There was a time when a shoe repairer could support a middle-class life. So could the milkman who jangled bottles during pre-dawn deliveries. So could those who once labored in the now no longer existent canneries. When everyone moves upscale, the price of success seems to smother out some once-essential services. In other places gentrified out of existence, the service class lives in trailers in a town at the base of the mountain upon which the new Valhalla balances. Piss up a rope if you need a shoe repaired. Do you not understand that the upper classes buy a replacement whenever their dreams need repair?

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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