David was grumbling aloud. David is an uptight guy. He needs any reason or no reason, but he’s always nervous. Apparently his mother was severely depressed, and it was a burden on David while he was growing up.
David had just given $20 to an old man at the door. The man claimed to be a rabbi without a congregation, and was hoping to create a synagogue. Now David was grumbling. He was thinking, what if the guy wasn’t a real rabbi? What if he just takes the $20 and buys a small bottle of gin and a cheap hooker.
I wanted to give David some relief, if I could. I pointed out that he’d done nothing wrong. In fact, he’d done an act of gracious generosity, which is a good thing and it was the right thing to do. If the man is a liar, he has sinned. David, however, was honourable, and has not sinned. The victim is not the sinner.
If someone disappoints you, and does something against you, don’t blame yourself. You’ve done nothing wrong. You are the victim and your antagonist is the sinner.
I plagiarized Gloria Steinem for this title. She’s about 82 now, and still attractive. I am finding old age quite fascinating. I’m my own research subject. Throughout my life, I never contemplated or even thought of myself as becoming elderly. Now that I’m here, with eight decades to look back at, it can be fun.
One thing that’s interesting is learning of the deaths of people one has known over the decades. Some of the people who have passed evoke feelings of sadness; sometimes regret sometimes happiness, sometimes satisfaction or even relief. Living an active, varied life for a long time teaches one many lessons through many adventures and more importantly, misadventures.
I’m not concerned at all about my inevitable death. Still, it interests me to not how many people pass away while I live on. My first wife died the other day. She was three years younger than I am. I’ve also learned that two of the nicest girls I dated in high school died several years ago. Also an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years died in ’03, I just learned. He owed me money. I guess that’s why I hadn’t seen him in years.
I realized I could look through obituaries and see who I’ve outlived. There was a new president brought in at a large, international company for which I worked. The new president was uncomfortable that a major client was deeply dependent upon me, and trusted my judgement completely. I guess he feared I’d take the client to another agency, so he set out to oust me. One by one, my clients where bled away from me until I was let go. The group head that had to tell me, thanked me for how I’d elevated his career.
I searched obits for those guys and a few others, and learned that I’ve outlived all of them. I even found out that a false friend that had backstabbed me, died of a massive heart attack twelve years ago.
So on I go, gradually outliving friends and enemies along the way. It’s kind of cool.
I had grown fed up with the rampant mendacity in my high pressure, high pay profession. The others all seemed to really believe in what they were doing, but I couldn’t see how they could do that. Word games, puffery, fancy presentations and liquid lunches were a way of life. I couldn’t live it. I decided to take time away from it and get a job where I could be alone, outside. I’d had enough of being stuck in a studio, with windows that don’t open and recycled air is pumped in.
One Friday evening when I left my office on the twenty-ninth floor, I caught the express elevator. A courier driver named Jeff got on the elevator with me.
“Do you like your job?” I said.
“Yeah, I love it,” he said.
“Why?” I said.
“I’m alone, but have contact with the dispatcher. He feeds me calls to pick up and drop off things – small packages, envelopes, stuff like that.
“Do you make a decent living?” I said.
“I get along.”
Out on the street in front of the building I saw the guy’s car. ‘Winged Wheels Couriers’ was on a sign in the back window, and a phone number. I put the number into my iPhone and went home to my empty apartment.
A few days later I was on the road, car S17 on ‘Winged Wheels Couriers’ fleet. I started early in the morning for some regular, every morning runs, and then fielded calls by Herbie the dispatcher.
“S17,” Herbie said in my radio.
“S17 here,” I said into the hand microphone. Herbie gave me a pickup at a small book publisher and I set off to get it.
I walked into the reception area, and the young woman there somehow caught my attention. She was not particularly pretty, but good enough, and had a lovely, creamy complexion. The thing that intrigued me, however, was that she seemed to be hiding herself from herself.
