Good Morning America, I Love You- A blast from the past post February 2009

I’m still mired deep in writing, though the treacle has got somewhat less sticky and I can see the end from where I am.

However, for several days now, I’ve had this song stuck in my head:

Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin’ trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Good morning America how are you?
Don’t you know me I’m your native son,
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

I know the song echoes of bitterness and all that, and it’s supposed to be on how all these people are disposable and… whatever.  Ignore that.

The thing is, I’ve always loved that opening because I’ve always loved early morning America seen from car or bus.  The little houses by the side of the highway, the fast food restaurantss opening up, traffic slugishly trickling out onto the highway.

I fell in love with America twenty eight years ago, when I was an exchange student.  The first week was… interesting, but not American as such.  They gathered a large batch (there were three batches) of  incoming AFS students, from all over the world, into WC Fields in NY for an orientation about basic things like manners, how to ask for things and such.

And it was very interesting.  Did you know that released to the wild, adventurous young people cling first to people of their country, then people of the same linguistic grouping, then to people with whom they perceive a cultural relationship.  Take Portuguese, for example — first they clung to other Portuguese and then in order were willing to group with Brazilians, Spaniards, all South Americans.

Except for the outliers, of course.  Those of us who were there to discover the different mingled freely.  There were very few of us, but we had great fun.  And it was interesting, at a thinking level, realizing how many of the things we used to judge people on first meeting were built into our culture and not universal.  Take my group-leader-orientation manager, Chris  (wonder how life has treated him?) from NYC.  He was I think in his second year of college and what I then considered cute but I was sure there was no point playing up to him.  Why?  Well, he wore a thick, visible silver chain.  So, of course, he was gay.  (Hits head on desk, forcefully.)

With all that, there were hints that week of what America was — the things it was that were not part of any other country I had experienced.  Take the volunteers.  One of my favorites was my house father, Keith (and these years later, I can’t remember his name.) who was a long-distance trucker (and who for reasons known only to him woke us up with loud renditions of George Washington Bridge, in the morning.  Much more pleasant than an alarm clock.)  He was taking his vacation time to come shepherd a group of lost duckling foreigners through their adaptation to America.  It was a thankless task, with no pay and no prestige.  I can imagine very few countries in which someone would volunteer that cheerfully to give up their free time.  As did all the other volunteers, probably a hundred of them, from all walks of life.

Still, that week was about the world and about all the different people.  It didn’t — to me — relate to America.  And then they put us on the bus to send us to our host families.  I think I fell in love with America when breakfast was handed to me.  Why, you’ll ask?  Well, this was the late seventies and fast food breakfasts weren’t ubiquitous.  What they handed us were boxes from some hospitality service.  But the box contained a sealed orange juice cup, a sealed cup of fruit salad, a stick of French toast with the syrup for dipping and — I think — a cup of coffee filled hot by the volunteer at the door to the bus.

Before you think I fell in love with food…  None of what I was handed was my favorite.  But it was so ready, so self-contained and so perfect for the situation, that I was charmed.  And then when I thought that at that time in the morning there were these little packets ready for any travelers who might be setting out, I was captivated.

In that Greyhound Bus, crossing PA — I did my exchange student year at Stow, Ohio and graduated from Stow High School — I saw the little houses, the cars trickling onto the highway, and I was finally bowled over by the energy, the determination, the… joy of America, where each person got up and went to work that early…

You could say you — all of you — had me at hello.

During the year, rough spots and all, my love for America grew and though I was eventually lucky enough to fall in love with an American and end up here, I suspect I would have ended up here anyway, even if I had to trail a foreign-born family behind me.

It is not a grandiose love.  When it comes to the constitution — as I believe I’ve said before — I’m a fundamentalist, and I love the idea of America — “no kings, no queens, no lords, no ladies, we won’t be fooled again.”   However, like all true love that leads to a long term relationship and stays around as you both change, it is a more humble and work-a-day emotion and what I love about America is a more everyday sense and feel…  Those things that don’t change beneath the trappings of governments, fads, and the latest cultural turmoil.

Three –?– years ago I was disgusted with something or other at the Federal level, and generally depressed.  And then I went to pick up Robert at middle school (Okay, more than three years.  Eh.)  The middle school is close enough to walk to, and it was spring.  I passed families playing on the front lawn, people working on their cars, students sprawled on lawns with their books, and many, many, many people involved in some home-improvement project.  And I fell in love with America all over again.

I don’t remember the book — eh.  I’m mid writing — but PJ O’Rourke, in one of his books has something about a restaurant in Russia at the end of the Soviet era and about how most of the issues with the place could be solved by an American, a bottle of lysol and a rag.  I remember it, because I often find myself thinking the same when I travel abroad.

The plane landing on the Hudson brought this home to me.  All those passengers helped each other out, in   scene much different from what Hollywood — who often doesn’t GET the miracle that is America — would have portrayed.  All of those boat owners, individually rushed to the rescue.

America is what Americans are, and Americans are people who get up early and go to work, and who are interested and creative enough to antecipate situations like a bunch of kids being packed in a bus early morning, in need of breakfast…

Good morning, America, I love you.  And I always will.

170 responses to “Good Morning America, I Love You- A blast from the past post February 2009

  1. 🙂

  2. “Good morning, America, I love you. And I always will.”

    And we’re glad you’re here, Ms. Hoyt! Your adventures as an exchange student took me back to my teen years, growing up in Ohio in the 70s and 80s. Our high school hosted a group of AFS students every year as well. We had a couple in marching band, I remember — the drummer from Italy (a splendid chap), and the trumpeter from Norway (a splendid lass, and yes, absolutely gorgeous). We’d send a few of our own abroad as well, but not many, and for not as long.

    Student exchanges were never something I got to be part of, as they were pretty expensive, but I wound up getting my fill of overseas adventures in the Air Force. In any case, a pretty good way to appreciate your own culture (or to appreciate that you actually have one) is to stand outside it for a while, and look back in.

    • I came over on a scholarship. My parents couldn’t even afford the TICKET at the time.

      • That’s how my middle daughter did it, winning a scholarship to spend a few weeks in Central Asia as an exchange student a couple of summers ago.

