Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving – There for the Giving

I suppose there will come a day when some 20-something guy (face it, it’ll be a guy) in skinny jeans and a hoodie, armed with a 3-D printer, will succeed in creating a kind of turkey with all the trimmings from a machine. Judging by the pace of change in our dizzy world, it won’t be long. If you doubt that, think about this: Google went public less than 10 years ago, and BlackBerry is already close to being BlackBuried.

After the turkey, the virtual Christmas tree can’t be far behind. As for Santa and his reindeer? Don’t ask.

Aren’t we tired of this yet?

There are signs that the answer might be yes; sales of typewriters and ribbons are brisk on eBay, more people are exchanging and valuing handwritten notes, and turntables and vinyl recordings are the rage in certain places. The so-called Black Friday, which I have previously fricasseed in this space, is now more widely recognized more curse than  blessing.

In short, there is hope. The milkman may not be knocking on your door, most newspapers have gone, and the postal carriers’ week may be shortened (and they always seem to be on their phones), but farm-to-table is alive with a vengeance, our firewood hasn’t yet been confiscated, and printed books are holding on nicely.

As we contemplate entering the Age of the Bitcoin  – so new that Word cannot even spell it yet – there are plenty of us analog pilgrims around and we’re not all boomers or geezers either; the young are getting fed up with the 24/7 digital feedbag too.

Recently, the people of San Francisco, Ground Zero for the digerati and e-money* billions, hit their limit when a hapless young millionaire with the tabloid headline writer's dream name, Shih, expressed his outrage at the city’s homeless** and other inconveniences. It seems that these were  getting in the way of his desire to complete the purification of any remaining “edginess” in the city and its many neighborhoods. His claim to fame and fortune is a payment system called Celery. How cute.

I have just returned from a trip to that city, and, while there,  wondered just the opposite of what Mr. Shih was thinking. It appeared to me that the city was losing too much of its edge, with some neighborhoods beginning to too closely resemble, shudder to say it, Brooklyn.

That is not a compliment.

Fortuitously, I spent some time with a dozen or so young people there, all of whom exhibited value systems well beyond what Mr. Shih and his ilk could imagine. Some of them work in the e-industries, but have little pretension, and know how lucky they are to have good jobs, and to be able to pay the rent and bills living in San Francisco, Seattle, and elsewhere.

What are we looking for when we gaze zombie-like into our sell-phones, tablets and computer screens? To paraphrase St. John of Liverpool, “Life is what’s happening, while you're busy watching your Inbox.” Do we seriously think that future civilizations will take us seriously because we figured out myriad ways to share photos, restaurant reviews, and the too intimate details of our previously private intimacies?

And we can’t erase it; the NSA’s got it all on file. Forever!

Thanksgiving is real. It is not owned by any particular religion. There are no presents to buy/exchange. We celebrate a feast made possible for pilgrims by the natives and their local harvests, and it does not
get much more heirloom and artisanal than that. Even turkey tastes good on this day, which is saying something. Oh, and the celery is real. Crunch.

We get together and partake, placing our normal taking mode on hold, at least for a day.

That’s a good thing. If our culture saves one thing only, let it be Thanksgiving. Please. It’s there for the giving.

* a phrase “coined” by the excellent Aussie writer Peter Temple

** He has since "volunteered" at a homeless shelter

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