She wore large, round glasses with thick tortoise shell frames. She wore a huge, thick, dark green sweater that was totally shapeless. She kept her face down, and seemed to avoid actually looking at me. The second time I went there she was the same.
The third time I was sent to that publishing house was about two weeks later. That time, I wanted to see her look at me.
“Will you have dinner with me on Friday?” I said. She lifted her head and looked at me for the first time.
“Yes,” she said. We made our arrangements and I departed.
When the end of Friday work time came, I picked up Maria at her office and took her to a nice Chinese buffet restaurant. We had a nice time, talked about her job and about how happy she was to be there with me. It was the first time she’d gone out with someone since she had split from her husband.
When I took her home, we agreed that she’d come to my apartment to have supper with my son and I. He was twelve years old and lived with me. I was having an old boyfriend over too.
She arrived by taxi at the appointed time. It was remarkable how comfortable we all were, even my quirky son. It just was a rare evening when the people and the conversation all flowed together comfortably.
After we had several happy hours together, I drove her home. She invited me in and I went. We made love with the same inexplicable ease and comfort as we had enjoyed at supper. The following evening I was invited to her apartment where she made supper for me. We then made love again, and it felt very loving.
The next day she phoned me. It was nice to hear from her. There was a blush of happy excitement in her voice. That somehow made the sad message that she delivered to me not so sad and almost sweet.
“I want you to know how wonderful you are, and you have saved my dismal life,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“You reminded me of why I loved my husband in the first place, and what our marriage was meant to be, and I’ll be grateful to you forever. I can’t see you anymore. I’m going back to Keith and I just thank you so much. I didn’t realize that I needed help to make the transition back into my marriage. Keith agreed we’d do it right this time.”
I wasn’t really happy that I’d never again enjoy Maria’s body, which is magnificent. Her skin was just wonderful to touch and taste. But I’m just a transition man. I don’t get to have a real relationship, I guess.
It was never my intension to be a Transition Man. In fact, I didn’t know I was one until a woman told me I was. Even stranger, I actually never heard of Transition Men until Judy said it to me. She was a very beautiful, tall, slender married suburban mother of two teenage children. She popped up on my monitor back when I had ICQ on it.
“Hi!” she wrote. “This is Judy in Chi.”
“Hello. How did you know I would know what Chi is?” I wrote back.
“Everybody knows Chi is Chicago, don’t they?” she wrote.
“I don’t know what everybody knows,” I wrote.
As time passed, we corresponded, and I guess we both liked what we read from each other. She told me she’d married a guy who had been a platonic friend in high school. Such a pal, it seems, that he took her out to lunch the day after she lost her virginity to some other guy, I assume. Somehow, they eventually married and had first a daughter and then a son, both of who were teenagers and in high school. Her husband had grown indifferent to her, and I suspected he had an outside lover. I still can’t understand a man who would grow indifferent to a truly beautiful woman with a remarkable body and flawless skin. One thing that especially drew me to her was her desire to do ‘everything’. She had a movie-star kind of face, a lovely body with large breasts and nipples, long legs that were very attractively shaped. Long black hair was a perfect top to the whole.
We grew to trust each other, and even feel strong affection for each other on line. Eventually, I had a good excuse to go to Chicago, and after I was checked in to my hotel room in the Ritz Carlton, I wrote to her with details of where I was. She wrote back about her estimated time of arrival, and I prepared by stripping down and putting on my Japanese silk robe. She tapped lightly on the door and I welcomed her in. She was just as beautiful as the photos she’d sent, and I hoped I measured up to the photos I’d sent to her. Apparently, I did.
I undressed her and lay her across the bed and lowered my face between her thighs. She made delightfully encouraging sounds, whimpers and moans mostly until the climax when she stifled a scream. She lay on the bed in a magnificent living graphic pose of beauty, her eyes closed as she recovered from her intense convulsions. I looked down at her in appreciation of her alabaster skin against the dark pattern of the hotel bedspread. I removed my silk robe and draped it over her. I sat at the obligatory hotel room corner table and sipped coffee I’d made with the hotel’s in-room equipment.