    • I wanted to apply, but my mother had her first heart attack when I was in my mid teens, and after that I didn’t want to spend time that far away from her. She died ten years later. One of those might have beens. If she had stayed healthy – or apparently healthy – a few years longer…

  3. I think deTocqueville experienced something similar a couple of centuries earlier… (which one of my communications textbooks expressed as our “inability to cooperate” (meaning cooperate with government, ugh)).

    • “inability to cooperate”
      Which to me is our stubborn refusal to kneel, tug the forelock, and acknowledge our betters.
      I know Sarah said “we won’t be fooled again,” but still there seems to be within many of us a sick fascination with elevating certain folks to celebrity (aka lord and lady) status for the strangest of reasons. Winning an election does not make you king no matter what the current fearless leader thinks, and being a very good meat puppet translating the vision of writers and directors onto the movie or TV screen does not bestow on one the right to dictate how others should think or behave.

    • Wasn’t one of the salient points in John RIngo’s Last_Centurion the idea that Americans are more community minded than most and that is what allowed things to continue to function after the massive deaths? We cooperate but as Uncle Lar points out, we just don’t like to cooperate with The Lords and Ladies.

      What is it about some people that makes them want to bend the knee in supplication?

    • Funny that. Forced or coerced cooperation? We don’t really view that as right and proper.

      We can be quiet good at cooperating when we see it is needed. All sorts of cooperation was involved when, on January 15, 2009, the plane hit a flock of Canadian Geese barely two minutes after takeoff, lost engine power and Captain Sullenberger landed it on the Hudson River.

    • I recall deTocqueville observing that in America, far from having no courtiers, everybody was courtier to everybody. While that puzzled Alexis the answer is apparent: in America the chap who is down today may be up tomorrow, and vice-versie. That means we treat everybody as possessed of human dignity (although many of us fall somewhat short of that standard, we recognize it as a standard and tend to disdain those who eschew it.)

      I suspect that only in America is the phrase “Do you know who I am” a cause for derision.

      • …in America the chap who is down today may be up tomorrow, and vice-versie.

        Yep. Temporarily distressed millionaires, that’s us. 🙂

      • That reminds me of a story of some idiot at an airport screaming at a gate agent trying to get an upgrade. When he finally said “Don’t you know who I AM?” She got on the loud speaker and announced “We have a gentleman here at the gate who doesn’t know who he is. If he’s yours, could you please come claim him?” He slunk off.

        (Yes, it’s paraphrased and probably apocryphal but still funny.)

      • If you flip this around, it says something interesting too: In deTocqueville’s Europe, politeness was a one-way street, from courtiers up to aristos. That was universal enough that the ‘murkin politeness standard was puzzling to him. I wonder if the other side, the baseline universal American expectation of politeness from others, was also a puzzlement: I’m pretty sure in Europe the only people who had that baseline expectation were the “do you know who I am?” classes.

        That expectation that others will be polite to you is my current candidate for why furriners say Americans are unversally arrogant – our expectation of being treated with respect is one that only the upper crust have over in such furriner locales.

        • Perhaps, as RAH often said/wrote, “An armed society is a polite society.” Also, on the frontier, your neighbors may well be your saviors, and you, theirs.

        • Had a brief chat the other day with a guy in his mid 20s who had recently moved to Atlanta from NYC.

          He had a hard time believing how friendly people were here in the South. It simply wasn’t what he was used to – or how the South has been represented in a lot of media. Score one for Reality.

    • *giggles*
      Hey, it’s true if by “cooperate” you mean “do what I want, right now, and I promise to think about what you want some later time. When it’s not an emergency.”

  4. I still find it hard to believe how deluded my fellow baby boomers have been. So many lost what it means to be an American. I’m an exile from my beautiful California homeland. I had to leave because the stupid burns too brilliantly there.
    We must retake America from the Vile Progs.

    • I wonder how long it will take before the meltdown happens

      • I wonder just how big the meltdown will be. What happens when the Fed is asked to start bailing out the CalPers pension fund? Or civil unrest gets REALLY bad?

        • I am not quiet ready to run through the streets shouting, ‘The sky is falling!’ Knowing a bit of history helps. While the nation has faced some real hard times it will be far from the first.

          From HowStuffWorks, 5 Worst Financial Panics in the United States (not well known 1929 crash: 1819, 1837, 1873, 1901 and 1907):

          The United States had been a major exporter of agricultural products and importer of manufactured products before the War of 1812. During the war, imports were greatly diminished and as a result, the manufacturing sector exploded to meet the new demand. This overzealous expansion, coupled with lax banking practices, government overborrowing, returning international competition, a lack of hard currency, increased credit lending, a surging real estate boom and the widespread growth of speculation and development of public land, all helped set the stage for disaster. Sound familiar?

          • From 1873 to 1898, the economy was rather blah in much of the central and southern US because the ongoing deflation hit farmers the worst, giving rise to the Farmers’ Alliance movement, the Grange, and the Populist Party (“free silver” and Wm. Jennings Bryan’s Cross-of-Gold speech). Between that and the rise of unions and vicious strikes and strike-breakings, people were certain the US was coming apart at the seams and a second civil war might be about to break out. The turn-of-the-century was weird all over the western world, except for Britain (or so it seems reading stuff from the time).

          • My google-fu is failing me this morning, but the banking crisis of 1873 caused a huge run on the banks, and there was a man who made the ride from San Francisco to Portland, through warring Modocs in something like (going off my memory here) 145 hours, in order to beat the ship bearing the news and load of passengers wanting money out of the bank. He was able to beat the ship and withdraw his funds before the news got there and there was a run on the bank.

    • Professor Badness

      I do miss California as it once was. And my old job at Disneyland.
      (Grew up in Riverside. SoCal)

      • Lived in southern California for my first 20 years, then central California for the next 44. Raised and educated our kids there. We left the state five months ago, for good.

        It’s nothing like it was just a few decades ago. (Two of our three kids left for other states about 10 years ago, the last one is looking for ways to leave now.)

  5. “Only in America are tornadoes catered,” as someone I know put it.

    I was helping with post-tornado clean up after an especially interesting week in the mid-Midwest, and we had progressed from the “searching for people” to the “sweeping up the last broken glass and putting boxes into storage” stage. I kid you not, almost before the sirens had stopped four days before, the county was on the radio saying “volunteers meet here at this time tomorrow morning, please stop calling us.” By the second day volunteer crews from the next state, and the far ends of the state, had appeared, and boxes of lunches, cookies, water and juice, gloves, tarps, you name it had appeared, given by individuals, local cafes and companies, anyone who could spare something. At noon a truck from the local BBQ palace appeared with more food than you could shake a stick at. Only in America (and probably parts of Canada).

