We’ll surf like they do in the USA
We’ll fly down to Sydney for a holiday
On sunny Christmas Day…
I’m standing in line yesterday at a drugstore, one of those chain stores that turn wall-to-wall red a month before Christmas. Big red bows, rolls of red wrapping paper, rows of red greeting cards, employees in red aprons.
What is it about red? It’s overwhelming, like Christmas. You can’t fight it, especially when it glares at you while bad music is assaulting your ears — Chicago singing Tell me you will stay/Make me smile, with a horn section that sounds like a high school band.
The man directly in front of me in line — he’s thirty-ish, short but stocky, looks like a brawler, maybe a druggie — is asking customers if there’s a trading-card store nearby, he’s carrying some collectible baseball cards he needs to sell.
He reaches into a paper bag and pulls out rookie cards of Mike Schmidt, Derek Jeter and other stars, and shows them to everyone in sight. “Those should be worth something,” I say to him, not at all sure they’re worth anything. The cards are laminated but they look a bit beat up. Someone tells the man about a card store in South Philly but reminds him this is Christmas Day.
When it’s the man’s turn at the checkout counter, he pulls two rolls of Kodak film from his coat pocket and asks the cashier for a refund. She says no way, the film obviously is very old and the stickers on the film boxes indicate they were bought at some other store.
The man leaves the store with his cards and his film, and I wonder where he’ll go, he’s probably flat broke. Some of the other people in line look like they aren’t in such good shape, either.
In other eras there were dream destinations for young people with no money or job prospects. Where do they go now for job opportunities? California? Florida? Hoho.
I think of the old Kinks song in which the desperately poor in post-WWII Britain dream of emigrating to Australia.
In FDR’s time, young or middle-aged Americans who were hard-up could join the Work Projects Administration. In the Bush-Obama era, they can join the ranks of the permanently unemployed.