Looking at Judy, I was able to fully appreciate how fortunate I was that this fine, lovely, neglected woman permitted me to enjoy these special moments with her. I was attracted back to her internal sweetness and had a sudden impulse. I held hot coffee in my mouth and swallowed it at the last second before I put my lips and tongue on her. She caught in her breath at the feeling and almost immediately had another series of spasms.
As she left the room, five hours later, she said, “I never knew one could make love all day.” Now she knew it.
We met in this way once each month for about a year. During that time, she moved ahead to leave her husband and kids. She found an apartment not far from them with an extra room should they want to visit her overnight. She did not force the sale of their mutual home at that time.
When the affair had run its course, I was becoming interested in a woman closer to home. Judy and I met a final time, happily. I thanked her for the wonderful hours of love-making, and the new ‘firsts’ she had shared with me. She thanked me for being there for her, restoring her excitement in making love, and also the ‘first time’ things we explored together. Finally, she thanked me for being her ‘transition man’, from stilted married woman’s life to a level of freedom and adventure.
I don’t understand the fascination with women’s breasts. I certainly share the fascination, but I have no idea why. We might say, “Well, we were nourished and nurtured with breasts.” That’s true, but then, so were girls and women. Is it possible that women, heterosexual or lesbian, are as drawn to pretty breasts as are men?
The proliferation of cleavage is overwhelming. Many gowns at the Academy Awards were excessively revealing. They seemed to be designed to reveal everything except nipples and pubic hair. I’m sure such private places will soon be also revealed, at the next level of shock intent.
Those are extreme garments and they are worn as a sort of advertising of the wearers’ value. The presence at the Oscars, the impressive designer, the evident wealth to get that ranking designer to design for the ‘star’, all say thumbs up for the woman. But what of the stenographer, the shop girl, the female lawyer, doctor, CEO and teacher?
All mature and younger women exhibit cleavage almost all the time. I like it, I’m pleased with it, but I don’t understand it. A fashionista told me it’s for style. I accept that, keeping in mind that style used to be lace to the jaw. Many garments do not count on cleavage for style, but many more do.
Excepting the ‘plumbers’ cleavage’, which is revealed over the rear of the pants of a kneeling tradesman, most any cleavage is attractive. That leads to more confusion. The time honoured ‘undoing blouse buttons to turn a man on’ indicates that women are keenly aware that they’re carrying a built in magnet for the male animal. Therefore, it seems out of place for female executives, television anchors, and sales persons to be showing cleavage. They are not likely intending seduction… I think. We men are at a loss to know what is meant by a lovely cleavage.
I conclude that there are two parallel paths to peace in the question of breasts. Men must learn to interpret correctly, the exposure of cleavage as either a lure, or merely a style detail. Simultaneously, women must learn how to expose cleavage as a lure or merely a style detail. It might be by square inches of exposure, or exposure based on the woman’s sitting or standing position in front of a standing male. Women at office reception desks would be wise to expose minimal cleavage because many males would be standing looking down over their desk. On the other hand, you could open up, to make the couriers happy.
It is so often referred to as ‘the war between the sexes’ and there is really such a war going on all the time. Women and men are so vastly different from each other, a great deal of understanding and cooperation is required, for us to get through life. I don’t mean within a relationship like marriage. I mean just living, going to the bank, grocery shopping, taking a walk or a bicycle ride. And all of the strife is purely natural. That’s what’s so distressing about it. Society has put many things in their proper order so we can survive as a species of mammal. It seems to be more difficult to put sexual matters into an acceptable orderly form.
There is a vast number of differences between women and men, and they are not stationary. As society rolls on through time, men are changing and women are changing. Changes of any kind, positive or negative, are traumatic for the average human. One wonders if violence by men against women is because women are not the traditional female that many men think they should be.