    • A few years back a wall of tornados swept through North Alabama taking out the main power feed from the Browns Ferry nuke plant to Huntsville and the surrounding area. Most of us were without power for eight days.
      After the initial efforts to save those at risk, deal with the relatively few dead, and treat the wounded, it turned into a huge collection of block parties. A lot of frozen food got cooked on backyard gas grills as it thawed from lack of power. Those that could got out axes and saws to clear trees and open the roads. We who were only without power donned boots and jeans and leather gloves and formed teams to help those who had lost their entire homes. We looked after each other. It’s what Americans do.

      • Exactly. When an ice storm hit around finals and took out power, the grad-student network kicked in before dawn as those with heat let the rest of us know and offered floor or couch space. By noon the two churches that had power opened their doors, and a list went up with businesses that had power so people could get a hot meal and warm up. The university opened buildings for students and faculty (it had/has a separate power plant and steam heat system). And the happiest folks in town were the owners of gas powered chainsaws, who finally had something to justify having them. 😉

        • I recall a big ice storm in Forks when the power was out for a couple of days. Yes lots of people fired up their barbeques and invited neighbors over. I grew up in a place where it was normal to have the power out for days at a time, multiple times every winter, so I thought of this ‘crisis’ as normal, but the locals viewed a ‘normal’ power outage as a couple hours. The thing that really impressed me was the owner of the At Work tavern opened it up (it was Sunday) and brought in his two burner propane cooker and a couple garbage cans of ice. He filled the garbage cans full of beer and pop, cooked hot dogs steadily for at least eight hours. Everybody showed up with Coleman lanterns and played pool and cards. Now before you say this was good business sense, realize that he wasn’t open, and even though he filled and refilled those garbage cans out of his coolers, everything was free. Legally they couldn’t have minors on the premises if they were open, so he skated around this by being closed and just having ‘friends’ over for dinner. That was by far the most crowded I ever seen the place, standing room only except for the chairs at the card tables, and I’m sure it at least doubled the fire code max capacity.

    • Every good Southerner will tell you that there is nothing that isn’t helped by dropping off some food. 😉

    • We’ve talked about this before, and I love it every time.

      The person lifting their hands to the sky with wailing and gnashing of teeth, bemoaning the work before them — well, they’re likely to get a pair of gloves slapped into one hand, a broom in the other and a gentle push toward one corner of the pile. Start there, work your way East.

      More importantly, and to your point, they’ll be far outnumbered by the people showing up to get things done. And the “I know a guy” network will have supplies and tools and food (so MUCH food!) showing up…

      It is a spontaneous creative energy that cannot be mandated, directed or controlled. It’s best to get out of the way and let it happen.

      Love it.

      • It’s also why our military has been so dominant in the 20th century.

        “After the demise of the best Airborne plan, a most terrifying effect occurs on the battlefield. This effect is known as the rule of the LGOPs (Little Groups of Paratroopers). This is, in its purest form, small groups of pissed-off 19 year old American paratroopers. They are well trained. They are armed to the teeth and lack serious adult supervision. They collectively remember the Commander’s intent as ‘March to the sound of the guns and kill anyone who is not dressed like you’ – or something like that. Happily they go about the day’s work…”

        • I read somewhere that that the Bulge went that way. Whole divisions broken–and then the Germans discovered to their horror that the pieces were almost as dangerous. Their swift blitzrieg breakout turned into a slog through quicksand, and then the weather cleared…

          • Whole divisions broken–and then the Germans discovered to their horror that the pieces were almost as dangerous.

            And much more random, which– looking at the Germans and Japanese– might be a major advantage.

          • “I’m 82nd Airborne, and this is as far as the bastards are going to get. ”

            And of course everyone knows about Bastonge. When news of the attack reached Eisenhower, he called together his army commanders for a conference. Eisenhower asked Parrot how long it would take to turn his army – thousands of troops and hundreds of vehicles – north to pinch off the salient. Patton said three days. Everyone scoffed, that was physically impossible. What they didn’t know was that Patton had read the reports, analyzed the situation, and issued orders to turn north before he even left for the conference.

    • A favorite charity is a BBQ place that goes to disaster sites to feed people BBQ, and when there’s not a disaster they fund-raise for wounded military. (Frequently by getting people to donate supplies so they can donate labor and travel-costs to sell the BBQ for good prices at military picnics.)

  6. It’s a good thing I’m perpetually out of touch. I always thought “The City of New Orleans” was, at worst, a sad but softly smiling farewell to passenger trains.

    • Me too. It probably helps that I can’t understand Arlo Guthrie when he sings. 🙂

      • The Other Sean

        I think “The City of New Orleans” is about the twilight of the era of the private passenger train, written just after that era had ended. The forlorn, almost-empty trains still clocking the miles each day, long after economic viability was gone, barely propped up by postal contracts.

        You should listen to the versions by Steve Goodman (the songwriter) or Johnny Cash.

        • Okay. Maybe I’m over sensitized to political stupidity. It’s a cold war wound. It only hurts when I laugh.

          • It reflects that you came from somewhere else. You see things through a different lens. Your blog, your new fresh eyes, your eloquence refreshes and helps us to see what we all too often take for granted.

            For example: you noticed that fast food breakfast provided on the bus in the early 1980s as an answer to a problem, one that is uniquely ours. Most of people in this country wouldn’t have realize that, particularly those who have not traveled extensively to other parts of the world.

            • The Other Sean

              The fact that the song was first recorded by Arlo Guthrie might also lead one to the not-unreasonable conclusion that it was political.

              • Steve Goodman — although Arlo’s is the first version most folks heard.

                Arlo is (or can be) surprisingly conservative in many of his expressed views and ought be forgiven his upbringing. There likely are not a lot of gigs for Right-Wing folksingers.

