I just got back from my visiting my first love, my hometown of Buffalo. We had a great time staying in the city, drinking and dancing into the wee hours, and enjoying the diversity of the city. And while I love the city to its core, I know many will remind me not to forget the deeply ingrained problems the city faces. Which is of course why our city’s unofficial motto is, “Buffalo: The City of No Illusions.”
The first time I ever saw that written down, was on a t-shirt by Michael Morgulis, who is a great Buffalo screen printer and iconographer.
All of these memories led me to see how else people have used this motto, and I stumbled upon the embedded short documentary about the city, as well as an upcoming anthology of noir based in Buffalo by authors connected to the city, including Joyce Carol Oates. It’s called Buffalo Noir, and will be available 11/23/13.
I love my city, and I have no illusions attached to it.
[This short documentary was produced in 2011 by Vanessa Carr at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, and is distributed by the I Files.]
Day 2: Abundance.
Lately I have seen an abundance of large Televisions lying facedown on median strips - and imagine the abundance of new flat screen TVs which are rapidly populating so many houses now. Pondering the level of abundance which we have here that causes such turnover of resources that even a 5-6 year old TV is obsolete, and carelessly discarded.
“Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” Epicurus
Let it be granted then that as a rule, workman and employer should make free agreements and in particular should freely agree as to wages; nevertheless, there is a dictate of nature more imperious and more ancient than any bargain between man and man, that the remuneration must be enough to support the wage earner in reasonable and frugal comfort. If through necessity or the fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will give him no better, he is the victim of force and injustice.
Pope Leo X, in his Encyclical Rerum Novarum.
So, Son, instead of crying, be strong, so as to be able to comfort your mother … take her for a long walk in the quiet country, gathering wild flowers here and there… . But remember always, Dante, in the play of happiness, don’t you use all for yourself only… . help the persecuted and the victim because they are your better friends… . In this struggle of life you will find more and love and you will be loved.
Nicola Sacco’s (of Sacco & Vanzetti) message to his son, after being sentenced to death for alleged armed robbery. Was more likely framed because he was an anarchist and foreign. (1927)
A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present
by Howard Zinn
It’s amazing how things come back around. I’m also reading old essays by noted urbanist Lewis Mumford, and he complains about food, coffee, and culture as if he was part of the vanguard of hipsters in early 2000’s Williamsburg. He says:
"Every grocer’s boasted a row of black lacquered bins holding tea and coffee in bulk, which were identified by their place of origin. One bought coffees––Santos, Rio, Maracaibo, Java, Mocha—knowing their special flavors and gauging the quality against a wide range of prices… Nothing so well indicates to me the difference between my own generation and the present one as the fact that I do not, without a certain inner resistance and resentment, accept a system of marketing in which all the decisions have been taken out of the hands of both the shopkeeper and the customer and put under the remote control of the market researcher and the packaging expert, the advertising agency and the wholesale distributor. Those who have grown up in this packaged world accept such external controls and compulsions as normal: their loss of choice, their loss of fast, they do not even notice, for they have never known anything different. We have now exchanged autonomy for automation." ("A Child of the City," from Sketches from Life by Lewis Mumford. © 1982)
And yet in spite of that, I spent this morning in Downtown Durham, NC sipping an excellent single origin coffee from a brand new coffee shop, Cocoa Cinnamon, and paying a premium to do it. The shop was packed, and the couple who opened the shop began as a roving tricycle, and eventually used Kickstarter to raise the funds for a brick and mortar shop.
The slow food movement, the local food movement, the revitalization of a number of urban areas have been slowly building for decades. I am optimistic that these forces will continue to mount in cities of all sizes, and we will continue to increase the number of choices we have. I hope that the stories of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents will inspire us to become more connected again, and search out unique joys, to build our local communities, and create more sustainable economic models.
This is asking a lot, but I get hopeful while drinking single origin Costa Rican coffee.
Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.
If the liberty of myself or my class or my nation depends on the misery of a number of other human beings, the system which promotes this is unjust and immoral.