It’s an insoluble problem. I wondered why female television journalists most often wear garments that show chest and cleavage. It seemed out of place on someone delivering hard news, so I asked my knowledgeable daughter about it. She said it’s for style, and in that moment I understood why women show various parts of themselves. They are not expecting to attract lovers… they are expecting to look nice – and they do.
Men should see the women as pretty, well turned out, self-assured. On the other hand, if a man wants to look good, he should dress to look good to the kind of company he hopes to keep. There are myriad styles for both genders to appeal to the great variety of groups that are available to all and any.
I must admit, however, I cannot see the reasons why some people find low, baggy shorts with underwear sticking out the top attractive. I am beginning to understand the look of not shaved yet not a full beard. It’s interesting how values change over time.
When I was a kid, if I’d showed up in the schoolyard with loose baggy shorts and underwear sticking out the top, I’d have got the shit kicked out of me. For sure the shorts would be taken off me and thrown into a tree. Now, it’s cool? And shaving was promoted by vilifying “the four o’clock shadow” on a man’s face.
I’m still sure that tattoos are a bad idea. Piercing is too, but at least the holes will close by themselves if one should wise up and remove the trinkets. Tattoos are infinitely more expensive and more discomfort to remove than to acquire.
I hope I live to see society in general swing back toward sensible.
By James Hannaham
April 11, 2008 | Imagine that you are an insect. A rare butterfly, perhaps, or an iridescent beetle. An economist named Richard Florida has discovered you, and figured out that you can be used to fuel the engines of profit in the world of international commerce. As a small arachnid (or whatever) you fancied yourself immune to the workings of the larger profit-seeking world. You lived modestly, rolling your dung, biting the head off your mate during copulation. But it turns out that you and your kind serve a purpose. Florida picks you up by the back legs and pins you against a display case. This is the experience of a member of the “creative class,” as defined by Richard Florida’s books on modern economics and sociology.
Florida first cataloged the behavior of this upwardly mobile group, characterized by bohemianism and a tendency to reinvent the workplace, in his 2002 bestseller, “The Rise of the Creative Class.” Whereas New York Times columnist David Brooks, then a conservative, had sneeringly dubbed the same demographic “bobos” (bourgeois bohemians) in his 2000 book “Bobos in Paradise,” Florida took a different tack. He noted the potential business benefits of open-mindedness, progressive values, and city dwelling, cramming his book with statistical support.
Florida observed that thriving gay communities indicate vibrant creativity in an area. They also have a tendency to prettify borderline neighborhoods — the technical term, according to “Queer Eye’s” Carson Kressley, is “to zhoozh” — and generate tons of revenue in industries like fashion. None of this surprised many urbanites, though some Americans, unaware of trends in popular culture and oblivious to the Internet, may have been shocked to find that queers and quasi-bohemians do anything other than sin. For an economist like Florida to recognize and quantify the cost benefits of a liberal lifestyle was enough to shock the system.
With “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Florida, once a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz School of Public Policy, zhoozhed his career, in part because he defined creativity rather loosely. Clearly we have not yet become a nation of Web designers, filmmakers and hair stylists. Florida generously opened the category to include scientists, healthcare professionals and businessmen, on the watered-down assumption that everyone is creative in some way. More than anything, these non-revolutionary ideas established Florida as the “swami,” as Karrie Jacobs put it, of the class he defined.
Since 2002, Florida has turned his eye on the once disenfranchised into a franchise, following “Rise” with “Cities and the Creative Class,” “The Flight of the Creative Class,” and now, breaking the pattern, a volume called “Who’s Your City?” a title whose play on the catchphrase “Who’s your daddy” implies, a little too erotically, our submissive relationship to place. But by this point he has stretched his ideas so thin that “The Creative Class vs. King Kong” would do just as well.