                Heh – from Reason magazine’s the March 2013 issue:

                When the folk music revival hit postwar America, its preeminent performers either kept mum about their politics or tilted strongly to the left. But not every folk fan followed their lead. Bill Geerhart—the man behind CONELRAD, an invaluable website devoted to the cultural history of the Cold War—has compiled Freedom Is a Hammer, a fascinating album in which lesser-known musicians of the 1960s sing songs about Communist conspirators, liberal media bias, and other themes of the right.

                Some of the tracks are clever. Others demonstrate that liberal songwriters don’t have a monopoly on heavy-handed harangues. Most follow the genre’s formulas to a T. Listeners who don’t happen to know where Budapest is located might mistake “Remember Bloody Budapest,” a song by future Reagan speechwriter Tony Dolan, for another lefty protest number. At least until the lines, “Where were your songs of righteousness/When Kennedy was killed by a Marxist?”

                There there is …

                Put “Right Wing Folk Music” in your preferred search engine.

                • Steve Goodman’s version:

                  Cast my vote for this as a paean to the vanishing mode of travel.

                  Goodman’s You’ve Never Even Called Me By My Name is widely recognized as the perfect Country-Western song.

                  • Commonly known as “You Don’t Have To Call Me Darlin, Darlin” And with the addition of that last verse is at least by some definition the perfect CW song as it contains every critical element.

                    • It was not the perfect country and western song, because it didn’t mention mama, or trains, or pickup trucks, or getting drunk. But then he added the last verse and fixed all that.

                • 🙂 I looked up Arlo’s politics and found my memory was correct: he’s a registered Republican. A Paulite Republican, admittedly, but nonetheless a member of the Grand Olde Party.

                  Sure, part of his conversion (as explained to this NY Times interviewer in 2009) insults the Republicans, but a good performer knows his audience.
                  “I became a registered Republican about five or six years ago because to have a successful democracy you have to have at least two parties, and one of them was failing miserably. We had enough good Democrats. We needed a few more good Republicans. We needed a loyal opposition.”

                  And you can see his GOP sense in this answer:
                  Have you ever seen “American Idol”?
                  No, I have never watched it. But I’m thankful we’re living in a world where we can actually afford to waste your time. What a great thing that is.

                  As for City of New Orleans, in a different interview he explained why he doesn’t perform it now:

                  “I remember singing ‘City of New Orleans’ one time, and in the middle of the song, my mind started thinking, ‘What’s for dinner?’ And I said ‘Whoa, stop singing that song,’” Guthrie said.

                  Written by Steve Goodman, the song is arguably Guthrie’s biggest hit.

                  “I quit singing ‘City of New Orleans’ because I didn’t want to insult the guy that wrote it and I didn’t want to insult my audience by thinking of other things. If my mind can’t be on the thing I’m doing, it’s off of the set list until enough time has gone by so that it’s fresh and new again to me.”

                • The Other Sean

                  You’re right – I knew Goodman wrote the song and pitched it to Guthrie, but I didn’t realize Goodman recorded and released it first. (I don’t feel too bad – the writing and recordings took place before I was born.)

          • (Said the man with the spear in him; rats, now you made me miss Kristie McNichol’s acting, though I’ve hear she herself is well.)

    • After reading the above comment I got curious and did a little googling to see if there was some deeper meaning to the song I missed. Perhaps Guthrie wanted to make it sound deep and complex (and I can certainly imagine doctoral thesis deconstructing all of society in the song), but I don’t think Steve Goodman wrote it as social commentary. It reminds me of the brilliant scene with Kurt Vonnegut and Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQnAhSzb4gY ).

      Anyway, here is the history of the song that came up on the interwebs:
      “I got married in February 1970, and that spring my wife Nancy and I went downstate to Mattoon, Illinois, to see her grandmother who was ninety-something years old so she could say, ‘Oh, that’s who you married.’ We were riding the City Of New Orleans on the Illinois Central Line. When I had been a student at the University of Illinois, I had ridden it once all the way to New Orleans. Nancy fell asleep, and I was just looking out the window, writing down everything I saw – junkyards, little towns that didn’t even have a sign to say what they were. Just out of Chicago, there was a bunch of old men sitting around tin cans, warming themselves and waving and it was a cold morning in April. It was better journalism than it was song writing at the time. When I got back to Chicago, I showed it to a friend of mine, and he told me they were going to take the train off the line in six months if the passenger traffic didn’t improve – that had been in the newspapers. ‘You’ve got the future of the train and what you saw out the window, now you should describe what happened on the train.’ So I sat down and wrote the second verse about the card game and the paper bag. That part about ‘Memphis, Tennessee’ is strictly from memory, but I figured I couldn’t write a song about a train that went 900 miles through the centre of the country and stop the song in Mattoon because I was getting off.”
      —Steve Goodman
      http://www.countrymusictreasures.com/storybehindthesong/city-of-new-orleans.html

      • The Other Sean

        Well shoot, I finish posting, refresh, and find you’ve got even better details in yours. So it was in fact written at the sunset of the age of privately-run trains, during a trip 16 months before Amtrak took over, on a train the Illinois Central was discussing discontinuing.

  7. You can certainly listen to it as Americana. After all, Shaw thought Pygmalion was about speech groups.

    Arlo Guthrie rode the train for the first time after Katrina. He read a news article about how the train was back in service, thought what a gimmick, and did a charity tour from Chicago to New Orleans.

  8. used to ride the CoNO back and forth from N.O. to Memphis in the mid 80’s.

    The “Hard working American” was sorta driven home to me by an order we did for some overseas refineries. They hired someone to monitor the process and assist with the fire tests. He was from Merry Ol’, and at the end when we finished (ahead of schedule, which is far less likely now that we are owned by a major corp) he said we all work too hard. 9-10 hour days with only an hour for lunch, plus several Saturdays when we thought we might fall behind. He found us all a bit loony as well.

    • Was the fellow unfamiliar with the concept of “overtime pay”?

      • Well, he was really just comparing us to the other cultures he has had to work with, so it was more in jest than dismay. He really though the foam and chemicals dept. were really bent … “5 am start every day? And 4am when you do Overtime on Saturday?!”
        Hey, we want to be able to get things done after work (or with me now on second shift, I can get things done before … sorta. I usually just wait until Friday as I only work 4 days a week).

      • Often-times, yes. The incentive structure is seriously skewed in many places.

        I have seen, even in places with potential over-time bonuses, individuals decline it because of the social stigma. Working over-time indicates that you need extra money which is a cultural “negative.” You’re getting above your station, you’re greedy, you’ve wasted it on frivolities (liked educating your women)… whatever.

