Thursday, May 12 2005
I was back at that dismal household in Kerhonkson again today, the one I visited on Monday on a fool's errand to replace a blown power supply with a defective new one. When I arrived today, I got a good look at the 300 pound woman of the house, who had more skin showing than she'd had last time. It turned out that she is slathered in tattoos, most of them cartoonish monochrome figures, though nothing remarkable. Today she was watching Maury Povich on the television. With her, also watching (but not yet overweight) was a little girl whom I took to be her daughter. Both were silent the whole time I was there, staring blankly at the screen while Maury showed clips of criminals caught on video. Their silence was in striking contrast to the way Gretchen and I would have been had we been forced to watch such a show (since we never would have watched it without guns to our heads). What sort of person would piddle away a sunny afternoon in May sitting silently on a couch watching dreary daytime television in an oppressive wood-paneled living room? The answer: millions and millions of Americans.
More striking than the programming on the television were the advertisements that interrupted it (through which the mother and daughter continued their silent blank-faced staring). All of them were targeted to the unlucky, unemployed, and desperately poor. There was the kind that began with the question, "Have you been injured in an accident?" and there wasn't anything unusual about that. But my ears perked up when I heard a commercial for a kind of bank card that can be used like a conventional debit card but which has a monthly fee of $9.95! (It's similar or identical to something called AccountNow.) One would have to be in a pretty sad financial position to need a card like this, when one could just get a conventional bank account. I guess the difference is that this card carries no minimal balance requirements. But it does have a whole suite of unusual charges for usual activities.
I would have felt bad for the 300 pound woman living her dreary life, but she seemed to have some sort of unnamed hostility burning just beneath the surface. I couldn't tell what it was - but looking at her and her situation, and having met her husband, I can see lots of things in her life that might be bringing her down and perhaps even pissing her off. But what can she do? She has kids, she has a house, and she has an extra 150 pounds of self serving as an integrated ball and chain.
On the way to Kerhonkson this morning I'd made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up on a lower stretch of Berme Road near State Route 55. It's a fairly suburban area, with houses every hundred feet or so. But there's this one section of it where there is no soil at all, just acres and acres of smooth, slightly-tilting bedrock. And the houses continue uninterrupted across this rock, as if it's lawn. But it isn't lawn, it's just rock. So you see these suburban houses with these big slabs or rock for lawns. Here and there they've put down a little soil for some flowers or whatever, but it's not like they have any grass. I wonder how not having a proper lawn weighs on their collective subconscious. Having a lawn is a cultural thing, like getting married or driving a car. I'll bet these people with yards of bare rock feel a little sensitive about their American-ness. I'll bet if you look at their cars, you'll see more of them have American flag decals and Support the Troops ribbons than their neighbors a half mile away, the ones who have proper mowable lawns.
On my way back from Kerhonkson, I stopped in Accord for 480 pounds of dry concrete and at Fording place for several large buckets of river pebbles. These supplies allowed me to finish the last of the ditch resurfacing subproject, bringing the core of my landscaping project to a conclusion. There are still fussy details that need attention, but no longer are there any ditches or piles that need to be filled in or hauled away.
This evening Gretchen and I watched an interesting documentary called Seven Up that hoped to track the lives of a set of English children through their lives starting at age seven and then visiting them every seven years from then on. This DVD we saw tonight featured the first set of interviews (when the children were seven in 1964) as well as the second set of interviews (when they were 14 in 1971). There's a huge change in personal development over those seven years and a 14 year old can seem very adult-like, at least intellectually (if not emotionally). At age 14, one child who had seemed nascently intellectual and manipulative at seven was expressing interest in politics, classifying himself as a "reactionary" and advocating the criminalization of labor strikes. All of the children were friendly and reasonably outgoing when they were seven, but by the time they were 14 some seemed withdrawn from the world, choosing to stare shyly at the ground instead of looking at the interviewer.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next