This street I describe is worlds away from “the street” discussed on today’s radio where bored pundits pretend amazed confusion about why the market is not collapsing in the face of all this “bad” economic news. My goodness, one voice purrs almost but not quite bemusedly, one would think, AFTER ALL, Major indices suggest that Confidence in the Economy is at an all time low. YES, the other solemn voice agrees, but Tiffany’s has reported record profits. Reallllly, the other trills, why so . . . and I think, my goodness, who do these bodiless philosophers of “the street” they think they are kidding (or entertaining) with such useless chatter?
On my street, everyone knows about bottom lines. Their bottoms have been scraped raw. Everyone knows that the rich are still rich, perhaps even more so than before, and everyone knows the poor are getting poorer, but only a few discuss sadly the heartlessness of those who now have most of the money in this country. Other than Warren Buffet who is demanding to pay higher taxes, most of the rich feel no obligation to their fellow man. Indeed, some expect the poor to pay more taxes while they pay less, and those at the rudder of large corporations are granting handsome raises to ‘beleaguered’ fat-cats while asking underpaid overworked employees to work longer hours for less pay and fewer benefits. Medical care has become a luxury afforded only by a very few. Even Universities are busily cutting services to students while paying those at the top more and more and MORE. Recently the University of California substantially raised tuition and then turned around and used that newly ‘found’ money to pay for raises . . . with much of that money flowing to those already earning at least $80,000/year. If I were on faculty, I might have turned around and offered that extra money to some needy students to pay their increased tuition. I haven’t heard of anyone doing that, but I’m sure there must be one.
It seems a bit unseemly, after all, that those making decent salaries would expect the young and unemployed to supplement their already substantial salaries. Someone must disagree with such a practice; I’m sure we’ll hear soon from those who have refused those raises, deciding instead to use the money to help the students. I’m sure they don’t want to feel like lords of the manor demanding half the yearly crop from the tenants, feasting on roast beef as ‘their’ serfs shiver in unheated shacks eating potato peelings, pilfered from the manor kitchen. . . If we look at such historical behavior with dismay how can we look away from contemporary behavior that, if analyzed, is suspiciously similar . . .
It’s may be no secret why Tiffany’s profits are up; the rich have more than ever before and they’re spending it on bling, but of course, not all are out buying jewels. Some are spending money on renovations of houses like the one down the street, large enough to house several families, and the money spent on this major renovation won’t be easily recouped in rent. This particular person, whoever he or she may be, is generously investing in the future of this neighborhood. Those of us living on this street, far from that narrow little alley in New York also called “the street,” can be glad for that. Walking this morning, all was peaceful on this street, children in maroon shirts on their way to school, young men on skateboards on their way to BART, older women chatting at busstops, waiting for the bus that arrives regularly but at rather longish intervals. By late afternoon, all was still peaceful. The concrete was poured. A vee of geese flew honking overhead. An ice-cream truck parked near the front of the school and waited for the last bell. This truck didn’t playing Christmas carols as yesterday's did. Instead, it chirped a cheery melody punctuated by an electronic cha-cha-cha followed by a friendly robotic voice saying helloooo, as if to say, come shake my hand, let’s shoot the breeze, pass the time of day. I didn’t buy any ice cream; I stepped out on the street with no money in my pocket.
Instead, Earnest and I returned home and sat in the garden, watching as dozens of bright orange Fritillary butterflies looped happily from passion flower to passion flower, resting for long moments on the dark green leaves and until they were ready once again to fly great spiraling circles around the more numerous and always ubiquitous smaller white butterflies. The orange butterflies arrive at this time of year when the passion flowers are in full bloom and stay only briefly, but it is always a pleasure to watch them soar and dive. They seem so ecstatic, so glad to be alive that they make me smile. I could watch them for hours, just breathing.