        It’s weird.

        • And this is the type of mindset that the Left is trying to inculcate on us today, whereas in the past, working hard and long was a sign that you were a go-getter who was interested in bettering his station in life, and that that was a good thing.

          • While I think you’re right, this is one of those things I believe is being undermined by current economic factors and the millenials.

            Comfortable careers are getting thin on the ground and more folks are having to explore diversified income streams.

            From this they’re learning things like: some jobs pay more; more work = more money; the .gov rapes my paycheck; if I’m better/faster/more available than the other guy I’m a better value.

            And the big one, if I can find a niche, and successfully exploit it, I can build a better life…

            The lies are being laid bare, a bit at a time, and some are seeing.

            • Heh. Walter Russell Mead is not a “man of the Right” but he does call things honestly. See this blog post of his — Expanding Medicaid In Name Only — on the distinction between medical insurance and medical care, then look around the site for this — Health Care to Suppress Wages Even More — related wake-up call for the Millinininnies who supported Fearful Leader.

            • And, on the other end of the scale, when things are tough and the boss is looking to let someone go… It’s the hard workers that stay. Nearly every time.

              It’s why I was told I still have a job- no, I’m not that great an employee, but the guy that got let go just didn’t seem to care. *shrug* Why *not* work hard? If for no other reason than self respect, doing a job well and doing it fast are worthy in and of themselves.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Who needs a hour to eat if you’ve got a sack lunch or a cafeteria?

      • we do have a kitchen but many folks go get fast food, but the closest place is 15 minutes away. So we get “half an hour” for lunch, but another half hour in breaks that almost everyone takes as an addition to lunch. I just cook up something on Sunday and eat it all week long. 5 minutes in the micro and the rest of my lunch is reading an e-book online while listening to Radio Paradise while I eat

  9. There is a bad meaning to that song? I have always liked it because it had that train sound and there was a happiness in the music itself. As for America, I have enjoyed traveling to other countries. But as an Amiercan — which is different from a citizen of that country. I was told once that we like to travel so that we can show our wealth. I never thought that– I liked to travel because I found that 1) People want the same things underneath, 2) I enjoy the castles and scenery, and 3) it’s good to go home afterwards. I didn’t understand class structure until I spent six years in Germany.

    It bothers me that there are people here that want to reconstruct the class structure of Europe. Are they so “????” (put in the appropriate adjective) that they think they will be the aristocrats? Sad sorry dumb-sh*ts.

    • I think they DO believe that in an externally-imposed class structure they’re going to be ‘upper class’ or nomenklatura, by virtue of birth or the schools they went to.

      The only proper response is ridicule when they fail, I think. “What, you really thought your degree in Gender or Minority Studies would make you employable somewhere other than a low-level HR job? Why didn’t you learn something useful, like Civil Engineering?”

      .

      • Because Math is Hard. No, really. I saw an interview with a bunch of kids at Columbia and one guy went from Engineering to marketing because he couldn’t handle all the math. An interview with someone who was sticking with it was whining about the amount of homework. Yup. If you’re going to build a building that isn’t going to fall on people, you better have your stuff down.

  10. Before you think I fell in love with food… None of what I was handed was my favorite. But it was so ready, so self-contained and so perfect for the situation, that I was charmed. And then when I thought that at that time in the morning there were these little packets ready for any travelers who might be setting out, I was captivated.

    Thank you!

    This is one of those devastatingly subtle things, something so ubiquitous it’s background noise — until it’s missing.

    Convenient food, I’m not versed enough in culinary history to state with certainty that it was born in America, but in all the places I’ve traveled it’s an anomaly everywhere but America. It’s disdained in many (many) places. Considered crass, contemptible. That attitude is starting to percolate here.

    But find the foundation of it: I’ve got things to do; places to be; much to accomplish! Time for food is time lost! There’s a world to be built out there!

    And then consider: There were people that saw a need and set about finding ways, myriad ways, of filling that need! The miracle of ketchup packets! Portioned orange juice cups! Scrambled eggs and pancakes AT THE DRIVE-THRU!

    Oh, yeah, I LOVE this country!!

    We can find a way to do what needs to be done. All the people telling us it hasn’t been done, so it can’t be done, and even if it could be done it’d be low and uncultured — all those people can go stand on the sidelines while it gets DONE!

    That attitude is still out there where the assumptive aristocracy, the courtiers, and the bumbling in-bred political class can ignore it. But it’s there. And there’s a resurgence…

    • Convenient food, the plowman’s lunch, the Welsh miner’s pocket pasties, were the fare of working class don’t you know. The now ubiquitous sandwich on the other hand was supposedly invented by a bloke wanting his other hand free to play cards.
      I read once that a certain class of Chinese grew their fingernails very long as a way to visibly show that they didn’t have to perform manual labor. In a somewhat similar fashion I suspect there is a very european attitude that fast food is working class, and beneath those who consider themselves more important, long lunches and hours long dinners indicating that there is no need for them to rush off back to work.

      • Yup about the fingernails. The other trick was to make the sleeves long enough to cover the hands.

      • …fast food is working class…

        Was the feeling I got a time or two in one European city or another.

        Also the feeling I’ve gotten from some random homegrown elitists.

        …long lunches and hours long dinners indicating that there is no need for them to rush off back to work.

        I’m more familiar with the attitude of “if you don’t feel like you’re needed back at the office, you’re probably right, so don’t come back.”

        But I’m not important, so I can’t be sure it translates upward. 😐

        • But I LIKE working class. Okay, this is probably why mom despaired of me, but I loved taking the early morning trains with the bakers and construction workers and listening to them. I love diners and greasy spoons. I loved when I was first in the US sitting at a diner table and listening to the early mornign crowd talk, just for the dialect.

          • I grew up going to the local greasy spoon (don’t tell Henry I called it that) mornings during the summer and listening to my father and his buddies sitting around drinking coffee and solving the world’s problems before going to work.

          • Know why the Aristos despise the Working Class?

            Montaigne (1533–1592) said: “Peu d’hommes ont esté admirés par leurs domestiques.” Mad. Cornuel (who died 1694) wrote to the same effect: “Il n’y a pas de grand homme pour son valet de chambre.”

