For months, I had heard a hen singing of its accomplishments in the neighborhood while I was drinking my early coffee. The sound gave me unaccountable glee, although I am mostly a city boy, because I live right downtown Santa Cruz where chickens don’t grow on trees, so to speak. Some evenings ago, I noticed a white hen in the parking lot across the street.
The next morning, the white hen was picking for grubs in my own front yard. I warned my granddaughter who is six to not get excited. First, I pointed out, the city streets are not the kind of place where poultry survive long. Second, I told her, the hen probably has an owner that will claim her. We presented the bird with water and grain anyway.
The child assented readily to the first proposition. She resisted however, the idea of an owner. The hen is lost, she argued; there are many other houses around; the hen came to our house; it did not go to anyone else’s house; it ate our food. The hen chose us. It’s ours! She put a cardboard box in a bush so that the hen could fortify itself against raccoons. It worked, somehow.
The next afternoon, a strange man was in our backyard looking for his chicken. The same evening, we saw the hen walking around on our street again. Chicken aren’t that stupid after all. Since then, members of my family have not had a glimpse of the white hen, on the one hand. On the other hand, there are no white feathers floating around or on the street. We are hopeful.
The visiting hen is not much to look at. If truth be told, her white ass has gone kind of grayish; she does not seem very neat in her personal habits. She is fat enough though. Full of hope, I have christened her “Thanksgiving.” My granddaughter does not know this and she can’t read yet. She calls the white hen “Chocolate.”
A couple of days later, I am waiting in the Toyota lounge while my truck is being serviced. It’s around nine in the morning. I hear strangely loud male voices yelling in the upper floor. After ten minutes about fifteen guys come down the stairs chattering like schoolgirls. They all wear the red polo shirt that is the uniform of Toyota employees. I check the time. Coffee break is still 30 minutes away. The local Toyota dealer/service company gave its employes time off, or an accommodation in their schedules, so they could see the end of some important game on the television upstairs.
I can’t imagine this happening anywhere else and certainly not in France,the foreign country I know best. Not that I am very familiar with French Toyota waiting lounges. I don’t even think they have lounges in France anyway. If they exist, no one there has thought of offering coffee. If they have coffee, I will bet you the coffee table is filthy because cleaning it is “not my job.” In French movies, at least, that kind of workplace would be described as unbearably oppressive. The employees would be shown as sullen, resentful. They would all hate the boss. There would be no game break except if it had been specifically negotiated by a labor union. No labor union would even think of it. Yet Toyota employees in France must be doing pretty much the same work as their Californian counterparts.
Yes, there are national cultures. Often, they don’t correspond to stereotypes concerning them though. Also, they are heavily influenced, even in the short run, by economic conditions that are not difficult to understand, for the most part: No economic growth, persistent high unemployment, no levity, no joviality, pervasive hostility in the air, tense social relations. Soon enough, after only one generation, people don’t know how to live or feel any other way.
The Santa Cruz harbor where I spend much of my time is a financially self-sustaining entity. I am told it receives no, zero tax money. I approve of this, of course. I can’t imagine why the poor would be forced to pay for the leisure of the moderately prosperous, of Silicon Valley millionaires, and of many early-retired deputy-sheriffs, by the way.
Self-sufficiency promotes inventiveness, of course. During the summer, the port authority helps organize rock concerts-plus-barbecues on the beach with the nearby restaurant. I don’t know exactly who does what and who gets what. I am pretty sure the harbor keeps all the parking fees. I would guess that would amount to something like $10,000 a night (just a guess). Beer flows. Hard alcohol is neither sold nor allowed inside the barbecue/concert enclosure but Tequila is available at a “high end” Mexican restaurant only twenty steps away.
People are beginning to file out when I pass by. Whole families with small children. The kids learn to dance in the sand at sunset. There are many more young and not so young adults , of course. I would bet most of them are single, originally single and single again. How do I know, you ask? Well, the women are all almost dressed up, by which I mean undressed. Lots and even acres of cleavage in the evening southerly breathe, also, freshly shampooed hair, not so natural on a beach. There are enough good scents to overcome the sweet smell of Marie-Jeanne. (Hey, this is Santa Cruz, after all!)
Most of the women look shiny; as always, for some reason, the young Mexican-American girls shine the brightest. No, I don’t believe the young women spruce up for one another. They are doing it to try to catch a man, that all important fashion accessory, or to switch from the current one to a better model. or, at least, they hope to torture a few male strangers. That’s hardwired, no point in denying it anymore. This is not the 70s!
During the concert itself, everybody dances with everybody. It’s true that it’s made easy by the fact that many dance alone in thoroughly narcissistic self-absorption. The crowd is not only multipled-aged, it would be described as “multi-ethnic” or multi-racial by any conscientious Left-Democrats. Off the top of my head, I would say that’s the crowd is 40% Mexican- American, 40% white, with a sprinkling of everybody else. There are only handful of African-Americans because Santa Cruz County is a white and brown affair (in every sense of he word).
The so-called “whites” are no a homogenous group at all. Many are the rich, retired, single type. At the concert, I would say that about half of the whites are “Oakies.” I describe Oakies somewhere else on this blog. Anywhere else but California, they would be called “rednecks” except that the word “Oakie” is not as negative. Personally, I feel no contempt for Oakies. Over the years, I learned more from them that I did from my colleagues in academia. The main thing about them is that they never, never graduate from college although they may attend classes at the community college. I can tell Oakies before they speak. (Remember that I am a distinguished social scientist.) I will just give you a hint: When a woman wear tight jeans and the thought fails to cross your mind that she shouldn’t, she is almost certainly an Oakie.
Now, here you have it: The sun, rock-and-roll, music, booze, lots and lots of testosterone-poisoned younger people, racial divisions. It should be a powder-keg according to the tired, plaintive, obsolete liberal narrative of unrelenting misery , injustice and racial discrimination. It’s not. There has not been a single ugly incident in more than four hours the concert lasted. The people who file past me are all in a good mood; they are smiling and laughing; they are polite to one another. Something’s wrong here!