Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother Detroit

Mother’s day, we celebrate it by buying cards and flowers, going to brunch, and spending quality time. At least, those of us who have been lucky enough to have a mother in our lives, live within distance, and whose mothers are not deceased or time travelers.

Today I celebrated mother’s day with my sister, brother-in-law, and of course mother. We prepared a breakfast on the Dobson’s new griddle, in their beautiful ranch home.

As the afternoon pressed on we took the get-together outside. My mom brought old photos, documents, and magazines to help my sister with her genealogy research. Spread on the table are my grandfather in front of 1950s Studebaker, his Marine duty record, and a Newsweek and Time Magazine from late July 1969. Most of the ads in the magazine are for Michigan companies, many of which were at their zenith: GM, Michigan Bell, National Bank of Detroit, McLouth Steel, and Detroit Bank & Trust. In these ads Detroit stands at the dizzying height of its industry. These ads are not in the Free Press or a Farmer Jack circular, they are full page ads in Time and Newsweek, two nationally syndicated magazines.

Not that advertising is the sole barometer for Detroit’s success, but seeing all the companies in print proclaiming their product and overcrowding other ads in two of the biggest issues to date. These magazines contain the first major articles on the moon landing, published just five and eight days after the initial landing as well as the editorial with the heading THE NATION with the title “THE WAR: DECISION TO LOWER THE PRESSURE”. All in Helvetica typeface, this is another discussion, but gives indicator to the time. I include Vietnam because this time is not without its own problems. The term Golden Age often seems to preclude the presence of shit and death.

There is more to see here than the usual requiem for Detroit industrialism. Yes, we now live in the rust belt, a city that has dropped from the Golden Age height of Detroit as seen in the 1969 issues of Time and Newsweek. But I see the advertisements as a fair representation of Mother’s day, for me at least. My mother’s role in my life has changed, and for many of us our parents strength and power will wax and wane, and they will all eventually rust require aide and assistance, she deserves to be celebrated. Mother’s day allows reflection of where we come from and the nature of family. The ads of Time call to me, they echo the youth of my mother, which coincides with the vigor of Detroit. My mother inherited the grit and grace of Rosie the Riveter (bee tee dub: the real Rosies were more often African American women), and was part of the group of who would break the glass ceiling. The same women who would eventually want to look like line backers in the 80s with their shoulder pads.

1969, when the Excalibur restaurant was full of Frank Sinatra’s photographs and the decadence of the 1950s still ebbed in the streets, a time that stands in the quiet period between the 67 riots, civil rights and the crack epidemic. A time that is complicated. The shortness of this post does not allow all of the complexities and contradictions to flow, but stands to represent the Golden Era of Detroit and our mothers.

When we celebrate mother’s day some may have a difficulty in selecting a card. We may be upset with our mothers, or find the cards too cheesy. The desire burns for an accurate representation of our relationship.

Stand contrary to those feelings.

We can write off our parents with the same ease that many write off Detroit. We know that for individuals to come to a low point they have of stood high and felt the vertigo of coming so far standing above their offspring. In our early 20s it is easy to stand with disdain to our families, certain that we never join the ranks of such silly bourgeois experiment; let us instead recognize that we are the fruit of that experiment and celebrate where we came from with a little thanks and family time.

Detroit stands as a representation to what I know my mother has endured. We often receive glossy views of our parents. The quick blurbs present in current issues of Time magazine that shrink the history of Detroit to a few brief leads and establishing paragraphs. But, Detroit’s history is complicated and full of grandeur, adventure, and the buzz of a mechanized city that was known to the nation as a tough place to be.

Nostalgia can by a siren song, and can soften the past. Nostalgia creates want of a different time, and simplification of that time. We can sit and desire the Detroit, or mother, of old days. We can allow that nostalgia to blind us and leave us dissatisfied with the current state of things. Or we can look upon that time with fondness and allow it to drive us to a new vision; let our pasts be a foundation not a stumbling block, for there is everything to gained by re-visioning ourselves and our mothers, and everything to lose by letting them dry and crystallize to become brittle in the amber of the past.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Candy Logics

Candy changed my world.

I am eating Shockers, previously known as Shock Tarts, made by the Wonka Company. They are sharp, acidic , and not actually food. I can consume them at a rapid pace, my tongue calls out for them, and they have rapidly improved my day. The little lopsided circles are made of a soft chewy material that breaks down with a few sloppy bites. Once swallowed my stomach heaves and little receptors start adjusting the acid levels, or just allow the risen levels to eat away at my lining. Meanwhile in my mouth, the PH has risen to dangerous levels turning it into an acid bath that eats away at my enamel. The teeth however are not afraid, most are filled with metal and have endured this before.

This is my first candy purchase in a long time, and I have spent many hours in the dentist chair from my frequent sugar binges in adolescence. Or so I thought.

I have pitted teeth. What this boils down to is that each tooth in my mouth is indented in an uneven way that allows food to hang out even after brushing, allowing for cavities to grow and sprawl. This is not to say that I disavow responsibility for my cavities. Spending my high schol years gargling a case of Mountain Dew a night while playing Xbox and then falling asleep at dawn without having brushed, is more likely the cause than my enamel geography.

Getting to the point:

I do however want to use this idea to talk briefly about world view by asking a what if question. What if I was a diligent brusher and avoider of candies and still got cavities? Or only ate candy once without the knowledge of my pitted teeth, and soon after that went to a dentist who lacked appropriate bedside manner, and blamed candy for it? I would undergo a great change… Morphed into a traveling street preacher howling on the edge of pre-schools about the evils of candy, I would descend into a great misery with the mouths of the populace weighing on me.

Our biology/body composition, and in a larger context, our geography and access to resources (Not a New Idea) play on our perception of the world. The very construction of our bodies has shaped the way our world has developed. Our binocular vision, our bi-pedal bodies, the fragility of our skeletons and bodies, all impact the way we interact with the world. There have been many arguments about our flesh that I’ll skip here, but I bring it up because we take our senses and bodies as sources of objective truth as certainties, when they cane easily be manipulated and lie to us.

Mind Expansion:

In China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station there are characters of different species that have a more ambient vision of the world, they are able to take in more of a space at once but lose many specifics like text.I think also of stories of the enlightened present at the death of Buddha who said they saw the sky a swarm with Technicolor Lotus Flowers. Or the limited range of sound and light our human senses have access to. Each reveals our myopic experience with the world and keeps me wanting to liberate myself and experience this brighter world (Acid Test).

Box Logics:

But then I think of another option, instead of searching the cosmos and my cerebellum for this greater world, what if I accepted the constraints of this box? We are encouraged often to think "Outside the Box", but if I accept this box, these constraints can encourage creativity. This is especially so when we accept that we are taking part in the construction of aforesaid box. In this abiding Box Logic, I would be pushed to new levels of creativity, and would have to take proper index of my unique experiences with full knowledge that they are only a small portion of existence. Getting my mind into the box is the difficulty.

Focus is the new challenge for my generation and those forth coming. Filtering information, constructing the box, and operating within it are our new challenges, our new mission. Since industrializing we have spent our time tailoring the world to fit our perspective and needs, but what if we attempted to live in context with it? Instead of expansion we focused on efficiency? I’m not trying to change the world. Spinning my intellectual wheels is easy; living in peace, accepting the world around me, and trusting my fellow Earth inhabitants to do their part is the difficulty.

I chose curiosity over cynicism.

In the meantime I am going to finish my Shockers, really Shock Tarts are the better name, and brush my teeth when I get home.