            Colloquially, in English: No Man is a Hero to his own Valet.

            Frankly, they need the working class far more than the working class needs them.

            • eh, you gotta remember, “No man is a hero to his valet, not because the hero is not a hero, but because the valet is a valet.”

              It is true that an intimate awareness of someone’s flaws and quirks is not conducive to thinking of him as a hero, but focusing on them to the exclusion of their heroism is also a flaw. Perspective is required to see both humanity and heroism when they co-exist.

          • So do I. How d’ya think I found all that European arrogance?

            I tend to end up staying in working class/non-tourist areas of the cities I visit. Better people, better food, and nobody’s trying to strip me of all my Yankee tourist dollars.

            But then you go see the big stuff (there’s a reason it’s touristy) and run into the attitudes…

      • In Roman times, take-out was common, because most people didn’t have a place in their apartment to cook. They’d pick up something from the corner popinae on the way home. In Pompei they’re one of the easiest types of building to spot.

        People with money, of course, had kitchens and slaves to cook for them.

        So the idea that fast-food is working-class food is old.

    • The trouble with insisting that every meal be a gastronomic delight, full of regional cheeses and wine pairings and long enough to savor the hours of culinary work (frenchfrenchFRENCHfrench) is a) some of your fellow-countrymen starve because they can’t afford daily gastronomic orgasms and b) you get invaded by Germans who know that sometimes you just need a sausage and someone to invade for breakfast. It does not make for a quiet home life.

      Full disclosure, I have had a French Orgasmic Meal and it was quite delightful, worth the price, and I’m glad I had the opportunity–but most of the time I just need body fuel. I know, I know, barbarian, et cetera…..

      • Raises hand. Ooh! Ooh! Can I have a sausage and someone to invade for breakfast? I R a German (among other things)!

        • How about the spam, egg, spam, spam, Belgium and spam?

        • It’s your cultural heritage, Wayne. Go nuts. Anyone who tries to stop you is, um, oppressing you and stuff. And we know that’s bad!

        • Let’s see, I’ve got Scots Irish, German, Jewish, and Dutch. I think that means I get ticked off, invade on a whim but in an orderly fashion, drive off the livestock, and then feel kinda bad about it and put more in the plate and charity box. But not too much more, because I don’t want it wasted.

          OK, I’ll step away from the keyboard now. 🙂

          • Add in Native American, African, and a smattering of good ol bloody English and you’ve got pretty much the same genetic heritage as about 80% of Appalachia, I’d guess. *chuckle* Culturally, that’s pretty accurate, too…

          • I really do have to have one of those genetic tests done. As of right now, per family lore, I get upset over nothing much, I invade in massed confusion, seek out the nearest potables. Get rotten drunk and sing sad victory songs. Then I hole up in a hotel room and write sad poems about the defeated. I might, or might not have a five star meal and little cigarettes, depending on whom you believe. I do definitely feel very guilty about it afterwards and have a rousing argument with Himself on the propriety of what I just did.

            • “For the great Gaels of Ireland
              Are the Men that God made mad
              For all their wars are merry
              And all their songs are sad.”

              G.K. Chesterton, Ballad of the White Horse.

              • And that’s older son to a T. He comes by it honestly on his dad’s side, from his great grandmother whose family was solid Irish. On my side it’s rumor, innuendo and the fact the two regions traded forever.
                OTOH it pretty well describes my behavior too.

              • To which Arthur Guiterman riposted, with equal truth if less charity:

                ‘For the young Gaels of Ireland
                Are the lads that drive me mad;
                For half their words need footnotes,
                And half their rhymes are bad.’

            • I travel around claiming land for the glory of the family, when hurt become stoic, when triggered become a mad woman while scaring the people around me, and when I see a rose I forget what I was doing and wander over to take a sniff. Plus I’m Viking mostly.

      • Heh. I’ve been a line cook in a rather good restaurant, working for a head chef who could pretty much name his price… and I felt like a piker, because this is pretty much my attitude in the day-to-day.

        Sure I can cook up a meal that’s mighty tasty (and usually absolutely *horrible* for you, but oh-so-good). But I only do it for friends and such, because most of my recipes start at “serves eight…” and go up from there. My daily dinner and supper is usually whatever I can put together fast, for just me.

      • Yep. Pretty sure I’m stuck in the barbarian ranks (of rank barbarians?), myself.

        I enjoy great food, I rarely enjoy the idea of paying great food prices, leave aside having great food time.

        Thus, I’m usually eating good enough food. Good enough for the currently available time and money…

    • “Considered crass, contemptible. That attitude is starting to percolate here.” How long have I been seeing complaints about McDonald’s and fast-food generally? Quite some time, seem to me.

      • Seems to me I saw something a few months agone about McDonalds winning blind taste tests against fancy French restaurants.

        • Don’t know about that, but I’ve heard of taste tests where their coffee regularly beats Starbucks like a rented mule.

        • I can’t speak for their coffee — I don’t like any coffee — but I do like their hamburgers. The little skinny ones that some places are cheaper than the dollar menu. (My husband likes a higher proportion of beef to bun, and does not understand this.)

          • I rather prefer the burgers at Wendy’s and Burger King (comparing comparable chains) but wouldn’t drive five minutes further to get them. McDonald’s double-cheeseburger offers an edible sandwich with a decent protein/carb balance which matters when you have type 2 Diabetes. The opportunity to get a side salad instead of fries counts for a good bit.

            Try the Jalapeno McDouble. I find it kinda mild but tasty — which should indicate why no intelligent person asks my restaurant recommendations.

            • I find the jalapeno McDouble tasty but hard to eat while driving, so I hardly ever order one.

            • It has been a long time since I had McDonalds, I found the portions had gotten entirely too small for the price, but the taste was decent. I preferred Dairy Queen burgers for flavor or Jack in the Box for quantity/price ratio over McD’s but generally if I am grabbing fast food it is Taco Bell, as I find price, quantity, and flavor all superior to the burger joints; Or Little Caesar’s if there is one available, it is hard to beat a large pizza for $5 without having to wait.

              The Jalapeno McDouble does sound tasty however.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I’ve heard all sorts of stories about what goes into McDonald’s meat patties. I’ve also toured a factory that makes ’em. Rumor is nonsense.