Florida intended “Who’s Your City? How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life” to be a self-help book. “I wanted to write a book that would actually help people choose the best place to live,” he writes. He limits his consideration to American cities, though he has chosen to emigrate to Toronto himself. And that’s just one of the book’s many problems. Most basically, it’s a careless assumption that anyone, least of all a member of the creative class, would need such a self-help book. People who move around freely usually aren’t thinking about establishing a career, ambitious people already have a clear sense of where they need to be, and wannabes know but can’t get off their rusty dusties and go. Go-getters who don’t know what they want to do become lawyers, criminals or something in between. Nobody reads a book to decide where to live. People who can’t find work won’t pay $26.95 to figure out where to get a job. Anyone who can leisurely contemplate switching cities for work purposes probably has the resources to visit.
Then again, in a world where everyone is constantly connected via electronic media, why move at all? In the course of answering this question, Florida begins “Who’s Your City?” by overstating the case that place matters. Business leaders, he reminds us, have espoused the concept of a “flat world” in which place is irrelevant. Theoretically, they say, one can maintain a career in the new creative economy while stationed in Nuuk. Not so, says Florida, because “[t]he … less obvious side to globalization is the tendency for higher-level economic activities … to cluster in a relatively small number of locations.”
A variety of factors influence the creation areas of high creativity, but they aren’t all strictly business related. Concentrating creative industries in certain locations allows people to switch jobs without moving, for instance, and creates diverse, open-minded communities in those places. This increases the draw of, among other things, certain “mating markets,” as Florida ickily refers to them.
No one who has searched for an apartment in a desirable city has ever had the luxury of imagining that location didn’t matter. Florida puts it more dryly: “The key to our new global reality lies in understanding that the world is flat and spiky at the same time.” “Spikiness” — a term he works hard to turn into a catchphrase — is the tendency of people in particular fields to cluster in specific locations. Mildly more interesting is Florida’s assertion that the world’s economic activity occurs mostly in “Mega-Regions,” which he defines by using satellite images created by graphic designer Tim Gulden to create maps of areas lit continuously at night. A few of these economic hot spots cross borders. “Tor-Buff-Chester” spans Toronto, Buffalo and Rochester, for example, suggesting that such melding might someday erode national identity.
In contrast to the sharp eloquence and detailed research of his first book, Florida has developed a fondness for clichés, bullet points and long lists. “Urbanites,” he tells us, “prize their access to diverse cultural resources such as theaters, museums, art galleries, live music, and vibrant nightlife filled with bars, clubs, and restaurants.” So now you know what “cultural resources” means, and “nightlife,” too.
If our conventional impressions of urbanites and their cities are correct, one might ask, why read about that for 300-odd pages? A trained rat could match American cities with their respective creative industries. With his research, Florida simply reassures his readers that their presumptions — that New York is the center of the U.S. financial, fashion and publishing industries, for example, and “Nor-Cal” the center of the high-tech industry — are absolutely correct. It’s almost as good a scam as when Malcolm Gladwell reassures people that snap judgments are good judgments, or when James Surowiecki tells the masses how smart they are (even more so if they buy his book).
Florida believes so strongly in lists, bullet points and surveys that at one point during the book, he and a policy analyst from the Cato Institute map the country in terms of “the five basic dimensions to personality,” like a Cosmo quiz turned wonky sociology book. From the “personality maps” this experiment generates, one can tell that people in Georgia are extroverted, agreeable and conscientious, while there’s a dark blotch of neurotic people concentrated in the Tri-State area. This might prove something, but only in the way that pointing out that Madonna and Bill Clinton are Leos proves that Leos are egotists.
Presumably Richard Florida now qualifies as a member of the class that he has described for the last six years. It’s hard to imagine that his sense of what makes a good argument about this segment of the population has deteriorated so much between 2002 and now. It must be that he feels his audience — uncreative, closed-minded rural farmers? — isn’t getting the message, and that he needs to dumb down the text and provide more visuals.