Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Another Brick in the Wall

After years of encouraging workers to take early retirement as a way to cut jobs, a growing number of companies [Home Depot, Walmart] are hunting for older workers because they have lower turnover rates and, in many cases, better work performance. More Help Wanted: Older Workers Please Apply, Milt Fruenheim The New York Times March 2005

I admit it's getting better,
A little better all the time.
(Can't get no worse)

Getting Better - Beatles

I read the news today oh boy, about how some chain-stores are employing older workers to do jobs traditionally held by teenagers.

It appears that after almost a lifetime of getting it wrong, baby boomers are at last finding their niche.

Drop-outs of the sixties are now in demand at places such as Home Depot, MacDonalds and Walmart. At last that much misused word "ironic" has found something to be applied to.

The children of the Age of Aquarius have apparently become valued members of society. As Robert Allen Zimmerman so aptly put it, "The Times They Are A-Changing'.

Who would have thought it? The Flower Children of the sixties, having fought for freedom and liberation from the bourgeois values of their parents, who believed in free love, who followed the teachings of R D Laing and Germaine Greer - are now spending their autumn years, at Walmart.

It doesn't really surprise me. We've gone through our whole lives somewhat perplexed as to what was expected of us.

As teenagers we had no real role models except for each other. We were breaking new ground. Unlike our parents' generation, we had access to birth control and a modicum of wealth. The world was our oyster, or so we thought.

After a few halcyon years of rebellion with no clear purpose, most of us ended taking up some career, usually one that mysteriously presented itself. And then we had babies.

But unlike today, there was little guidance. One minute a rebel, the next a parent. Suddenly presented with a small infant, and without the support that is available today, we stumbled our way through parenthood. At least there were no videocams to record our dismal efforts.

Photo albums show us, almost children ourselves, holding our babies and looking uncertainly into the camera lens. We did our best. Ignoring our own parents of course, and without the abundance of parenting resources available to the young parents of today.

Quite honestly, most of us had no idea of what we were doing. One day we were marching against Vietnam and capitalism and the nuclear family, and the next we were entrenched in the system raising children. It was all too much, even for children who had dreamed of San Francisco and flowers in their hair.

Even our mate Robert Allen Zimmerman was turning into a born-again Christian.

We divorced, changed jobs, saw our children through guns and Barbie Dolls (my god - the ensuing moral dilemmas) and carried on living.

Our music of rebellion was watered down, and played in elevators and airports. The musak-ing not only of our ideas but of our art.

We thought, "It can't get no worse", but the worse was yet to come.

Our growing children, taught by teachers who seemed half our age, would argue with us. But hang on ... weren't WE the ones who were meant to argue against the establishment?
Our children moved from childhood to adolescence, from wanting guns and Barbie Dolls, to wanting antisocial pets, like ferrets and rats.
I remember my friend Pauline, inviting me and my children to a Melbourne Cup party. Pauline the rebel - "You can bring the kids but they can't bring their rats". Life it seemed, was no longer about "doing your own thing".

"What was the world coming to?", as our mothers used to say. We looked into the mirror and our mothers looked back. The Age of Aquarius was fast morphing into The Age of Depression.

John Lennon was shot,. Woody Allen slept with his daughter. Germaine was becoming menopausal but we couldn't say it. Talk about a confused generation.

About ten year's ago, a larrikin of the sixties who I sort of knew, died. The first of us to leave this world. I didn't go to his funeral - it was in Queensland, over 2,000 miles from my then home in Melbourne. But some of his mates went.

Three mates, frozen in the sixties; they set off in a mate's car that wouldn't have passed a roadworthy even with a dishonest Queensland cop. On the way north, a tyre went. They stopped on the highway. Children of an urban life, lovers of tyre-changing feminists, they stood together on the highway, staring in puzzlement at the deflated piece of rubber. Oblivious to the on-coming traffic, one stepped back in awe. And then there were two.

A second funeral was arranged. The two survivors returned. The story turned into a yarn. The Melbourne babyboomers recounted it in pubs and at dinner parties. We couldn't even get death right.

Another friend threw in the towel. Just gave up the ghost as they say. As the aging flower-people vigilled around his bed he briefly came out of unconsciousness. "Goodbye Earthlings," he smiled, and passed on.

But most of us survive. The world may turn a whiter shade of pale, but listen .. we are here ... we are alive and well,

And working at MacDonalds.

Viva La Revolution!

The Neighborhood

Hey girl what's it like to be in New York?
New York City, imagine that!
Tell me, what's it like to be a skateboard punk rocker?

Leroy says, "Send a picture"
Leroy says, "Hello!"
Leroy says, "Aw, keep on rocking girl"
Yeah, keep on rocking
Michelle Shocked "Anchored Down in Anchorage"

Let me take you for a very short tour of my neighborhood in Manhattan.
It's late Saturday afternoon, and I've decided to step outside my front door (you can see it on the left).
First stop is the nail shop.

On Saturday afternoons I like to indulge in the New York women's pastime of "having my nails done".
There's rarely a block in Manhattan that doesn't house at least one nail salon. They are invariably run by gentle Korean women and provide an oasis of calm and comfort.

The nail salons have names like 'Eve Nail', 'Mary Nail' and 'Jane Nail'. I go to Eve Nail as it is in my building. You can see it on the right.

Across the road is "Blooming Nail". It always makes me smile as the name reminds me of the Outback Restaurant's "Blooming Onion".

I turn left, and still in the same block as my apartment, head toward the coffee shop. (it's just under the London-looking subway sign in the photo on the left).

But I have photos to take. So no coffee. Instead I make a 180 degree turn and cross the road.

We are walking south and are now about twenty metres from my apartment.

A few blocks north is Spanish Harlem. I'll take you there another day. But today it's my immediate neighbourhood, as I'm a bit tired. So let's continue walking south.
There's also a fruit stall which is a few metres from the closest supermarket.

On the left is a street stall - selling socks and other items of clothing.

New Yorkers expect everyone to walk at the same pace. This avoids people-jams. I pause to take the photo and am jostled. The photo is blurred. But it'll have to do. I walk on.

And here is the supermarket.

No parking lot though. We either carry the groceries home, or get them delivered. It's only half a block.

We could pop across the road to one of the local bars. Or to Hooligans, another local bar which you can see here between the Bagel shop and the locksmith. Perhaps another time.

But I've walked too far on my lazy Saturday afternoon and I turn back before reaching the end of the block. Now I can see the sock stall from the other side.

The sun has come out from behind a cloud and the socks look brighter now.

If I were a healthy type, I could go to the local fitness club that is directly opposite the apartment building.

So we are nearly back to where we started.

The doorman has come out to enjoy the sun. I say hello and he swings me through the revolving doors.

My neighbourhood; my little piece of New York. How could anyone not love this town?