      • McD’s and company are the root of all dietary evil, but when a franchise in (IIRC) LA announced a few years back that they’d have to raise prices and take some things off the $1 menu, local politicos raised a stink about how it would cause hardship for the people in the neighborhoods affected. *shakes head in amusement*

  11. Thrilled and honored to have you.

    As a Navy brat — the 5th son of a sailor and a nurse — I grew up with an instinctive patriotism, even though most of that growing up was in Southern California during the 60s and early 70s. But my profound love for the US and for what we have here came when I spent two years as an LDS missionary in Central America (Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama), during most of which I lived with relatively poor families, paying for room and board, eating what they ate (mostly a lot of rice and beans).

    Two important and good things happened during those two years. First, I got past the unthinking and reflexive attitude of the US as the Center of the Universe. This doesn’t mean I thought less of the US; I just gained a greater appreciation for those who live in other countries, and for the challenges and struggles of each of the countries and societies.

    Second, I became aware of how profoundly rich the US & its inhabitants are, in terms of resources, in terms of opportunity, and in terms of freedom. With rare exceptions, we really don’t know poverty and oppression here in the US, not like it exists in much of the rest of the world.

    I came back every bit as patriotic, but now it was a better-informed patriotism. I think Lincoln was more of a prophet than even he realized when he called the US “the last, best hope of mankind”.

    • Uh, “fifth child”.

    • Professor Badness

      This really illustrates the difference between going abroad, and actually spending time with the people of another country.
      It’s one thing for a person to claim they’ve experienced other cultures, but all they’ve done is visit as a tourist.
      It is an entirely different experience to live with a people, like in the peace corp or as a missionary.
      Bravo sir.

      • I agree that seeing the tourist sites, eating at the restaurants, and dancing at the clubs is not way to ‘see’ another culture. I think one way to really appreciate the differences in a culture quickly is to try to accomplish something there, whether it is dig a village well or get machinery fabricated & assembled or start a business. That’s when you loose the ‘all cultures are equal with just interesting differences in cuisine and music and customary dress’ multi-culti BS real fast.

        I saw the Shanghai city museum where they went on and on about what cruel task-masters the Brits were (a white man had a cane at hand in about 90% of the photos) to the hard-working abused locals. Those terrible Brits (we did kick them out ourselves, after all, them and their outrageous taxes and Kings and such)… Then after about a month I was ready to come into the office with a rattan swagger stick myself. “I’ll bet,” I told a fellow expat, “that for the first month those Brits were really nice guys. ‘Oh no, ol’ boy, let me show you a much more efficient way to do that.’ ‘Why are you chaps still doing things so haphazard, I showed you yesterday a much better way to transport these things?’ ‘BLOODY HELL Why can’t you stupid people see this is a faster, safer, cleaner way to do it?!… You know, Tommy, I’m at my wit’s end with these locals… do you think if we beat them with a cane it would get them to show a little motivation?’ ‘I don’t know, Jones… but it would at least make me feel better.’ ”
        For what it’s worth I think in a generation China will deserve the reputation it is getting as a powerhouse… but a lot of the people who grew up under the Commies and are terrified of seeming different or standing out will have to either retire or die off first.

        • There’s touristy,, and then there’s being in a country because that’s where your ship docked. Spent a lot of time in Dubai the latter way, but with a friend who didn’t mind roaming the odd places. I have never felt safer (from street crime) and more hated (for being an evil American).

  12. To me “City of New Orleans” has always been the “Atlas Shrugged” song.

  13. Funny old world. Ben Stein said something similar in his American Spectator column yesterday:

    Some Gratitude, Anyone? Anyone?
    [SNIP] … what I notice about the op-eds is that they are almost always complaining about something: race relations, economics, sexual oppression in the Times and lack of a free market and excess taxes and regulation in the Wall Street Journal. To me, this totally misses the whole point of life in America and I can summarize it in a moment.

    Many years ago, I said to my Dad, “Pop, it occurs to me that we Jews live better in America than Jews ever have anywhere and at any time in history.”

    My Pop, a genuinely wise man, said, “Benjy, that’s the whole point of America. Jews, Irish, Blacks, Polish, Italians, Asians… we all live better here than anywhere else in the history of mankind. That’s the story of America.”

    How right he was. I awaken every morning and think of all the bills I have to pay and all of the years I have crossed off the calendar, and I hear my wife’s cough, and I feel terrified. And then I think that I live in America, where everything is possible. I do not have the Cossacks coming to beat me to death for being a Jew. I don’t have the Gestapo rounding me up for being a Jew. I am not being hunted and chased down by anyone but myself.

    [SNIP] … the progress that has been made, just in my lifetime, has been breathtaking, for blacks, for Jews, for women, for everyone. Just in the last fifty years, the progress towards equality of opportunity has been glorious, has been magical. Let’s remember that.

  14. Sarah, completely OT: I accidentally put you on my work Facebook, so I’ve unfriended you there and sent you a new request from my personal account.

  15. C4C

  16. All those passengers helped each other out, in scene much different from what Hollywood — who often doesn’t GET the miracle that is America — would have portrayed. All of those boat owners, individually rushed to the rescue.

    It’s one of the ways that a lot of remakes and Super Movies either make it or break it.

    I loved Spiderman basically from the start– saw it while I was in tech school for the Navy– but it REALLY got me when Spidey was being attacked… and the folks on the train started to defend him.
    YES!!!

    Or less specifically American– the flippin’ JAPANESE get it. Rude and Reno, along with a lot of random folks, here:

    The random people are grabbing each other and splitting. Redhead (Pretty sure he’s Rude?) stops to save one of the brain washed kids, and Sunglasses is right with him. They’re being decent. Sure, comic relief a lot, but AWESOME comic relief that’s being decent.

    I got no clue if they’re supposed to be American or not, and my resident expert in Final Fantasy is still at work, but I sure identify them as probably American.

    Contrast, say, modern X-Men movies, at least those I saw before I stopped trying to see them….. Anytime they have to deal with normal people, it falls apart. It requires assuming that almost everybody is a nasty idiot, or gluing a poorly fitting Wheel Of Currently Popular Morality on top of things.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      My understanding is that most FF settings are original non-Earth worlds. I don’t know enough about FFT Advance and FFT A2 to say if they are exceptions. I also don’t know if Kingdom Hearts has a world that we can consider our Earth.

      • Technically right, but it’s like how Crystal Dragon Jesus is usually very obviously Jesus, not anybody else.

        Expert is home. Mentioned I used that fight, he got the geek “I LOVE that fight!” look, and while we were rewatching it I asked if the characters were American. “Basically, yeah.” It’s like… even in the space ones, there will be a big person who drinks a lot and is usually translated as having a southern drawl. Even if they’re from XYZ planet, the character is still the Okinawan archtype.

        Side note: I can’t stand the dubbed Final Fantasy. I have an equal love for the fan-sub and the real sub. Guess which one involves a cat chanting “Cloud is a man! Cloud is a man!”…

  17. I took a train half-way across the country some years ago, and that song played in my head all the way.

    On Thanksgiving, my local pubradio station played Alice’s Restaurant all the way to the end. Wife and I laughed. I told her about seeing the movie on an Army base, and our reaction to the induction center scene. (Wasn’t as funny when I watched it on TV last year–or early this. Times and people change, and in-the-moment helps.)

    “That part about ‘Memphis, Tennessee’ is strictly from memory,…” A Rule of the Blues is, ya gotta take a “south-bound train” somewhere, preferably to “shoot a man in Memphis”.

  18. I am probably overly hormonal, but as the tears rolled down my cheeks while reading this, I decided I would come out of lurkdom to tell you thank you for writing this. The things you wrote (and most of the comments following) are the reasons I love being an American. I have never traveled, will never get to, but I appreciate the differences I see in people and the way those differences and the fusion of cultures come together to make up the land I love. Even when that sometimes makes me “madder than a wet hen.”

    You have written my thoughts better than I could ever have imagined them. Thank you.

  19. One of the things I love about my country is the way the “common folk” routinely defy classification. The Intellectuals want to pigeon hole them as semi-literate dolts who should be easy to control, yet every time they think they have a lock on The Future ™ they find that the common folk have wandered off and are doing something else.

    It’s one reason they are so fixated on the Black communities, that their policies do so much to keep those same communities down, and what they get so furious when any Blacks wander off the Plantation. They’ve pretty much given up on the “Working Man”, since he ignored all their post WWII plans and went tearing off after a ranch house in Levittown and a car with tail fins.

    They are scared to death that legal gun ownership will let Blacks who are clawing their way out of the mire defend what they build from the wreckers. They are scared to death that voucher programs, charter schools and so forth with produce a core of Black kids who will be able to check what they are told by the idiot box and swine like Sharpton.

    I hope to see it happen. It WAS happening, once, and it got derailed.

    • 🙂

      That would be nice to see.

      Oh, wait I’m cast as the white male racist in their narrative of oppression.

      Let me try again… Boo! Boo!

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Ferguson has opened my eyes to the pervasive white supremacism in this country.

        This institutionalized oppression has three elements. The social left, which supports family destroying welfare, causing a scarcity of wise elders who can explain to youngsters when common knowledge is stupidly dangerously wrong. Everyone soft on drugs, who ensure that common knowledge considers them harmless, and censor discussion of that element from relevant current events. Those voices who speak of pervasive institutionalized white supremacist racism in this country, who restrict themselves to models decades obsolete, which are not as expansive as mine.

        • Wait? What!? “Everyone soft on drugs”?

          My thought is that LEGALIZING everything would A) give the minority gangs an opportunity to go legit, the way the bootleggers did in the 1930’s and B) Give us the opportunity to see which drugs are an actual social problem.

          • There are still bootleggers around. They don’t hit the news as much, unless a bodycount gets high.

            Gangs that break into cars, strip them, sell the identity information and deal drugs are charged with “possession of pot” and given suspended sentences.

            Known meth dealers are ignored until they either set something on fire or blow the house up.

            Serial criminals are given suspended sentences and put back out until they manage to maim someone…and half the time they’re put back out again.

            Yes, freaking soft on drugs. The “war on drugs” effects that people get upset about are the result of really freaking dangerous gangs that can and will torture the child relatives of those who cross them to death, and leave the body on the doorstep with a note that they have other children. When my family rode in Nevada regularly, we avoided some areas that were known to have smugglers because people disappear there.

            Yes, the screw-ups where they go into a house EXPECTING a gang and instead get, say, a Marine and his wife and baby are horrible, and tactics need to be reviewed– but making it even easier for the gangs isn’t the way to do it. (It also won’t work– one of the things the medical pot folks up here in Washington have found out is that if they’re too successful, they will become a new source for the gangs, either by direct theft (with possible murder) or by indirect theft, with requirements to offer “discounts.”

      • The other thing I hope to see in my lifetime is the long delayed coming of the industrial revolution to the Third World. It’s mostly been blocked by the patronizing advice/admonishments of the Establishment Left combined with the Dengue Fever effects of Socialism. With luck I will live to see Chang and M’boto, and Juan put Third World brown feet in the arse of the Environmentalist Anti-Capitolist Pest-Animal-Loving West and begin their march to modern sanitation, personal automobiles, an shag carpet.

        • The problem is that advances in robotic tech are likely to mean that there won’t be Industrial Revolution employment for them to afford its’ fruits.

          • My impression is that robotic assemblers are only practical where A) the worker’s wage isn’t about $1 a day and B) there are enough literate people capable of handling the programming and troubleshooting. MAybe they’ll get there faster then we did, but it seem to me there’s going to be a window of decades.

        • Why in God’s name Shag Carpet? I just had a bad 70s flashback. How about Avocado colored blenders on the burnt orange Formica counter top? 🙂

          • And green toilets.

            • BTDT. Still have mom’s Avocado KitchenAid.

              • Professor Badness

                So, funny story. My Dad goes with a buddy to get an apartment for college, (early 1960’s, I think). The landlord says they can get the first months rent for free if they clean the oven themselves.
                They take a look inside, and it looks like someone has sacrificed a small animal inside. So they pull the oven out and load it in the back of a friends pickup truck.
                They drive down to the truck stop early one morning and use the heavy duty steam cleaners usually reserved for cleaning diesels.
                Putting it back, the landlord was amazed they had cleaned it so fast.
                But on closer inspection, the landlord realized that it no longer matched the other appliances, which were deep forest green. The cleaning had restored the original color, which was avocado green.
                Long story short, the cleaned the rest and got the first several months free.